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Mars Rovers Get Extra 18 Months

timothy posted about 9 years ago | from the unhappy-parole-board dept.

Mars 205

iamlucky13 writes "NASA has stated in the latest mission press release that funding for an additional 18 months of exploration has been approved. The rovers have breezed through 14 months of operation so far, and the money will cover expenses through September of 2006. The rovers are still operating well, and recently both experienced dramatic power boosts from their solar cells. They are no longer like new, however. Opportunity has recently experienced data loss from one of its spectrometers, while Spirit has a smudged camera lens, a heavily used rock abrasion tool, and has previously struggled with intermittent steering issues."

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205 comments

Well.. (5, Insightful)

Flounder (42112) | about 9 years ago | (#12152727)

At least SOMETHING is getting enough funding in NASA.

Good value... (4, Interesting)

PornMaster (749461) | about 9 years ago | (#12152762)

Incremental costs of running them must be a bargain. Great to see how well these things were made.

Re:Good value... (5, Insightful)

LordPixie (780943) | about 9 years ago | (#12153016)

Incremental costs of running them must be a bargain. Great to see how well these things were made.

One can basically say the same about the Voyager probes. But that doesn't seem to have saved them from being eyed for downsizing.


--LordPixie

Re:Good value... (3, Insightful)

rbanffy (584143) | about 9 years ago | (#12153143)

They can't send nice pictures to spice up press releases anymore...

Re:Good value... (1)

syukton (256348) | about 9 years ago | (#12153667)

Exactly. The voyager probes are very nice science-nerd toys, but not much else.

The rovers have pictures; hell, they have individual names--they aren't numbered "probes" or anything hyper-nerdy like that.

Rovers = PR toys
Probes = nerd toys

Re:Good value... (2, Insightful)

JJ (29711) | about 9 years ago | (#12153550)

One can disagree with that. As Voyager gets further and further away, the radio receivers required to hear it and transmit to it must get more powerful/ more sensitive (read that as more expensive.) The Mars probes, sitting on Mars, are at a relatively fixed distance from Earth (note to planetary orbital geeks: I know that the distance isn't really fixed, it just varies within the limits of E + M to M - E and I don't care to describe the pattern of this distribution, just permit "relatively fixed" to be adequate.) and hence have fixed reception/ transmission requirements. Thus an important component of their costs don't acclerate upward and outward as Voyager's do.

Re:Well.. (2, Insightful)

egyber (788117) | about 9 years ago | (#12152794)

Keep in mind that it isn't always NASA's first choice to cut projects off... The Bush Administration has majorly cut back NASA's budget, leaving them with little choice. If NASA had unlimited funds, they certainly would be doing a lot more...

Re:Well.. (0)

ThreeE (786934) | about 9 years ago | (#12152894)

This is simply not true. The Bush Administration actually gave NASA an increase over last fiscal year's budget -- one of the few agencies that didn't see a cut. Bush threatened to veto the budget when Congress was about to cut NASA's budget. Regardless of what you think about Bush, he is very supportive of the space program.

"Unlimited funds" is simply not reasonable -- but you knew that.

Re:Well.. (3, Insightful)

wambaugh (666794) | about 9 years ago | (#12153004)

Like much of what the Bush administration does, your claim is not really true while containing a grain of truth. While the overall NASA budget is being slightly increased, the administration is also dictating which areas of research will be cut and which will be expanded. Most everything but manned space-flight is being extremely reduced.

Many projects in which billions have already been invested are being tossed asside because NASA has been directed to return to the moon and Mars and only been given a slight budget increase (for comparison, NASA's budget was about 10% of the overall federal budget during the Apollo program). For instance, the International Space Station may be abandoned now that it has just been completed and can actually be used for (however limited) scientific purposes. As with military and economic decisions under Bush, politicians are dictating scientific decisions for political gain.

Bush is also pushing to cut most NASA facilities not in Texas, even ones in "red state" staples Alabama and Ohio. The Texas facilities are already considered pork-barrel projects and most of the scientific work of NASA has historically been done elsewhere. Though that may sound like this is not a political decision, it is important to realize that he does not need reelection so he can be even more blatant than usual.

