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Homing In On Opportunity From Orbit

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the eentsy-weentsy-dollar-bills dept.

Space 48

An anonymous reader writes "Finding its lander inside a 20-meter crater, NASA has further homed in its latest lander's location and a major science target for the Opportunity rover using high resolution orbital cameras from 400 km overhead. The lander's parachute even casted a shadow nearby this target [another 150 meter crater] during descent. Earlier, each bounce of the Spirit rover could be imaged, along with its backshell, heatshield and parachute debris. Even with dust and weathering, this method could find Pathfinder and Viking [barely], and a technical discussion with pictures is at Malin Space Systems, which designed the Mars Orbital Camera. Because of uncertainties in location, however, it would take 60 years to find the lost Mars Polar Lander, but they may look for Beagle if conditions aren't too dusty."

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Why is the US able to do these things so well? (-1, Flamebait)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086127)

It's like as soon as GWB came into office, the folks at NASA have really come into their own as space farers. We've had successful mission upon successful mission for the past 3 years. At the same time other countries are struggling to do the same things and failing, for the most part.

Re:Why is the US able to do these things so well? (4, Funny)

orthogonal (588627) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086184)

It's like as soon as GWB came into office, the folks at NASA have really come into their own as space farers.

Yeah, it's all thanks to the great GW Bush! Maybe we'll even find WMDs on the Moon!

Why, even Slashdot submitters are learning to talk like our Smirker-In-Chief:

The lander's parachute even casted a shadow nearby this target....

Or as Dubya might say, "Is our children learning?"

Re:Why is the US able to do these things so well? (5, Funny)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086203)

"It's like as soon as GWB came into office, the folks at NASA have really come into their own as space farers."

I was thinking virtually the same thing. Only, I had correlated it with the filming of The Simple Life.

Re:Why is the US able to do these things so well? (5, Insightful)

dhaines (323241) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086206)

successful mission upon successful mission

No. [nasa.gov]

Org. Press Release from Nasa (4, Insightful)

danalien (545655) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086194)

can be found here: http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/newsroom/pressrelea ses/20040125c.html [nasa.gov]

btw, I like this excerpt, about the 'Spirit' lander:

>Encouraging developments continued for Opportunity's twin, Spirit, too. Engineers have determined that Spirit's flash memory
>hardware is functional,strengthening a theory that Spirit's main problem is in software that controls file management of the memory.
>"I think we've got a patient that's well on the way to recovery," said Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager Pete Theisinger at NASA's
>Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

...don't they kinda wished that they ran linux on it?
and if it where buggy, they'd at least have a patch within a couple of hours ;-)

Re:Org. Press Release from Nasa (3, Funny)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086212)

"...don't they kinda wished that they ran linux on it?
and if it where buggy, they'd at least have a patch within a couple of hours ;-)"


They better hurry before Redhat pulls the plug on the version they're using!

(Boy I hope the mods are in good humor today.)

*ohh* A Following Question/Thought (4, Interesting)

danalien (545655) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086219)

I kinda was wondering, if there couldn't be a 'OpenSource Space Initiative'

Let's face it, most of the info that anyone who tries to leave this atmoshpre gives us
is so 'sugar coated' that after a while it starts to taste awefull in our mounths. And on
top of things, they only share 'limited info', keeping all the good stuff inside own
closed doors (even if NASA says they are forth comming, there is much much we never
will see...).

And no, I don't mean, build things, more a 'Think Tank' group, who tries to focus on
solving troubles/things, elaborating on ideas, finding solutions... etc; and at the end of they
day, everything is Open to everyone, to comment on & contribute.

*I know, I would like to contribute, if I where able to*... anyone, else?

ps. if yes, you know where you can find me ;-)

open to EVERYONE? (-1, Offtopic)

eggstasy (458692) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086256)

I can see it now...
1)in soviet russia all your frosty martian goatse piss are belong to natalie portman's naked and petrified hot grits down your pants, found dead at 24 in her maine residence, along with *BSD!
2)???
3)PROFIT!!!

Puh-lease! (3, Insightful)

rk (6314) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086342)

Every scrap of data from NASA science missions get released through the Planetary Data System [nasa.gov] , eventually. It's just the science teams that actually propose and run the missions get first crack at the data.

If you think this isn't fair, stop for a moment and think about the years of blood, sweat and tears that go into these missions. Do you think it is fair then that the scientist with the best internet connection gets to analyze the data first, just because he has a great internet connection? I guarantee you that would end space research because there's no payback for the teams who actually design the missions.

