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Rovers May Survive Martian Winter

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the those-things-wake-up-hungry dept.

Space 266

yokem_55 writes "According to this article on Yahoo News, Mars rover engineers are beginning to consider the possibility that the rovers may be able to survive the oncoming Martian winter in a hibernation mode, and then return to activity when spring returns to the red planet. The article ends with a quote from Steve Squires speculating that, 'we're looking at the final demise of these vehicles perhaps as late as the onset of our second winter on Mars.'"

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FIRST POST! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375175)

First Post?

YOU SUCCEED IT! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375381)

Congratulations! You got the first post!

Problems? (-1, Redundant)

agoatley (785428) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375179)

Surely the extremely low temperatures would at least make it difficult to start up again...

Also, if it's waiting for a "time to wake up" signal it must be using power...surely this would put some rather tight constraints on how long it could last?
-Ashton

Re:Problems? (3, Funny)

quasipunk guy (88280) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375211)

IT FUCKING FLEW THROUGH MILLIONS OF MILES OF SPACE.

They're NASA, you're just some chump behind a computer.

Re:Problems? (4, Insightful)

chabotc (22496) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375266)

I know i'm asking for the imposible here, but couldn't you have read the article first before asking us to spend time telling you things that are already in the article? WTF makes our time so cheap, and you so precious that we have to digest this short article for you so you dont have to read it!

Anyhow to awnser your question, allow me to quote the article: "Part of the wintering over strategy will involve positioning the rovers to soak up as much continuous sunlight, even as the Sun moves low in the martian sky, Bell said. Secondly, the robots are to be oriented so that communications links with orbiters zipping overhead is maximized, he pointed out."

In otherwords, they will go into low power mode, but not be switched off, and hopefully be positioned so that they wont loose communication for very long, if ever

If the rovers were running Windows... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375287)

They would hang if you tried to put them in sleep mode and wouldn't wake up ;P

Re:Problems? (2, Insightful)

term8or (576787) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375297)

The article doesn't go into enough details, but I would think that even in the worst Martian winter the solar panels would generate *some* power, with battery backup for the worst storms.

You're right to say that if you were to keep in continuous radio contact it would use too much power, but waiting for the spring and then getting into radio contact shouldn't use that much power. After all, the rovers will have been in hibernation for many months on the journey to mars.

Re:Problems? (1)

SteveAyre (209812) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375530)

I doubt it'll have the satellite communications running over the winter waiting for a wake up call, you're right - it'd use way too much power.

It's possible though that they have a timer which could count down over the winter and turn the machine back on some time in the spring.

That would take very little power, the batteries are certainly large enough for it to be possible (think of a battery clock which can last a year(s) on two AAAs, the power use would be similar).

The batteries can of course recharge in the spring.

---

My other thought is, the solar powers would still be working over the winter. It's possible that the machine's hibernation mode consists of shutting everything down except the power supply unit (which'll be more complex than usual as it'll be recharging the batteries when the solar panels are working - more like a UPS) and the circuits needed to run the satellite communications and wait for a wake up call.

The solar panels won't generate as much power in the winter, but they'd probably generate enough to wait for a wait up call.

Re:Problems? (5, Funny)

Monsieur Canard (766354) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375570)

A few weeks back the guys over at Car Talk had a call from a guy who wanted some advice on how to properly prepare his vehicle for winter.

They asked him what type of car it was, he said it was a kit car. "How much did the kit cost?" they asked. "Oh, about 450 million dollars." replied the caller.

Yes, an engineer from JPL was calling to get some tongue-in-cheek advice on what to do to keep the rovers safe over the martian winter.

It was pretty cool.

Why wouldn't this work (3, Interesting)

it0 (567968) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375182)

Why wouldn't this work in the first place, a couple of solar cells and you're good to go?

I'm probably missing something.

Re:Why wouldn't this work (3, Insightful)

agoatley (785428) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375186)

I don't think that there's enough solar energy during a Martian winter...
-Ashton

Re:Why wouldn't this work (3, Informative)

dominux (731134) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375190)

they have lots of solar cells but they don't work as well as they might when covered in a layer of sticky redish sand.

Re:Why wouldn't this work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375424)

mars engineer's diary, stardate^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H sol 182.

note to self: next time, don't forget the wipers!