Re:Well.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12153015)

It's all for his "Moon Base"

Re:Well.. (2, Insightful)

UlfGabe (846629) | about 9 years ago | (#12153060)

http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/04/0 5/1759243&tid=160&tid=98&tid=103&tid=14&tid=219 [slashdot.org]

surprising how ones memory goes

From the article: "NASA officials said the possibility of cutting Voyager and several other long-running missions in the Earth-Sun Exploration Division arose in February, when the Bush administration proposed slashing the division's 2006 budget by nearly one-third -- from $75 million to $53 million."

try again, bush is supportive of the "I love space and support it because the common people like space" NOT the "scientists are finding new things about the universe and i applaud their efforts, and understand they need constant funding for basic research"

Re:Well.. (5, Interesting)

mboverload (657893) | about 9 years ago | (#12152847)

Only because it holds the public's interest.

Pathetic.

Steve: "Oh, hey bob, no one cares about voyager anymore, so lets just scrap it!"
Bob: But it will be the first man made object ever to be in interstellar space! It will be the first transmission from out of our solar system!
Steve: Will there be any pictures?
Bob: Thats not the point
Steve: But what are we supposed to show on TV?
Bob: ........
Steve: For motherland Russia!
Bob: WTF? I thought this was NASA?
Steve: err..um..I mean, bring me that beer and hamburger! Time for Monday Night Football!

Re:Well.. (0, Flamebait)

daveschroeder (516195) | about 9 years ago | (#12153123)

Please.

Voyager is useless now. (No. It really is. No. Really.) This isn't about pictures on TV. This is about good science. The same general people who care about the rovers are the same general people who care about Voyager, even from the standpoint of what it symbolically represents. Most people got tired of the rovers after the first couple of days on Mars, and haven't cared about them since.

"Interstellar space" is an arbitrary distinction. What, it crosses this boundary and all of a sudden the state of the universe massively changes? For all practical purposes, there is no comparatively valuable information that can be obtained beyond the volumes of information it's already given us from it's primary mission.

It's had a remarkable mission, and it's time to put it to rest.

If you want to use it as an excuse to Bush-bash (not saying YOU are doing that specifically), or, startlingly, make irrelevant and nonsensical references to the US apparently devolving into the former USSR, because we won't continue to fund a useless project, go for it. Everyone else is, comrade.

Plus, the Voyager project's funding was just being *reduced*, not killed. It's up to NASA to decide what to do. The comparisons to how many "hours" of the Iraq war that can now be funded as a result are useless.

Really, it's worth tens of millions of dollars per year to get back occasional useless data from a decades old probe just because it's further away than any manmade object?

".........." indeed.

Re:Well.. (3, Insightful)

starseeker (141897) | about 9 years ago | (#12153511)

"'Interstellar space' is an arbitrary distinction. What, it crosses this boundary and all of a sudden the state of the universe massively changes? For all practical purposes, there is no comparatively valuable information that can be obtained beyond the volumes of information it's already given us from it's primary mission."

For all we know, maybe it DOES change. Who's to say? If it did it would have MASSIVE implications for astronomy. If it doesn't, then we have experimentally confirmed that assumption. It's a very rare chance to do this experiment. We've got them out there. Let's check! How many other chances will we get in our lifetimes?

Unusual (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12152728)

So what's going on? NASA's actually planning on continuing some of their science research? Someone stuffed up!

Well, answer me this. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12152731)

Will this be more or less expensive than keeping Voyager operative?

Well, it's difficult to answer that (3, Interesting)

Seoulstriker (748895) | about 9 years ago | (#12152816)

There are many shared costs involved: salaries of researchers, replacement equipment, dish-time. However, operating the rovers (both of them) is much more expensive because there is more science being done (cutting open rocks, spectroscopy, moving across the landscape) with the rovers than with the Voyager (sending back occasional data). The Voyager project is obviously less expensive to maintain than the rover projects.

Frankly, Voyager is useless now, and money used to fund that project could be going to more worthwhile projects like the JPL rovers. The Voyager project was never meant to measure data outside of the solar system, but rather to gather data on the gas giants and outer planets. They accomplished that a long time ago.

Re:Well, it's difficult to answer that (5, Insightful)

jeffy210 (214759) | about 9 years ago | (#12152841)

Frankly, Voyager is useless now, and money used to fund that project could be going to more worthwhile projects like the JPL rovers. The Voyager project was never meant to measure data outside of the solar system, but rather to gather data on the gas giants and outer planets. They accomplished that a long time ago.