And if you think they did a crappy job with the analysis, well, eventually all the raw data is released and everybody gets a crack at it.

Re:Puh-lease! (1)

danalien (545655) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086740)

I think you misunderstood me, my intention & thought.

I wasn't refering to the 'data the missions produce' /* for what it's worth, I trust them enough to belive their conclusions */

I was aiming more at actually helping at designing some parts of the mission, by giving my opinion with a solution to something in need of solving...

A pair of fresh eye's, wouldn't hurt, would it?

Re:Puh-lease! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8087853)

I think he just meant that NASA should publish exactly what they publish among themselves. I don't care if it's bare HTML with only h1 tags and text, but it's obvious that the engineers aren't using information off http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/ to run the mission. It doesn't even have the martian latitude and longitude of the landers.

However I disagree with the "I would like to contribute, if I where able to" of the original poster. Random suggestions from random people coming at a rate of 10,000 per day would be much more distracting than helpful to NASA.

Re:Puh-lease! (1)

danalien (545655) | more than 10 years ago | (#8091050)

yes it would be distracting, and I didn't mean 'feed them the bare info/source' *no*

more, a independent 'group of ppl', assimilate suggestions from 'who ever', and bring only forth the 'cream pudding' of the whole.

and I don't know, how pass familiar you are with OSS development, eg 'linux', but nothing from 'joe shome' would get strait into the kernel, without a bunch of peer-review, from lots of thrusted people close to linus & himself.

Kinda the same 'developing model', but the topic at hand would be a kernel, but 'Space Initiative....'

's/would/wouldn't/' (1)

danalien (545655) | more than 10 years ago | (#8091079)

's/would/wouldn't/'

Re:Puh-lease! (2, Interesting)

rk (6314) | more than 10 years ago | (#8092161)

It is a HUGE volume of data, and it comes from all over the place. If you are interested in navigation information, then you can point your FTP client of choice to naif.jpl.nasa.gov and download all the pointing and ephemerides you could want. There's even a toolkit there for various Unixes and Windows to parse this stuff. Science info gets/will get released on the main PDS site I mentioned before. If you want actual mechanical/electrical/propulsion engineering details, I'm afraid I can't help you. I'm a software engineer supporting the scientists, not the engineers.

A caveat: The data at NAIF is not for the fainthearted. There are no "you are here" files. You are welcome to browse and take whatever you like but it is not trivial stuff. I've been working with NAIF kernels and the CSPICE library for two years and there are still parts that give me the shakes when I think about using them. Even a brilliant softwarte developer will have a difficult time making much sense of it without a more than superficial knowledge of ephemerides, remote sensing, and general NASA/JPL procedures and their peculiar argot.

I also apologize if I came off rough before. We get (especially those of us in the Mars community) a lot of flak for not releasing up-to-the-minute data from people who are largely told what to think by Richard Hoa[gx]land and his ilk. I tend to take it a bit personally since there is not one bit of released data for the Odyssey THEMIS experiment that has not gone through software I personally wrote and these people more or less accuse us (ME!) of lying. In more polite societies, a charge of lying could be satisfied with swords or pistols on the field, but now all I can do is get really grumpy about it. :-)

Re:*ohh* A Following Question/Thought (2, Interesting)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086430)

I kinda was wondering, if there couldn't be a 'OpenSource Space Initiative'
There could be, but it probably would not accomplish much.
And no, I don't mean, build things, more a 'Think Tank' group, who tries to focus on
solving troubles/things, elaborating on ideas, finding solutions...
That could work... If you could find a few dozen people willing to spend months understanding a near-unique and tightly integrated hardware/software combination. This isn't like your home boxen where the two are more-or-less unrelated, and a hardware/software interface problem means downloading the latest driver as opposed to having to re-write the OS code.
at the end of they day, everything is Open to everyone, to comment on & contribute.
Without the months of self education mentioned above, the comments and contributions will be pretty meaningless. This isn't software that hundreds of thousands of people are running, thus providing a large and diverse base for testing and solving bugs. (And no, we can't substitute simulators either. It would be just as large, if not larger, task to write a simulator/emulator, and it would be just as meaningless at the end of the day without the education.)