Re:Why wouldn't this work (5, Informative)

HermesHuang (606596) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375251)

1) during winter sun is weaker, would get less power 2) I'm sure some things, like the batteries, are affected by the temperature. In general lower temperatures increase activation energy barriers, so there's a chance the batteries will be weaker as well 4) Temperature gradient between relatively hot parts of operating rover (such as computer equipment, etc) and outside air will stress the rovers; also temperature cycling from turning off at night and turning back on in daytime will take the rover's equipment along a fairly large range of temperatures which is a good way to break delicate equipment. 3) I sure don't want to be chipping at rocks when it's -100C.... But then again the rovers probably don't care about frostbite as much

Re:Why wouldn't this work (1)

HermesHuang (606596) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375260)

darn, I forgot to format the above post. Hey, it's 3:30 in the morning - I'm allowed to be half asleep... wait.. I am... Stupid paper...

Re:Why wouldn't this work (1)

SkunkPussy (85271) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375349)

" I'm sure some things, like the batteries, are affected by the temperature. In general lower temperatures increase activation energy barriers, so there's a chance the batteries will be weaker as well"

two sides to this coin, the increased activation energy will mean the batteries energy won't leak or discharge as quickly

Re:Why wouldn't this work (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375388)

I just had a brainwave, and wondered what the strange noise was....

No Seriously why dont they just use disposable lens covers, like they make for motorcycle visors... when it gets covered with crap, just use a little robotic arm or something to remove it.

Wonder whether the nice folks at nasa have thought of this

oh well looks like i will have to trundle down to the local patent office and get this one in before Microsoft or SCO hey :-P

Couldn't they think about this sooner? (1, Interesting)

LeoDV (653216) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375185)

The way they put it, the rovers are on the ground and suddenly somebody at NASA went "Oh crap, winter's coming!" and the solution they came up with is to put them on sleep mode, cross their fingers for a long amount of time, and see if the screensaver's still on when spring comes. Couldn't they prepare better for this or did I miss something?

Re:Couldn't they think about this sooner? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375192)

They were never designed to last past April. Both rovers are already well past their life expectancies.

Re:Couldn't they think about this sooner? (1)

jefe7777 (411081) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375401)

I think there's a little CYA fudge factor in there. I can hear it now:

[Scotty's voice] "The Rovers have given us all they've got Captain! They were never designed to last past April!"

-if a job is going to take half a day, tell the Captain 3.

-if you think something you engineered will last 18 months, tell the Captain 3.

Re:Couldn't they think about this sooner? (1)

tsotha (720379) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375195)

Yes, the way they prepared for this was to say "the mission only lasts until winter"

Re:Couldn't they think about this sooner? (2, Informative)

mlush (620447) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375221)

Couldn't they prepare better for this or did I miss something?

Both Rovers were designed to work for 90 days anything more than this is a bonus, they were not even designed to last till winter. If they can survive it thats a bigger bonus!

Re:Couldn't they think about this sooner? (5, Insightful)

Andy Mitchell (780458) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375256)

These things are engineered to last a certain ammount of time, as component specifications are generally conservative equipment will often last longer than it was designed for.

Take the voyager 2 probe, this was launched with the intent of exploring Jupier and Saturn. But they managed to extend the mission out to both Neptune and Uranus.

Of course they thought about these posibilities, they chose the launch date such that they could continue their slingshot in that direction :-)

PR necessities of researchers (5, Interesting)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375456)

So, here's the problem.

NASA does astronomy. To be very blunt and honest, astronomy provides very few concrete short-term benefits.

Most people think in the very short term when it comes to deciding who should get money -- and when politicians are strapped for cash for a project, NASA is always a likely source of money to divert.

As a result, it's always an uphill battle for NASA's research to get funded.

This is why NASA spends so much effort marketing what they have done -- for instance, providing free, beautiful pictures that consist entirely of false-color images that have been tweaked by hand to look attractive...they're more a credit to the artistic nature of the postprocessors than to the people doing the research itself.

One major problem is mission failures. The response to NASA getting mission failures appears to be a counterintuitive "cut their budget". My guess is that when positive public opinion and awareness of NASA goes up (as with successful missions), NASA's likelihood of getting funding increases markedly.

