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Opportunity Breaks NASA's 40-Year Roving Record

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the long-and-dusty-trail dept.

NASA 92

astroengine writes "After nine years of hard Mars roving, Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Opportunity has broken a 40-year-old extraterrestrial distance record. On Thursday, the tenacious six-wheeled robot drove 80 meters (263 feet), nudging the total distance traveled since landing on the red planet in 2004 to 35.760 kilometers (22.220 miles). NASA's previous distance record was held by Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt when, in December 1972, they drove their Lunar Roving Vehicle 35.744 kilometers (22.210 miles) over the lunar surface. Although it's broken the NASA distance record, it hasn't surpassed the international record, yet. The Soviet Lunokhod 2 remote-controlled moon rover roved 37 kilometers (23 miles) across the lunar surface and, so far, remains the undisputed champion of distance driving on an extraterrestrial surface."

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92 comments

Soviet Strong (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750627)

NASA still can't beat the Soviet Union at the game of Space Exploration. What's the score 7 to 1? You losing the game NASA.

Re:Soviet Strong (1)

JoeRobe (207552) | about a year ago | (#43750787)

Where does 7 to 1 come from? 7 to 1 of what?

I think NASA's done pretty well for itself...

Re:Soviet Strong (5, Funny)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about a year ago | (#43751131)

Soviet Union

1st Satleite to orbit Earth

1st Animal in space

1st Man in space

1st Woman in space

1st multiple personnel in space

1st Object into inter planetary space

1st lunar probe

1st Venusian probe

1st Martian probe

1st Space walk

1st space station

NASA

1st Cokacola in space

Re:Soviet Strong (4, Informative)

thrich81 (1357561) | about a year ago | (#43751675)

Kind of funny but wrong or misleading both by commision and omission. Commission: 1st Venusian probe and 1st Martian probe -- the USSR had the first landers on each (which operated for a few seconds or minutes) but the USA had the first flybys of each (Mariner II for Venus and Mariner IV for Mars; Mariner II was the first successful mission of any kind to another planet besides the earth-moon system) and "space probes" by definition include flybys.

Omission: The list of "firsts" which USA-NASA accomplished is long, but the highlights are:
Manned moon landing (had to put that one in first)
First and so far only probes to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. First and only orbiters of Jupiter and Saturn.
First and only spacecraft on escape trajectories from the solar system.
First probe to Pluto (on its way now).
First and only probes to Mercury (Mariner 10 flyby and Mercury Messenger in orbit now).
Only landers on Mars which worked for more than a 15 seconds.
The list above is far from exhaustive. Both the USSR and USA had notable space accomplishements and neither would have moved as fast without the competition of the other, but this pervasive meme that the USSR did everything first is just false.

Re:Soviet Strong (5, Interesting)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about a year ago | (#43751827)

I know sorry USA also had 1st semi re-usable space craft, 1st docking in space and 1st Geo synchronos. However if you look at it pre 1966 it's pretty one sided with I think the only NASA 1st being having two manned space craft within 200 yards of each other whilst in orbit. It all changed when Sergi Pavlovich Korolyev died he had essentially blagged the Soviet space program from the start (They only let him launch Uri Gagarin because he told them they needed someone to man the radio).

Re:Soviet Strong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43752123)

I know sorry USA also had 1st semi re-usable space craft, 1st docking in space and 1st Geo synchronos. However if you look at it pre 1966 it's pretty one sided with I think the only NASA 1st being having two manned space craft within 200 yards of each other whilst in orbit.

I had noticed this.

It all changed when Sergi Pavlovich Korolyev died he had essentially blagged the Soviet space program from the start (They only let him launch Uri Gagarin because he told them they needed someone to man the radio).

Didn't know why it changed then, though -- thanks.

Re:Soviet Strong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43754785)

It all changed when Sergi Pavlovich Korolyev died...

That may have been coincidental. The "Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies" was put into force on October 10, 1967 and removed concerns on how the USSR would react to space launches from the US. Up to that point, it's been said that it was easier to allow the USSR to go first and set the precedent.