Re:*ohh* A Following Question/Thought (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 10 years ago | (#8087665)

If you could find a few dozen people willing to spend months understanding a near-unique and tightly integrated hardware/software combination.
While the probes themselves are pretty unique, the ground systems use a lot of commodity hardware and operating systems. When I worked on CBERS [dgi.inpe.br] we were hacking C++ on SGI Octane boxes, while EDOS, the EOS Data and Operations System [nasa.gov] was C on RS/6000s with AIX. I interviewed for a job at STScI [stsci.edu] where, IIRC, they Solaris, and they actually use Lisp in their software for scheduling observations.

Re:*ohh* A Following Question/Thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8086490)

Should NASA ever take you up on your offer, I can only hope you code better than you assemble words and sentences.

Your sentence:
Let's face it, most of the info that anyone who tries to leave this atmoshpre gives us

is so 'sugar coated' that after a while it starts to taste awefull in our mounths.

Was particularly impressive.

At the very least, fix your sig. The word you're looking for is "buried" not "berried" for God's sake!

[patch] - didn't you mean to send me this patch? (1)

danalien (545655) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086715)

--- linux-user/debian/cli&kde/projects/slicker/dev/dan alien/speech/slashdot/user/545655/post/#8086219 2004-01-26 08:54:20.4959938583 +0100
+++ linux-user/debian/cli&kde/projects/slicker/dev/dan alien/speech/slashdot/user/545655/post/#8086219 2004-01-26 08:54:20.4959938583 +0100
@@ -4,2 +6,2 @@
I kinda was wondering, if there couldn't be a 'OpenSource Space Initiative'

--Let's face it, most of the info that anyone who tries to leave this atmoshpre gives us
--is so 'sugar coated' that after a while it starts to taste awefull in our mounths. And on
++Let's face it, most of the info that anyone who tries to leave this atmosphere gives us
++is so 'sugar coated' that after awhile it starts to taste awful in our mouths. And on
top of things, they only share 'limited info', keeping all the good stuff inside own
closed doors (even if NASA says they are forth comming, there is much much we never
will see...).

Re:*ohh* A Following Question/Thought (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086723)

From what I've seen, it takes a year or two of full-time work experience for a new programmer or engineer to get up to speed on these types of systems. It takes even longer to be really good at it.

Re:*ohh* A Following Question/Thought (2, Insightful)

dk.r*nger (460754) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086829)

[...] 'OpenSource Space Initiative' [...]
And no, I don't mean, build things, more a 'Think Tank' group, who tries to focus on
solving troubles/things, elaborating on ideas, finding solutions... etc; and at the end of they
day, everything is Open to everyone, to comment on & contribute.


And five or six years down the line:

From: Nasa JPL
To: project-leader@os-space.org
Subj: Re: First OpenSpace rapport

Dear contributers,

Your ideas are good, and we greatly appreciate your effort.

However, your findings are not new to us. One of our hundreds of insanely intelligent scientists thought this up during lunch in october 1983, and had mathmatical proof why it won't work by the end of the day. I'm sorry I can't share it.

Best regards,
Dr.Ph.d. N.N.

PS: Some of you guys seem bright. If only you'd not wasted your time doing this and come worked for us instead...

Re:*ohh* A Following Question/Thought (1)

danalien (545655) | more than 10 years ago | (#8091390)

you missunderstood me there, young skywalker!

When I ment 'contribute to', I refered to the 'Think Thank'-group.

...if someone wants to use what 'the think thank' groups came/come up with, fine. may it be whom ever...

..think, 'linux-like OSS development'... now 'linux' doesn't bark up 'Unixes source tree, wanting to merge with', now does it? no, it's free from whow ever to use & contribute to.....plenty of developing countries who don't have much funding for 'space initiative', that could be possible adoptors & developers.

I think, space should be a common comodity, available, to everyone, not just a few selected on this planet...

Re:*ohh* A Following Question/Thought (2, Funny)

dk.r*nger (460754) | more than 10 years ago | (#8092192)

To be honest with you, I was merely fishing for a +1 or 2 'funny'..

Speaking without knowing, however, I think NASA's work is pretty open to any 'friendly' country with a bonafide space program..

Space research has some overlap with military research, and noone wants a nation like North Korea to progress any faster militarily than absolutely neccessary.

Re:*ohh* A Following Question/Thought (3, Interesting)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 10 years ago | (#8088525)


Depending on what you call 'Space Initiative", it already [amsat.org] exists [amsat-dl.org] . Amsat is a worldwide organization that designs, builds, and launches Amateur Radio satellites. They would love to have volunteers to help out, and are willing to add other payloads (like cameras, etc) to their spacecraft. They're even thinking about a Mars mission! [amsat-dl.org] .