So all NASA has to do is make significant public underestimates of their mission potentials. That way, after completing, say, 10% of their expected work, they can announce that the mission "is a success". When the mission finally does end, the media can crow about how it "vastly exceeded anyone's wildest imaginations", and make public lots of hand-retouched images.

That doesn't mean I disapprove of what they're doing. I like seeing basic research being funded, and I don't think that there's a really good alternative method for NASA to get money.

It does mean, however, that it's *very* unlikely that this is an off-the-cuff decision by an engineer at NASA. It's a good bet that they have pre-made strategies for dealing with dust, extreme temperature change, power loss, signal loss, failure of particular systems, etc.

Props to NASA (4, Insightful)

Kiryat Malachi (177258) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375187)

Always nice to see the reminder that NASA can do great fucking engineering when the mission is properly separated from politics.

Re:Props to NASA (5, Insightful)

madprof (4723) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375203)

Absolutely. This mission can only be considered an unqualified success. What is most pleasing is the fact that they now have a better idea of how to make future missions work this well too.

Re:Props to NASA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375328)

I think I want to punch YOU in the face.

Is it just me... (5, Interesting)

Viceice (462967) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375200)

Does anyone else get the feeling that the rovers were actually designed to last this long, but the lifespan that was published was a PR version that was extraordinarily short, so that in the event the rovers didn't last this long, they could save having to answer questions?

Plus if it worked to spec, they could spin it up like this now, saying it lasted way beyond spec?

Anyway, I'm not complaining, it's good that the rovers are still healthy and are expected to last longer.. it's way overdue.

Re:Is it just me... (4, Insightful)

torpor (458) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375246)

Does anyone else get the feeling that the rovers were actually designed to last this long, but the lifespan that was published was a PR version that was extraordinarily short, so that in the event the rovers didn't last this long, they could save having to answer questions?


Yes. Two words: Insurance Policy.

NASA can't keep paying insurance on the rovers for years and years, so they plan (in the budget) for limited life times. Set your targets low, get as much done as you can within the limits of those targets, and get out.

But we should never forget that our estimations for how long things last are completely arbitrary ... until after we've had the experience to back up the assumptions made about the longevity of the hardware.

The lifetime of the rovers is not so much about science as it is about beauracracy and politices, and ultimately 'responsibility'.

Personally, I don't see why we just kick out the beauracrats entirely, throw all Insurance premium mafia ripoffs to the winds, and build harder rovers.

Maybe we don't need to keep going to Mars, maybe we just need to 'learn to stay there' technologically longer than our society is currently capable of supporting. (Insurance is a 'society' thing, it isn't technological...)

Re:Is it just me... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375355)

You're trolling, right? Governments generally don't do insurance.

Insurance (2, Funny)

The Grassy Knoll (112931) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375508)

Are they fully comp, or third-party only? If the latter, do NASA know something we don't!?

.

Re:Is it just me... (1)

Martigan80 (305400) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375289)

Besides telling you to put the tin hat on, I'll agree with you. NASA is a government agency and like other agencies has learned to vallue of understating goals and objects just incase something does happen.

Re:Is it just me... (2, Insightful)

dj245 (732906) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375318)

NASA is a government agency and like other agencies has learned to vallue of understating goals and objects just incase something does happen.

As compared to a capitolistic society where companies always overstate their goals and products just incase their compeditor does the same. Its interesting that we have two sectors: the government, and free enterprise; and they both have similar goals- be profitable, provide for their 'customers', remain in business. And they have evolved to completely opposite tactics, in some cases.

I'm sure there are some companies that don't overstate their products, and I know that some government agencies do, But there have been plenty of times I have gone to X government agency and been surprised at all they can do for me, and lots of times products have not lived up to expectations.

Re:Is it just me... (4, Insightful)

dj245 (732906) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375299)

Does anyone else get the feeling that the rovers were actually designed to last this long, but the lifespan that was published was a PR version that was extraordinarily short, so that in the event the rovers didn't last this long...

Reminds me of a Scotty quote, I can't seem to find it online, but it had something to do with him always telling the captain that it would take 10 hours to fix something when it would really take 5, so when Kirk told him to do it in 5 it would make him look brilliant. The rule of halfs I guess. But what if your superior asks for it in 4 hours? I guess you're screwed then.