Re:Soviet Strong (1)

thrich81 (1357561) | about a year ago | (#43755461)

No hard feelings, especially since I see you are well informed in space history and not just repeating the meme without knowledge. One thing is certain about the first decade of space exploration -- without the competition between the USSR and USA, neither of them would have done near as much and they both achieved great things.

Re:Soviet Strong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43770569)

Certainly Korolev would have been stuck designing missiles for much longer if he hadn't been able to point at the US space efforts to get funding.

Re:Soviet Strong (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43752495)

Actually Cassini is half european. The platform is NASA, but the antenna for communication is Italian, and the instruments come from both side of the pond.

Re:Soviet Strong (2)

mlush (620447) | about a year ago | (#43751999)

Soviet Union

1st Object into inter planetary space

If I remember rightly, the 1st Object into inter planetary space was Luna 1 [wikipedia.org] which was ment to be the first first luna probe ... but missed went into solar obit and was hurredly dubbed a "new planet" and renamed Mechta ("Dream")

Re:Soviet Strong (4, Interesting)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#43758035)

Actually the first object into interplanetary space was a manhole cover that predated the Space Race. The Pascal-B nuclear test in 1957 was supposed to test safety features which would stop an accidental premature detonation of a nuclear weapon. Instead the safety features failed miserably, the nuke went off with almost the full force, and the 900 kg steel cover welded on top of the test shaft was launched into space at several times escape velocity.

I know far too much trivia.

Re:Soviet Strong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43761171)

Or the cover was vaporized. I think the jury's still out on that.

Re:Soviet Strong (1)

anotheryak (1823894) | about a year ago | (#43752769)

And the only reason for the entire Lunokhod project is that the Soviets failed to get a crew to the moon and blew up the second N1 rocket in 1969 after a loose bolt got sucked into a fuel pump.

The Soviets lost the space race and never did get a man on another planet. They sent that thing instead, attempting to save face.

Funny how the poster forgot things like "first space rendezvous" and "Winning the space race and PUTTING A MAN ON THE F*CKING MOON". He counts ten seconds of functioning lander as a victory, but the brass-ring of the space race does not even count in his mind.

The largest and most expensive Soviet space program was their attempt to copy NASA's space shuttle [wikipedia.org], which flew once and got crushed in 2002 when it's hanger collapsed.

Re:Soviet Strong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43760497)

The Russians were also the first to have an astronaut die in a fire in a high-oxygen environment.

Re:Soviet Strong (4, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#43750805)

We're still kicking ass in terms of total distance traveled in space, thanks to V'Ger... err, Voyager. But we still have a long way to go to catch up with total extraterrestrial crash landings and highest BAC in space.

confusing distances (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750637)

records of 35.000 km broken by 37 km? I think someone is confusing the km and the m

Re:confusing distances (5, Informative)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year ago | (#43750657)

No I think you're confusing the decimal for a comma.

Re:confusing distances (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750705)

That's European syntax. Ten thousand point five would be 10.000,5

Re:confusing distances (1)

jcdr (178250) | about a year ago | (#43750923)

That's European syntax. Ten thousand point five would be 10.000,5

point == . != ,

Re:confusing distances (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43755141)

Not here in Germany.

We say Zehntausend Komma Fünf. Ten thousand comma five.

And what we mean, makes only sense to you, if we say Ten thousand *point* five.

Although where I come from, I learned to write things like 10'000,5.

Re:confusing distances (1)

jcdr (178250) | about a year ago | (#43756353)

Of course you say "comma" when you write a comma, unlike in the parent post.

Re:confusing distances (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750933)

In France they more commonly have a space instead of a point: 10 000,5

Re:confusing distances (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43753441)

"In 2003, the 22nd General Conference on Weights and Measures officially declared “that the symbol for the decimal marker shall be either the point on the line or the comma on the line,” and the International Bureau of Weights and Measures uses the point in its English-language publications and the comma in its French publications."

reference: http://lamar.colostate.edu/~hillger/faq.html#decimal

Re:confusing distances (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43755367)

What's your point?