Join AMSAT, and help us open up space to the people!

Re:Org. Press Release from Nasa (0, Troll)

yason (249474) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086373)

...don't they kinda wished that they ran linux on it? and if it where buggy, they'd at least have a patch within a couple of hours ;-)

However, it's less hard to imagine a force-fed MS IE bringing the rover down to a bluescreen a few times a day.

MS salesrep: "No, sir, we can't do that. IE is an integrated part of the WindowsCE SpaceGear Edition and cannot be totally removed. However, you can make the icon disappear from your rover's desktop with a few mouse clicks. Just make a Windows Remote Desktop connection to the rover's Terminal Server..."

Re:Org. Press Release from Nasa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8086449)

Contrary to popular belief here, Linux and Open Source isn't the solution to everything. Having a Linux on-board would not have meant fewer bugs.

/. needs to get over this "Linux/Open Source solves everything" mentality.

Re:Org. Press Release from Nasa (1)

danalien (545655) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086823)

>>Contrary to popular belief here, Linux and Open Source isn't the solution to everything.
>>Having a Linux on-board would not have meant fewer bugs.

actually, in the long term, OpenNess , will prevail over 'Things-locked-Down' - an answer can be found in how the french-d00d-from-The-Matrix (Merv - wasn't it?) put it ; "it's Causality - Cause & Reaction",

<Insert of 'explenation I haven't time to explain/write down as it would take pages to do a complete accounting of...thus time-not-available...'>

but, as times would progresses, the effort of keep-a-thing-locked-down, would slowly increase.
Now, if it would have been 'Open' - there wouldn't be a/the need to keep-the-thing-locked-down in the first place, wouldn't it?! - thus Zero amount of effort/force

/* anyway, almost Zero, there will allways be some effort/force of keeping things at move ;-) (but _anything_, ever, even at kelvin Zero and beyond, moves.... question is just the amount....). But this is equal to both, thus one can eliminate it from ones thinking.... */

>>/. needs to get over this "Linux/Open Source solves everything" mentality.

Why? Does it somehow hurt you or somebody, that someone tries to show people a liberty/freedom-full reality?

/* sure, I'd have to agree on that going about it in a propagand-istic way is as wrong as the 'other side' does, but last time I checked, no one forces/forced you/anyone to read it/this - and if that was/is the case, you have my humble apologies */

ps. I don't want to be cocky - I'm just tring to explain that OpenNess really has strong merits...

Re:Org. Press Release from Nasa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8100639)

...don't they kinda wished that they ran linux on it?
and if it where buggy, they'd at least have a patch within a couple of hours ;-)


Yeah, and in a few more hours the community would fracture and there would be 88 competing patches and people going off pissed to make their own rover because "those other guys just don't get it".

Great idea. Next, we can build a camel [brainyquote.com] .

Re:Org. Press Release from Nasa (1)

dvd_tude (69482) | more than 10 years ago | (#8101852)

There is work to do just that: Java on top of RT/Linux in the Rocky 7 platform (basically the testbed for MER1/2). See here [opengroup.org] (PDF file.)

Now the question I have is... which filesystem did they use for MER1/2? Is it DOS FAT? If so, I could see how the "too many files" problem could happen quite easily.

Not that DOS FAT wouldn't be OK for spaceflight, it is very simple, reasonably robust and quite mature. Just gotta watch for those FAT limits.

Mars is conquered, almost (1)

mnmn (145599) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086379)

Its amazing how we've got satellites and rovers covering Mars at various locations. Its pretty different from the very first Viking landing. We can see the soft sand around Opportunity, the marks the rovers airbags made, and that there arent any martians running around, at least for now.

The <a href=http://www.mentallandscape.com/V_DigitalImage s.htm>Venus landings</a> were more surprising to me because I thought we never landed on Venus. I guess its time to look forward to either landing people on Mars, or pushing spacecraft further to Mercury. The temp there is actually cooler than on Venus, and the lack of atmosphere will make it more like the moon.

Or maybe its time to start desiging spacecraft and robots to try and land/splash on Jupiter. Given the gravity, temperature, radio/radiation noise etc. we might not even be able currently to pull that off.

Re:Mars is conquered, almost (5, Informative)

5, egregious (737758) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086632)

The cool thing about space exploration at the moment is a lot of that stuff you mention is being done now or about to be done.