Re:Is it just me... (1)

PedanticSpellingTrol (746300) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375387)

Oh yeah, I remember that one... Kirk: Mister Scott, do you always multiply your repair estimates by a factor of four? Scotty: Aye captain, how else could I keep my reputation, as a miracle worker?

Re:Is it just me... (4, Funny)

fiftyfly (516990) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375428)

LaForge gets some wise but unwanted advice from Scotty. Scotty: Do ye mind a little advice? Starfleet captains are like children. They want everything right now, and they want it their way. But the secret is to give only what they need, not what they want! LaForge: Yeah, well I told the captain I'd have this analysis done in an hour. Scotty: And how long would it really take? LaForge: An hour! Scotty: Oh, ye didn't tell him how long it would really take, did ye? LaForge: Well, of course I did. Scotty: Oh, laddie, ye've got a lot to learn if ye want people to think of ye as a miracle worker! --Relics

Re:Is it just me... (1)

martingunnarsson (590268) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375302)

I've always thought it was kind of strange that Nasa predicted such a short life span for the rovers. I mean, if they have made it through the landing without problem, why should they just break down a couple of weeks later? These things are probably built by top quality components, and should be able to run for a year or so in my opinion, but then, IANAMRE (I am not a mars rover expert).

Re:Is it just me... (2, Interesting)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375316)

You sound surprised? In the business world, these tactics are called 'managing expectations' and 'limiting liability'.

Re:Is it just me... (2, Informative)

Daedalus Jones (786388) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375350)

Yes. Yes. Yes... Bureaucratic cowards! There are so many projects that have been snuffed because NASA feared negative PR in the event of failure. NASA is the Cathedral! However, the general population does view space travel as a bit of a frivolous thing and so its easy to sympathize with their plight. Here is one project that NASA killed that actually offered the possibility of interplanetary travel. Project Orion [angelfire.com] (projectorion.com doesn't seem to be around anymore.)

Dusty solar panels (4, Interesting)

Mostly a lurker (634878) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375204)

Just a question I am curious about: given that the problem of dust buildup degrading the operation of the solar panels was anticipated, was there no way of incorporating some cleaning mechanism?

Re:Dusty solar panels (4, Insightful)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375226)

Why? The rest of the components were designed to last for a shorter time. The mission was designed to do many things in a fairly short period of time. Thus the entire system was designed to do that. It's like asking why a missile targeting system doesn't have a log cycle routine; by the time the log needs to rollover, the hardware is in tiny pieces.

A dust cleaner would be another thing that could fail... as would anything else to extend the mission time frame. Instead of a more complex system that could run a year, they made a simple system to last a couple months. Simple seems to be a really good thing when you can't go over and kick it if it gets stuck.

--
Evan

Exactly, they experimented with cleaning tech... (5, Interesting)

Phoenixhunter (588958) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375265)

But found that with all of the weight constraints, it was easier to simply have larger panels than they needed. I heard about it on an interview over on NPR.

Re:Dusty solar panels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375282)

I guess, at some point the dust buildup will stop because the panels will lose as much dust as it collects.

A bigger problem could be degraded battery performance.

Re:Dusty solar panels (0, Redundant)

howman (170527) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375384)

Sure there is...
1. grab homeless guy off street.
2. ship him out with newspaper and whisky in a brown paper bag.
3. let nature take its course.
4.?
5. Profit.

but seriously, I am sure some form of wiper will be incorporated into the next version.

It is utterly inhumane (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375208)

It is utterly inhumane to send them to Mars without building a hut for it to hibernate through the winter.

Dude! it is a robot!

Re:It is utterly inhumane (1)

mikael (484) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375410)

Since both rovers have drills, maybe they could carve kennels out of the rocks.

Re:It is utterly inhumane (2, Funny)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375610)

Maybe NASA could steer them towards each other, and they could huddle together for warmth. ;-)

Parking Up (3, Funny)

squoozer (730327) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375215)

Lets just hope they park them somewhere out of the worst of the weather. Oh, and that they remembered to pack the jump leads.