Re:confusing distances (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43751007)

Actually he's not.
1.000 km is 1 000 km or 1 000 000 meters.
1,000 km is 1 km or 1 000 meters.
1,5 km is 1500m or 1.500.000 cm.

Re:confusing distances (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#43751051)

Considering this website IS based in the US, then US convention rules.

When you pronounce "1,5km", do you say "one point five" or "one comma five"?

Re:confusing distances (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43751283)

When you pronounce "1,5km", do you say "one point five" or "one comma five"?

Actually I say: "One and a half kilometers" ;)

Re:confusing distances (1)

MrPsio (2781139) | about a year ago | (#43751333)

Well, as you wrote 1comma5 it is pretty clear, don't you think? Ask again for 1,500 km whether he will say onethousandfivehundred or onecommafive. Overall it is pretty clear that the OP used . as a thousand separator and not for decimals - the european way.

Re:confusing distances (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43751733)

Considering this website IS based in the US, then US convention rules.

After a moment of confusion, simply ask yourself whether the rover has completely circumnavigated Mars. If your answer is no, then it must be the US convention. If your answer is "I don't know," then hit Ctrl-W and go read Perez Hilton or something.

Re:confusing distances (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about a year ago | (#43752119)

When you use metric units, you shoud use metric conventions... I also read "35760" kilometers instead of the correct "35,76", or "35 kilometers and 76 meters".

Re:confusing distances (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#43752707)

When you speak English, you should use English conventions... Most of the English speaking world uses '.' as the decimal separator.

Re:confusing distances (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43753149)

I would doubt that very much - maybe if we only count the ones having English (any version - the differences between GB English and US English are large) as a first language. But as English now is the international lingua franca most speakers probably have another first language. That makes the high population countries carry a higher weight - countries such as India and (Peoples republic of) China. But only a small fraction of their population knows English so it's hard to calculate their impact.

But all that doesn't matter as the choice of decimal point or decimal comma isn't part of the language structure...

Re:confusing distances (1)

Askmum (1038780) | about a year ago | (#43779141)

The problem is also the ambiguous use of "22.210 miles". That automatically makes you think it is 22210 miles and not 22.21 miles. I was reading 35760 and 22210 also.

Re:confusing distances (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43752581)

If US convention rules, then why give km's first and then miles in brackets, and not the other way around, hmmm? ;)

Re:confusing distances (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43751059)

Thats actually what the word definition means, but then again most people don't understand causality:
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/decimal

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comma#In_numbers

Re:confusing distances (1)

Golddess (1361003) | about a year ago | (#43752597)

Maybe, maybe not. I know when I first saw 35.760 and 22.220, I saw the decimal, but the trailing zero made me think that, for some reason, they were using European notation. It wasn't until I got to the part about the previous record being set by the Apollo 17 astronauts that I realized tens of thousands of kilometers/miles was probably the incorrect way of reading it.

l10n (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about a year ago | (#43751127)

I see how there could be confusion with the trailing 0 in the thousandths place. I have to presume they really did measure that distance down to the millimeter. Since NASA released the figures, make sure to localize the radix point and thousands separator to "US" when reading. Here's a lengthy but incomplete list of localized separators [oracle.com].

And the winner is still a machine. (1)

delt0r (999393) | about a year ago | (#43750641)

And likely will be for a long time to come. And so it should be, at least while we are doing for the science.

Re:And the winner is still a machine. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#43750665)

After the asteroid, who will be around to control them? We need manned missions if the human race is to avoid extinction. We Have All Our Eggs In One Basket, you FOOL.

Re:And the winner is still a machine. (1)

delt0r (999393) | about a year ago | (#43750781)

Well the thing is we have centuries to get our eggs in other baskets without changing the probability of a ELE much at all. Its on the order of once every 10's of millions of years. And no not having one for a while does not put the probability up. And even then these events are sterilization events, and anything less than that is unlikely to wipe out homo sapiens.