It's a bit easier to land on Venus than Mars as the atmosphere is so thick - apparently the landers didn't use the parachutes that much to slow down. On the flipside - existing in -25 degrees is easier than +500 degrees.
The Messenger [jhuapl.edu] spacecraft will be on its way to Mercury via Venus soon.

The Galileo Atmospheric entry probe [nasa.gov] hit the atmosphere of Jupiter in '95. In the future we may see the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter [nasa.gov] and possibly a Europa lander and submarine - depending on whether the sub surface ocean exists.

The Huyghens probe attached to the Cassini (Saturn orbiter) [nasa.gov] will analyse the atmosphere of Titan for about 2.5 hours and may work on the surface for 5 minutes or so (arriving July 2004).

Cheers

Re:Mars is conquered, almost (1)

BlueEyes_Austin (738940) | more than 10 years ago | (#8092625)

Actually, they are hoping for considerably more than 5 minutes of surface time! Hopefully we'll get at least 30 minutes of surface data.

Re:Mars is conquered, almost (1)

Bitsy Boffin (110334) | more than 10 years ago | (#8086680)

Or maybe its time to start desiging spacecraft and robots to try and land/splash on Jupiter.

Jupiter is just a (humungous) ball of gas, there is no land to land on, nor sea to splash in. Just lots and lots of atmosphere to fly through.

Jupiter's moons on the other hand are the present and future targets of many exploratory probes.

Re:Mars is conquered, almost (2, Informative)

morton2002 (200597) | more than 10 years ago | (#8088508)

Jupiter is just a (humungous) ball of gas, there is no land to land on, nor sea to splash in. Just lots and lots of atmosphere to fly through.

Jupiter's core is under such intense heat and pressure that it is speculated that it consists of metallic hydrogen, in either liquid or solid form. This theory [nasa.gov] helps explain its powerful magnetic field.

Re:Mars is conquered, almost (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 10 years ago | (#8090400)

Jupiter's core is under such intense heat and pressure that it is speculated that it consists of metallic hydrogen, in either liquid or solid form.

True, but effectivly the GP is also right. Even though the core of Jupiter may be a big ball of metallic hydrogen, any probe we send will also be a big ball of solid metal long before we are near enough to observe the core.

Re:Mars is conquered, almost (1)

rogerdr (745180) | more than 10 years ago | (#8093271)

Although it may be possible to blow up a balloon and float around in the mid-level atmosphere.

Re:Mars is conquered, almost (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 10 years ago | (#8097286)

Jupiter's core is under such intense heat and pressure that it is speculated that it consists of metallic hydrogen, in either liquid or solid form. This theory [nasa.gov] helps explain its powerful magnetic field.

Sorry I couldn't RTFL, but it timed out. I'm wondering if it discusses just how close Jupiter is to becoming a star?

If so, I wonder how many more probes (mass) we have to send to it in order to get the furnace started. ;-)

Re:Mars is conquered, almost (5, Informative)

linoleo (718385) | more than 10 years ago | (#8087142)

I thought we never landed on Venus

Depends on your concept of "we". The Russians had an extensive Venus orbiter/lander [dynip.com] program - absolutely thrilling stuff considering the difficulties Venus presents. These guys were pioneers, the first to land a probe on another planet. The moon [nasa.gov] as well.

I guess its time to look forward to either landing people on Mars, or pushing spacecraft further to Mercury.

Why adopt Dubya's limited vision? The really juicy planetary science targets are Jupiter's icy moons, and Saturn's Titan. As has been pointed out, all of these, along with Mercury, are underway [nasa.gov] .

Alas, it looks like Dubya's "mars or bust" program will drain the funding from many of the most exciting future space science missions, just as the "look mom, I'm (barely) in space" ISS did before, and the space shuttle (the Swiss army knife of spaceflight: does everything, but nothing well) before that. I'm so glad for those missions whose probes have been launched already - harder (though not unheard of) to axe those.

to try and land/splash on Jupiter

Been done. [nasa.gov]

Jupiter is just a (humungous) ball of gas, there is no land to land on, nor sea to splash in.

There are certainly going to be phase transitions to liquid and solid (aka "sea" and "land") somewhere in that humongous ball of gas. Operative question is how to design a probe to withstand the enormous pressure at the depth at which these phase transitions occur.