The sweetest sight. (4, Funny)

vchoy (134429) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375236)

As a system admin/engineer/operater etc etc, the wait for something to come up again, and seeing something like the following is a nice and satisfying feeling:

Rover>ping -t mars_rover

Pinging mars_rover with 32 bytes of data:

Request timed out.
Request timed out.
Request timed out.
Request timed out.
Request timed out.
Request timed out. .......
Reply from 192.168.1.2: bytes=32 time=2ms TTL=64
Reply from 192.168.1.2: bytes=32 time=1ms TTL=64
Reply from 192.168.1.2: bytes=32 time=6ms TTL=64
Reply from 192.168.1.2: bytes=32 time=6ms TTL=64

Ping statistics for 192.168.1.2:
Packets: Sent = 9, Received = 4, Lost = 5 (55% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 1ms, Maximum = 6ms, Average = 3ms

Re:The sweetest sight. (5, Insightful)

jwe21 (692155) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375276)

Try

Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 9000ms, Maximum=10000ms, Average=9100ms

Re:The sweetest sight. (2, Funny)

stud9920 (236753) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375606)

Wow ! You mean Mars is only 10 light seconds away ? Duck and cover !

Re:The sweetest sight. (1)

Sneeka2 (782894) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375277)

An average ping time of 3ms to Mars? As an engineer I'd sure be happy to see that, oh boy!

Re:The sweetest sight. (4, Funny)

larien (5608) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375278)

Hrm, nice, you've broken the speed of light with ICMP packets; round trip time to Mars would be a number of seconds/minutes....

Re:The sweetest sight. (1)

fiftyfly (516990) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375375)

Hrm, nice, you've broken the speed of light with ICMP packets; round trip time to Mars would be a number of seconds/minutes....

I bet your rovers aren't even made of transparent aluminium either.

Re:The sweetest sight. (1, Funny)

b4rtm4n (692708) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375430)

IP over quantum entangled pairs?

3ms is probably too slow then.

:-D

Re:The sweetest sight. (1)

sploo22 (748838) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375454)

RFC 57274: IP via Tachyon Pulses.

Re:The sweetest sight. (1)

nbvb (32836) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375527)

Agilent did that already.

http://www.iscsistorage.com/dk.htm

Re:The sweetest sight. (1)

mpn14tech (716482) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375301)

Since your so close to Mars, do you mind taking a pick and bringing back a few samples.

Re:The sweetest sight. (1, Funny)

FinestLittleSpace (719663) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375304)

For a moment there i thought that we were getting live replies from the rover.

Then i realised that it was just an over-exictable geek with too much time on their hands and no evident form of life.

Oh like no one saw this coming.... (4, Funny)

MachDelta (704883) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375346)

Then i realised that it was just an over-exictable geek with too much time on their hands and no evident form of life.
You must be new here.

Re:Oh like no one saw this coming.... (1)

FinestLittleSpace (719663) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375376)

Not new, just a slashdot optimist ;-)

Re:The sweetest sight. (0)

FinestLittleSpace (719663) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375311)

OH, and PLEASE could all moderators mark parent as funny. It's worth all you can throw at it.

Re:The sweetest sight. (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375336)

Dude, it's one light second to the moon, and about a light minute to Mars.

Re:The sweetest sight. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375363)

At its recent closest approach, Mars was 34.65 million miles away from Earth. Light travels 186,282 miles/second. Minimum round-trip to Mars would be 372 seconds.

Re:The sweetest sight. (2, Interesting)

thetoastman (747937) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375369)

Hmm . . . .

Best distance to Mars . . . . 0.38 AU

3.8E-01 * 9.3E07 = 3.534E07 miles
3.534E07 / 6 ms = 5.89E05 miles / ms
5.89E05 miles/ms = 5.89E09 miles/sec

5.89E09 / 1.86E05 = 3.2E04 times speed of light

Someone phone the Vulcans, we have warp.

If someone has the distance from Earth to Mars at the end of the Martian winter, plus a more accurate number for the speed of light in a vaccuum, please clean up the number.

Oh, and if we're talking about networks, we've not included propogation delay nor the speed of light for the (small) distance that the signal is present on copper.

Winter (0, Redundant)

Agret (752467) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375238)

NASA know the solar panels would get dusty and that would stop the solar energy, shouldn't they have put some type of cleaning device on there? Does anyone know if they have released pictures of the Martian winter on their site or to another site or to the press or anything? The Mars Rover's are really cool and NASA have tried to prevent anything from happening to them, and for once nothing bad has happened.