Right now the space station has cost us more than $100B, and for what? Even Apollo? Where is my return on investment, and no i don't mean money, I mean scientific return.

We are a tool making species. Use the right tool. Meat bags is not the right tool.

Re:And the winner is still a machine. (2)

Xanlexian (122112) | about a year ago | (#43751255)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_spin-off_technologies [wikipedia.org]

I'd say we've received SOME return on that investment.

Re:And the winner is still a machine. (1)

delt0r (999393) | about a year ago | (#43752441)

These are from NASA, but in no way just spin off from a manned program. If there was no apollo or ISS theses things would have probably still happened. That is really my point. NASA is in fact not good at manned space missions. Its pretty good at remote sensing missions.

Even if you are a space buff, wanting NASA to take humans to mars is not the way to humans living in space. Apollo push that goal no further forward and neither will another more extreme Apollo.

Re:And the winner is still a machine. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43750883)

Right now after the asteroid all that will happen is it will be a race to see if lack of food, water or air kills your off Earth humans.

Robots will allow us to prepare a site for humans. You are trying to put the cart before the robot horse.

Re:And the winner is still a machine. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750769)

A machine that was built by people.

While we are doing [it!] for the science, it shouldn't matter at all who did it.

Re:And the winner is still a machine. (2)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | about a year ago | (#43751365)

I completely agree and would mod you up if I had any points; Humans have accomplished these mile-stones (or baby steps?) and it shouldn't matter, over all, who has the biggest dick. Competition is a fantastic motivator, but shouldn't be the main purpose for advancing our species.

Re:And the winner is still a machine. (1)

Wonda (457426) | about a year ago | (#43751261)

I don't know.. 9 years for a whole 22 miles, it'll take those television show people DAYS to cover more space if they ever get there.

Re:And the winner is still a machine. (1)

delt0r (999393) | about a year ago | (#43752333)

And for the same money we could send a much faster and more capable rover. Hell we could probably send dozen and even 100s more of much faster, more capable rovers. The current missions have cost about 1000x less than project manned mission.

speedy... (4, Informative)

lfourrier (209630) | about a year ago | (#43750679)

35760m in 3309 days is about 45 cm/h
( and imperial types can translate from SI themselves)

Re:speedy... (5, Funny)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about a year ago | (#43750711)

Wolfram Alpha converts 45cm/h to 0.7516 furlongs per fortnight. You're welcome.

Re:speedy... (0)

Xtifr (1323) | about a year ago | (#43757179)

Wolfram Alpha? Seriously, you need an online resource for that?

$ units "45 cm/hour" "furlongs/fortnight"
    * 0.75161059
    / 1.3304762
$

Re:speedy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43754167)

35760m in 3309 days is about 45 cm/h

Bloody electric vehicles, should have stuck with a nice V8.

Re:speedy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43756133)

I don't want to be pedantic, but the SI unit is m/s. 1.251e-4 m/s to be (significantly) precise.

I was lying about not wanting to be pedantic.

And the winner is.... (1)

Pyrotech7 (1825500) | about a year ago | (#43750729)

Is there like, a trophy or something that goes to the winner? Maybe they should get a contract to manufacture electric powered vehicles to reward their expertise.

Re:And the winner is.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750801)

The luner rover has the extraterrestrial land speed record though.

yes there is a trophy/prize of sorts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43751499)

jobs in Pasadena, CA as opposed to jobs in Houston, TX.

amazingly slow...and awesome (3, Insightful)

Covalent (1001277) | about a year ago | (#43750907)

Seriously, try walking 1 meter in 1 minute and 40 seconds and you'll get an idea just how slow the rovers travel. Now walk 22 miles at that speed. That said, the accomplishment is still incredible. Show me any moving device that had received no maintenance in 9 years and still works.

Re:amazingly slow...and awesome (4, Informative)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#43751129)

The rovers don't move anywhere near that slow. They only spend a minute or two moving per day. After budgeting daily energy requirements for heaters, communications gear, and science equipment, that's all they have left to move the thing around.