Yes, but tell me, when is the next time we'll have a probe that far out in say, oh, the next 20-30 years?? While we're out there and it's sending data we might as well gather it. All data is new data that can be used. And as for "the original mission", don't forget the rovers were only supposed to be for about 90 days and look how much they've done.

Simple answer to Voyager funding... (0)

zoney_ie (740061) | about 9 years ago | (#12153006)

..Use all that money that people collected for a new series of "Enterprise".

Sooner than you think (3, Informative)

amightywind (691887) | about 9 years ago | (#12153037)

Yes, but tell me, when is the next time we'll have a probe that far out in say, oh, the next 20-30 years??

A lot sooner than you think. [jhuapl.edu] The Pluto probe will be launched by a souped up Atlas V (Model 551). That with a Jupiter flyby will have the probe screaming into the outer Solar system in a few years. It will be wandering the Kuiper belt like the Voyagers in 2020.

Re:Sooner than you think (3, Informative)

bleckywelcky (518520) | about 9 years ago | (#12153223)

I have some news for you: the Kuiper belt extends from about 30 AU to 50 AU. Voyager is currently nearing 100 AU. Unless you're talking about an EP engine probe that will accelerate through 40 AU or more, then you'll probably need to double the time it takes to get to 50 AU to determine how long it will take to 100 AU.

Re:Well, it's difficult to answer that (4, Interesting)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | about 9 years ago | (#12153101)

Voyager is only useless if you don't care about finding out what it the extra "pull" the probes are experiencing is real or not. You know, the dark matter thing?

Re:Well, it's difficult to answer that (5, Informative)

UrgleHoth (50415) | about 9 years ago | (#12153179)

Frankly, Voyager is useless now

Useless? [nasa.gov]

"For the past two years or so, Voyager 1 has detected phenomena unlike any encountered before in all its years of exploration. These observations and what they may infer about the approach to the termination shock have been the subject of on-going scientific debates. While some of the scientist believed that the passage past the termination shock had already begun, some of the phenomena observed were not what would have been expected. So the debate continues while even more data are being returned and analyzed."

Re:Well, answer me this. (3, Interesting)

d4v3c (633946) | about 9 years ago | (#12152829)

I wonder if this is related to Bush's goal of getting a man to Mars. The more we know about Mars, the better we might achieve that goal. Then again, if we kept Voyager going... the more we know about interstellar space, yeah, I know, we can't plant a nice big American flag in interspace.

Re:Well, answer me this. (2, Insightful)

Cruithne (658153) | about 9 years ago | (#12152844)

Regardless, I think its much MUCH more valuable. Voyager is exploring what is generally a very empty portion of space right now with unsofisticated (by today's standards) tools.

If you're looking for a choice between the two, I believe its no contest - Mars is closer and more scientifically interesting and important than the empty space outside our solar system.

Re:Well, answer me this. (1)

d4v3c (633946) | about 9 years ago | (#12152931)

Mars is closer and more scientifically interesting and important than the empty space outside our solar system.
It's not actually empty, it's just likely nothing more than gas. In terms of interesting and important, I think that depends on one's interests and priority. Mars is closer, so to me, it doesn't seem as an important, since it takes less time to get something back there. In terms of interest, the heliopause seems more mysterious to me. But, to each his own.

Re:Well, answer me this. (1)

Cruithne (658153) | about 9 years ago | (#12152983)

I'm by no means detracting from the importance of the Voyager missions - I too find that section of space interesting, however not nearly as much as Mars itself.

To me, Mars is one of the most important objects in space - it holds so much significance, and knowledge that can be gleaned from it could possibly affect us on earth.

While information we learn about deep(er) space is still worthwhile, if I had to choose.... to me its a no brainer.

Re:Well, answer me this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12152966)

yeah but how many missiles would it take to keep the m both going??

Besides if most of the money spent is staying in the US then the real cost(tm) to the govt to keep both going is quite a bit less than actual.

lyk OMG (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12152755)

lYk OmG i wanna go to Mars !!! :-)

~Carrie~

why? (5, Funny)

R.D.Olivaw (826349) | about 9 years ago | (#12152756)

"Mars Rovers Get Extra 18 Months"

why is that? Did it try to escape or something?