Winter driving (1, Funny)

JosKarith (757063) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375240)

Well, I hope _somebody_ remembered to pack the snow chains...?

You know it doesn't sound half as funny as it did 20 years ago, stuck in an overladen Volvo estate halfway up a French mountain with night closing in.

fQrost pist (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375241)

mod Points and chosen, whatever handy, You are free

EOL underestimated (4, Interesting)

some1somewhere (642060) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375254)

It seems that with many recent NASA missions they greatly underestimate the capabilities and timelines , then act like something is a great big bonus if it actually outlasts or outperforms the underestimated goal.

Sure... this is one way to make sure people are not disappointed, because if you always tell people the lowest goal then they'll only be overjoyed if it does any better... but is this the new way forwards?

Re:EOL underestimated (2, Insightful)

SsShane (754647) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375411)

Tell that to the Beagle guys. Just the fact that we landed both of them in the first place is an accomplishment.

Lucky Nasa boys (2, Funny)

Lakedemon (761375) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375267)

I always wanted to play with a teleguided car too, when I was little.

Damn *%$!%& Santa never brought one.....sob...

The important question... (5, Interesting)

Sneeka2 (782894) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375268)

Even though I RTFA, I still don't know when spring will come on Mars. If I remember correctly the Martian year is about twice as long as Earth's year (or was it?). But what about the seasons?

Re:The important question... (1, Interesting)

deitel99 (533532) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375467)

The other thing I was thinking about is: If the rovers are on opposite sides of the planet, then one is in the northern hemisphere and one is in the south.

As a result only one rover is about to go into the martian winter. For the other, rock on Summer!

Anyway, I think something is wrong in the article. Any ideas?

Oh, it's more a question of lack of sunlight (3, Interesting)

bananahammock (595781) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375269)

A-ha. I thought they were concerned that the winter temperature may be too harsh for the rovers (wouldn't space be colder than the surface of mars? Notwithstanding direct sunlight). However the article mentions: "Right now, we're seeing a pretty sharp drop off in solar power on both vehicles. That's a consequence of both the onset of winter and declining solar power because of the dust build-up" So wiat until spring when hopefully everything will fire up with more solar power.

Note to self (0)

chabotc (22496) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375271)

On the next mission, include windshield wipers for in solar collector design!

From article: "If both of those things hold out, then what is probably going to get us is dust build-up on the solar arrays"

Re:Note to self (5, Informative)

Ariane 6 (248505) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375325)

As one who actually works on the mars program (orbiters, though, not the rovers), I can tell you that MANY different options were considered. Most weighed enough that you'd have to sacrifice instrumentation to implement them, however, and as the nominal mission was only nintey days, it was decided that more guaranteed science results during that period were preferable to uncertian return during the extended mission.

The best idea I've heard so far for dust removal was to use electrostatic forces to make it all jump off, but for similar reasons this was not flown either.

Re:Note to self (1)

chabotc (22496) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375397)

I gues here's hoping the original panels were slightly oversized for it's projected energy usage and will keep supplying enough for a few more pokes and peeks around mars come next spring.

Oh and if you indeed work on the mars programs, please pass on that i am filed with glee and am very impressed at the outcome so far, hell-of-a-job!

These rover's are certainly tough (4, Interesting)

AC-x (735297) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375280)

Maybe they were made by Toyota [bbc.co.uk] ?

On a more serious note I remember reading that after a certain amount of time in this extended mission they would have shut the rovers down because they didn't have the money to keep the control room going, but I guess as they're talking about keeping them going longer still I'd hope they've been able to find a bit more cash

The next Martian Rovers (4, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375300)

should have wings so they can fly south in the winter and then back again in spring.

Re:The next Martian Rovers (3, Informative)

colinleroy (592025) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375452)

should have wings so they can fly
Should be pretty big wings, with an average 7 millibars [daviddarling.info] pressure at ground level.

here we go again (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375306)

que the pro-RTG anti-solar zealots.

que me not caring.

Yes there are safe nuclear designs. Yes they are more "efficient". But if you are going to fund research give it a DUAL purpose, because we could use advances in solar down here too. It's not just blind enviro ranting. Think what improved solar could get us:

Houses independent of power grids.
Single person cars totally solar and larger cars topped up (who knows how powerful they could get).