Best,

- nic

Re:Mars is conquered, almost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8089063)

What you said makes me wonder if it wouldnt be easier to set up a base on Europa.

Plenty of water there, but you'd have to bring your own soil I guess.

And some way to protect yourself against radiation from Jupiter...

Anyone know what kind of protection could be afforded by setting up a base under the ice on Europa?

It d be easier than digging rock and soil on Mars...

Re:Mars is conquered, almost (1)

grmoc (57943) | more than 10 years ago | (#8096190)

The science I'm most interested in is that which allows man to -stay- in space. (i.e. self-sustaining space environments, or nearly self-sustaining)

Obviously, the intl. space station is not very interesting in this regard.

Bush's Mars mission is more likely to approach this goal than any non-manned science mission, and as such I believe it to be a better use of funds.

Let me be absolutely clear--
(inter)planetary science is fascinating, but men -living- in space seems more important to me.

(After all, it is getting easier and easier for us to destroy our little planet here. It is much more difficult to destroy two planets when it is difficult to get out of a gravity well!)

Re:Mars is conquered, almost (1)

linoleo (718385) | more than 10 years ago | (#8098205)

The science I'm most interested in is that which allows man to -stay- in space. (i.e. self-sustaining space environments, or nearly self-sustaining)

This is of the utmost importance, agreed.

Bush's Mars mission is more likely to approach this goal than any non-manned science mission, and as such I believe it to be a better use of funds.

Here's where I disagree. Bush's proposal as it stands doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell to succeed, but for the sake of argument let's assume it does, and that in, say, 15 years men stand on mars, at a cost of, say, $100B. Now that'd be a great achievement, but it still has a fatal flaw:

To send the *second* crew to mars will cost less, but not all that much less - let's say, $10B. To send the third, fourth, etc. crew will still cost $10B each, because of the high launch costs. Once everyone has gone home again, what you'll be left with is an American flag and another deserted "memorial station" or two standing on an empty world. This is precisely what happened to Apollo.

It's all down to economics: reduce launch costs by a factor of 10, and space exploration will thrive. Reduce them by a factor of 100, and space commerce (mining the moon etc.) will thrive. Reduce them by a factor of 1000, and space tourism will thrive. All by itself, without any need for "presidential visions" beyond giving NASA the one priority that should override all others: reduce the cost of getting us out of our gravity well. By itself it ain't sexy, but all else will follow from it.

But let's face it: sitting atop a giant barrel of explosives is *never* going to be cheap enough nor safe enough to let this happen. The shuttle was supposed to reduce launch costs (by being reusable), instead it increased them (by having to be *safely* reusable). The only technology I know of that may be capable of getting us into space cheaply is the space elevator [spaceelevator.com] . I would gladly forgo all other space projects for 20 years if the funds and effort went into building the first space elevator, because I know that once it's built, we could catch up with what we missed in no time flat, and then spread "up and out" for good.

- nic

Re:Mars is conquered, almost (1)

grmoc (57943) | more than 10 years ago | (#8101477)

You're looking at this from a very Earth-centric viewpoint (as opposed to a species-centric viewpoint)!

Earth != Humanity in the case that we have a permanent, self-sustaining base elsewhere in the solar system.

My guess is that our Earth is going to hell in a handbasket, and the most likely thing to save us as a species is to be able to survive without it.

One of Bush's goals was a permanent installation on the Moon which is certainly down the "self-sustaining" path if just for economic reasons.

Assume that we -are- able to get a permament base on the moon, and that it is self-sustaining--

The launch costs from the moon to any other part of the solar system are MUCH less prohibitive when compared to launch costs from the much deeper gravity-well of the Earth (not to mention that the Moon doesn't have much of an atmosphere to punch through...)

The Space-Elevator concept is wonderful, but simply getting men into space doesn't solve the most important problem of them being able to -stay- there.

If men are able to stay in space, and an installation can become self-sufficient, then you can have a colony...

Re:Mars is conquered, almost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8096211)

> Jupiter is just a (humungous) ball of gas, there is no land to land on, nor sea to splash in.

>> There are certainly going to be phase transitions to liquid and solid (aka "sea" and "land") somewhere in that humongous ball of gas. Operative question is how to design a probe to withstand the enormous pressure at the depth at which these phase transitions occur.

It is theorized that gas giants like Jupiter have a solid and very dense core, probably about the size of Earth. In his 2010 and 2061 books, Sir Arthur C. Clarke described this core as being the biggest diamond in the solar system, because of the huge pressure.