Re:why? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12153115)

One of them headed out over the dune sea, babbling something about plans and a secret mission.

Most successful ever? (5, Insightful)

Pants75 (708191) | about 9 years ago | (#12152769)

In terms of science per dollar these two babies have got to be the most effective probes ever sent to another planetary body. Surely

Shame that our British version was ever so slightly less successful. *Sobs*

Re:Most successful ever? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12152800)

Your British did what it was intended to do: Crash and leave a crator, thus exposing what is under the surface, thus giving the US uber bots something to look at.

Re:Most successful ever? (1)

ukdba (793781) | about 9 years ago | (#12152859)

Shame that our British version was ever so slightly less successful Where's the -1: Understated mod option?

Rear hazard-avoidance camera? (5, Funny)

sdo1 (213835) | about 9 years ago | (#12152781)

From the quote under the picture in the article...

"This image is from the rover's rear hazard-avoidance camera"

What, are they worried about something sneaking up on it from behind?

-S

Driving backwards a lot of time (4, Informative)

Frans Faase (648933) | about 9 years ago | (#12152812)

To improve lubrication the rovers have been driving backwards a lot of times lately. I remember they started doing this when one of the front wheels of the Spirit rover started to show more friction. After driving in reverse the friction became less.

Re:Driving backwards a lot of time (1)

Tibe (444675) | about 9 years ago | (#12152961)

Is there even or why would there be, an offical front or back to these bad boys? They were designed to go in either direction, and have 360 degree cameras for guidance. I don't think they have aerodynamics curves for their blazing, 0.22mph speed either.

Re:Driving backwards a lot of time (3, Funny)

Tibe (444675) | about 9 years ago | (#12153038)

Uh, 0.0223693629080171796mph speed.. hey NASA do it too. :|

Re:Rear hazard-avoidance camera? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12152815)

Well, sure. There are two rovers on Mars right now, right?

Anything to keep those insurance premiums down.

Re:Rear hazard-avoidance camera? (5, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 9 years ago | (#12152833)

What, are they worried about something sneaking up on it from behind?

If a wheel develops a problem during the life of the rover it may be necessesary to drive it backwards.

Also, these robots, like many others, spent a lot of their time getting too close to hazards and having to reverse away, so being able to see behind you is pretty important.

And another thing ... a good way to measure how far you have gone is to take a picture of your tracks. This makes it easy to integrate your movements and calculate your new position

Re:Rear hazard-avoidance camera? (1)

drsmithy (35869) | about 9 years ago | (#12153193)

And another thing ... a good way to measure how far you have gone is to take a picture of your tracks.

I think counting how many times the wheels had gone 'round would be a far easier, and more accurate, method.

Re:Rear hazard-avoidance camera? (1)

AllUsernamesAreGone (688381) | about 9 years ago | (#12153318)

You'd think so. With the right equipment you can detect where the axle is to within factions of a degree and, from what, calculate how many revs the axle has made and then work out how much land coverage that translates to.

But I'd suggest trying it out some time with a simple robot across various surfaces - you'll fnd it isn't easy or more accurate. It relies on the assumptions that the diameters of the wheels are constant (they could change as they wear or pick up/shed debris) and that 1 revolution of a wheel always corresponds to a given distance moved (which it may not depending on the terrain, traction level, turn method and more). Unless you have mechanisms in place to deal with these - and doing so is not easy - working out where you are based on axle revs can become inaccurate very quickly.

Re:Rear hazard-avoidance camera? (1)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | about 9 years ago | (#12153352)


I think counting how many times the wheels had gone 'round would be a far easier, and more accurate, method.

If, as has often been the case, the wheel doesn't have traction and spins, you won't have an accurate measure. And it's hard to know that it's spinning and not providing forward motion without looking at it. And it's a good idea to have an absolute measure of distance traveled, rather than a reckoned measure.

Re:Rear hazard-avoidance camera? (1)

ottergoose (770022) | about 9 years ago | (#12153455)

It would be so much easier to just use GPS...

Sometimes those clowns at NASA overlook the most obvious solutions.

[/joke]

Re:Rear hazard-avoidance camera? (-1, Redundant)

Bertie (87778) | about 9 years ago | (#12152871)

It's so you don't reverse it into a bollard when parking...