Also battery technology research benefits from this. Which we sorely need for laptops, electric cars, independent house units, wifi etc. etc.

I got shit-canned last time I suggested solar was good by the RTG lobby here at slashdot. I was characterised as some enviro-loonie. But there are just too many fringe benefits to advancing solar and battery technology that allow money spend by NASA to double up for applications here on earth. And lets face it, NASA gets a hell of alot of money for poking around on some rocks.

It is smart environmentally.
It is smart economically.
And yes RTGs would have been better if you only measure by ONE metric.

Re:here we go again (-1, Offtopic)

HeghmoH (13204) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375490)

Queue the wacko environmentalists who can't spell "queue".

Re:here we go again (0)

eyeye (653962) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375532)

I think he meant "cue".

I think you meant that too, does that make you a wacko too?

Re:here we go again (0, Offtopic)

BabyDave (575083) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375534)

Queue the wacko environmentalists who can't spell "queue".

Cue the wacko spelling trolls who don't know the difference between queue [reference.com] and cue [reference.com] .

Re:here we go again (0, Offtopic)

kcar5150 (55850) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375536)

Cue the grammar Nazi who doesn't realize the parent meant 'cue' instead of 'queue'.

Re:here we go again (-1, Offtopic)

eraserewind (446891) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375553)

Queue the wacko environmentalists who can't spell "queue".
Cue the spelling trolls who can't spell "cue"

Re:here we go again (0)

kcar5150 (55850) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375558)

Cue the grammar Nazi who doesn't realize that the parent meant 'cue' instead of 'queue'.

Dumbass !

Hey tell Nasa (4, Funny)

kiwirob (588600) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375314)

Hey tell Nasa that to survice the winters on mars they only have to get some guy to go into the mountain where the alien machine is placed. But your hand on some funny looking device with a hand holder thing. once your hand goes in the hand holder thing the machine will melt all the stored ice and create an atmosphere.

Duh!!

You would think they would have seen "Total Recall" already, what have they been doing?

MISSION FAILED (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375315)

They haven't found my Mars base yet, FOOLS, MUHAHAHAHA...

Possible Martian intervention? (5, Funny)

OwlWhacker (758974) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375321)

I wonder if the Martians will think they're some kind of strange tortoise, and put them away in a cardboard box?

Re:Possible Martian intervention? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375337)

Of course they will. Now why dont you go back to whacking owls and let the rest of us get on with the thread.

Re:Possible Martian intervention? (0, Offtopic)

OwlWhacker (758974) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375361)

why dont you go back to whacking owls I never stopped. I can whack owls about and type at the same time.

Re:Possible Martian intervention? (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375351)

George [scotsman.com] . May he rest in peace.

nuke it next time (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375329)

well, why would dust build up to such large levels, wont the dust just blow off?

o well, if i had had something with this project to do, i would have made a nuklear reactor, so thta they could run continous for the next 50 years, but thats me.....

Re:nuke it next time (1)

dangerz (540904) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375512)

Ya, cause it's just that easy to attach a Nuclear Reactor to the Mars Rover.

?????????????

ARE YOU THAT STUPID?

Press briefing archive? (1)

iblink (648486) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375382)

I missed the June 8th press conference. Anyone have a link to a free archive of it?

good for them (3, Funny)

Stalke (20083) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375393)

When I read this, the first thing to pop into my mind was the theme song from Gilligan's Island: "A three hour tour..."

Good Ole NASA (4, Interesting)

dangerz (540904) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375493)

You gotta give these people credit.

Not only did they build a robot that flew millions of miles through space, survived a crazy landing, and has held up in alien terrain, but now they're extending the life of the robot long past what it's meant.

Those original engineers must be thrilled to see the robots lasting this long.

Props to NASA

light bringers may succeed in rescuing us? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375526)

despite ourselves, & the whoreabull bedevilment set upon us by unprecedented evile et AL, aka, the corepirate nazi execrable.

all is not lost?

consult with/trust in yOUR creators..... unbreakable since forever.

tell 'em robbIE?

glowbull warmongerers doomed to failure (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9375533)

that's how the chart reads throughout history.
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