Re:Mars is conquered, almost (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 10 years ago | (#8096574)

"Alas, it looks like Dubya's "mars or bust" program will drain the funding from many of the most exciting future space science missions,"

Did you watch his speech or read the text of it?

He talked about robotic missions like the Mercury and Europa missions and proposals along with the manned operations as well as the new Space Telescope.

Re:Mars is conquered, almost (1)

linoleo (718385) | more than 10 years ago | (#8098026)

Did you watch his speech or read the text of it?

He talked about robotic missions like the Mercury and Europa missions and proposals along with the manned operations as well as the new Space Telescope.


Yes, I did read the text [nasa.gov] . And no, he didn't talk about Messenger [jhuapl.edu] or Jimo [nasa.gov] . He talked about precisely three kinds of robotic probes:

1) those which *in the past* have greatly increased our knowledge of the solar system,

2) the Mars rovers *in the present*, and

2) those which *in the future* will "blaze the trail" for humans to "mars and beyond".

(my emphasis on past/present/future)

He also talked about funding a project estimated to cost several 100B$ to the tune of 1B$, and about NASA finding another 11B$ for it (out of their 15B$/year overall budget) - all without cutting any of the missions he *didn't* mention? Dream on.

(He then talked about his recent visit with Santa on the North Pole, balancing the budget, and cutting more taxes. With that kind of vision, you just gotta vote for that man, dontcha think? Just kidding.)

Far from constituting a revolutionary new vision, this speech actually just continues the time-honored tradition of presidents twisting NASA's arm for reelection purposes, creating gigantic white elephants in a pork barrel ("unifying visions" in president-speak) at the expense of real space science and exploration. It did work like a charm the first time around (Apollo) but then went steadily downhill (Shuttle, ISS, mars or bust).

I call it "mars or bust" rather than "mars and beyond" because given the evidence so far (esp. the proposed funding), "bust" looks far more likely to me than "mars", let alone "beyond".

- nic

future space science missions (1)

linoleo (718385) | more than 10 years ago | (#8099048)

To see what's in store for planetary probes, have a look at this excellent index [nasa.gov] of missions. First, note the large number of operating [nasa.gov] missions - good. Now let's take a closer look at the rather smaller number of missions in development [nasa.gov] :

Hubble SM4 is cancelled. Herschel, Planck, and Rosetta are European; Astro-E2 and Solar-B are Japanese. Most of the NASA missions are near-earth: AMS, Cindi, Glast, Gravity Probe-B, Sofia, Space Tech 5/6/7, Swift, and Twins. Stereo is a solar observatory. That leaves just 4 missions that could be considered "planetary" probes: Deep Impact (cometary), Mars'05 Orbiter, Messenger (Mercury), and New Horizons (Pluto).

Now watch where the budget axe falls next... Messenger and, hopefully, Deep Impact should be too far along to cancel at this point, and anything with "Mars" in its title should be safe, but I do fear for New Horizons. Their problem is that flight time to Pluto is just too damn long for any president to care about. Perhaps they could arrange for a Mars fly-by and re-name the mission "Mars and Beyond"...?

Be that as it may, that (plus Cassini which thank God is already en route to Saturn, and Stardust's sample return) is *it*. Yes, there are many exciting missions under study [nasa.gov] , but given the new budget priorities set by Dubya, "under study" will buy you nothing unless it's got the Moon or Mars in it. I sincerely hope I'm wrong, but I foresee many, many worthwhile science missions, large and small, getting squeezed out. If we're lucky, ESA and Japan will take up some of the slack.

- nic

landing images (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8094742)

does anybody have an idea what the 2 intresting lines are in the descent images. the lines are located in the main crater that can be seen in the descent images?

Sums it up perfectly: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8101864)

http://yo-duh.whitesidefamily.net/nasabsod/

It's the year 2053 (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 10 years ago | (#8104367)

Excerpt from spaceflightnow.com:

"Then, as we were getting ready to send the next beep command, the vehicle decided to communicate with us in one of its nominal communications windows at which point we got a little bit of data that had very little information in it. In fact, originally we started to decode it and it was from the year 2053 and we thought 'this is not good!' Eventually we found out the data was corrupted, and we were all cheering at that point because there weren't a lot of scenarios that would put us in 2053 on Mars."

Conspiracy theorists and UFO extremists are gonna have a field day with this.
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