Re:amazingly slow...and awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43751291)

No wonder some wheels get bored and give up...

Re:amazingly slow...and awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43751665)

A Toyota Hilux?

We should send Old Diesel Toyota Hiluxes (is that the plural of Hilux?) to space.

You know, for science (and maybe a TopGear Challenge... As you can see i've done this properly a brought along a gun to shoot the martians with)

Re:amazingly slow...and awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43753639)

As you can see i've done this properly a brought along a gun to shoot the martians with)

Nice. I totally read that in Jeremy Clarkson's voice.

Re:amazingly slow...and awesome (1)

FishTankX (1539069) | about a year ago | (#43751895)

Voyager 1, 35 years.

My washing machine - 14 years

Re:amazingly slow...and awesome (2)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about a year ago | (#43756169)

Even with incredibly dirty laundry, I doubt a washing machine operates in the same kind of harsh and hostile environment :)

Re:amazingly slow...and awesome (1)

FishTankX (1539069) | about a year ago | (#43760623)

You haven't seen my apartment. Heh.

No, in all seriousness i'm merely pointing out that the original posters assertion as perceived by me, that it was incredibly rare for mechanical devices to survive 9 years without maintenance, is not necessarily the case. Plenty of washers, dryers, cars, and things like servos, industrial machines etc... may not receive maintenance for a LONG time and still continue to function as designed. A good example would be Russian nuclear lighthouses, which are hundreds of miles from the nearest person and did their job admirably with little in the way of maintenance, in similarly cold environments.

Re:amazingly slow...and awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43754449)

Even I have needed maintenance!

Re:amazingly slow...and awesome (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about a year ago | (#43754499)

Show me any moving device that had received no maintenance in 9 years and still works.

Never taken a taxi in Africa then, huh?

Re:amazingly slow...and awesome (1)

toddestan (632714) | about a year ago | (#43762487)

how me any moving device that had received no maintenance in 9 years and still works.

My fridge?

Re:amazingly slow...and awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43771983)

I've got one. My mother's Husqvarna sewing/embroidery machine. Heavily used for at least a decade and a half, needs no maintenance. Not even lubrication. Still stitches a perfect stitch. Well, the needle needs changing every now-and-then but the rest of the mechanism? Nothing.

Electric, Solar-Powered Cars (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43751103)

seem already to work quite well... on Mars

Cernan and Schmitt covered that distance in 22 hrs (3, Interesting)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | about a year ago | (#43751223)

, spread over 3 separate EVAs in 3 days. All of the unmanned US and Russian rovers took a lot longer to set their distance records.

If the Apollo program was allowed to continue past 17, there were plans for even longer distance surface excursions. There were even preliminary studies done for a small flying vehicle to allow the astronauts to cover even longer distances from their landing site.

They see me roving... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43751239)

they hatin'

Wrong notation. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43751439)

Get the numbers correct. When using the metric system you use , to denote the decimal point.

2.5 miles per year (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43751567)

The rover would fit right in with the drivers on my daily commute in Cleveland...man I miss NY

Nope ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43752249)

Considering that the real accuracy is at the meter level (3 and a bit feet), NASA 'results' are a tie. No story.

Apples and Oranges (0)

lbmouse (473316) | about a year ago | (#43752497)

I don't think lunar travel can even begin to compare to travel on a planet like Mars. There is no atmosphere and very low gravity.

mars probes vastly more geologic stops (1)

peter303 (12292) | about a year ago | (#43752535)

If you define a geological stop for at least a day to take pictures and maybe manipulate rocks/soils. The MERs have done over a thousand of these stops in their combined 6000 days of work. Lunakhod nor Apollo never came close to this number.

Gene Cernan still has the speed record (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about a year ago | (#43757981)

That was 19 km/h on the first Apollo 17 EVA, down a fairly steep hill, though John Young was sceptical, probably because he was the record holder at the time.

Bahhhh!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43764043)

"The metric system is the tool of the devil! My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead and that's the way I likes it."

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