Re:Rear hazard-avoidance camera? (2, Funny)

AndroidCat (229562) | about 9 years ago | (#12152885)

No, they're worried about accidently backing up over some Martian lifeform. Can you imagine what a long costly court case would do to the budget? There's no telling if the Martians have any ears to hear the beep-beep-beep as it backs up.

Re:Rear hazard-avoidance camera? (1)

ccharles (799761) | about 9 years ago | (#12153018)

That might be a legitimate worry. I saw a leaked pic that shows a blurry figure approaching from behind... the damn thing had three green glowing eyes!

Really nice new (5, Interesting)

MaDeR (826021) | about 9 years ago | (#12152803)

I like both rovers. :) But I think they get more funding because of "to moon, _mars_ and beyond" thing. If NASA want to fulfill this goal, then must gather as much information as possible about Mars. I like idea of human presence on Moon and Mars, but not for price of cutting other succesful projects like Voyager.

Re:Really nice new (1)

dr_labrat (15478) | about 9 years ago | (#12152849)

Mind if they don't want to pony up the cash what they should do is web enable the control centre and allow people to make the rovers fight it out.

Kinda like robot wars on mars.

Re:Really nice new (1)

LiENUS (207736) | about 9 years ago | (#12152858)

If NASA want to fulfill this goal, then must gather as much information as possible about Mars

Good point, who knows what dangers to man wel'l find on mars that these rovers could uncover. For all we know there could be a danger like the lunar dust waiting for us there. We need to discover these dangers before humans go.

Re:Really nice new (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | about 9 years ago | (#12153627)

Mars has an active atmosphere, and there's lots of evidence of erosion. I wouldn't worry about spiny grains of dust and sand.

Re:Really nice new (1)

salec (791463) | about 9 years ago | (#12152897)

"...and beyond" - Voyager is quite *beyond*, but still ... haven't got much photos to send back to pay the phone bill, I guess.

Now it struck me: this whole "astro business" IS mostly tourism, science exploration is piggybacked there just for flavour, sort of guide's talk to make sightseeing a bit more interesting.

Re:Really nice new (1)

MaDeR (826021) | about 9 years ago | (#12152940)

Well, problem with space travels is that - no money, at least in near future. Exception: space tourism shows some potential to give faster income... This is my hope: technology go forward thanks to solving technical problems with sending humans on orbit, thanks to competion prices drops and cost of raising into space 1kg lowers. NASA, ESA and others (India? Japan? China? Russia?) can start other scientific-oriented missions a LOT cheaply. So more missons, more probes, more rovers, more orbiters and moooore other things will be in range of our possibilities. This unfortunately takes time. A lot of time. But I see it as only one way to regular presence of human in space and on other planets. I hope that I live to be able to see humans on Mars...

Re:Really nice new (1)

Leknor (224175) | about 9 years ago | (#12152908)

I like Voyager and look forward to the return of Vger as much as the next person. But look at it this way, there are plenty of things to spend research dollars on that are much more local to us. While I'm sure Voyager would pick up lots of new neato data the reality is that I have a much more myopic view when it comes to the relevance of where to spend research dollars.

Re:Really nice new (1)

MaDeR (826021) | about 9 years ago | (#12153002)

Well, if I have to choose beetween two, I choose Mars rovers, obviously.

But why not to keep both? Cost of Voyagers are minimal in term of NASA budget.

Re:Really nice new (5, Insightful)

Eminence (225397) | about 9 years ago | (#12153409)

  • I like idea of human presence on Moon and Mars, but not for price of cutting other succesful projects like Voyager.

I don't like the idea of scraping Voyager too, but if we really get to the Mars the amount of technology developed and overall advancement of space exploration would make another long distance probes more likely than not.

In other words, if we go to the Mars we may some day go beyond our system but if we don't then surely not.

When NASA gets it right, (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12152817)

NASA gets it right.

These things have dramaticly outlived their projected lifetimes, while their british counterpart didn't even survive to the first day.

Nurmerous other probes and exploration devices have been lost over the years...

Glad they done it. And they deserve all the credit for successfully pulling off such a difficult task.

This and successfull space flights by private industry has rekindled my hope in being able to visit space and the moon... and possibly mars, within my lifetime.

Re:When NASA gets it right, (0)

NardofDoom (821951) | about 9 years ago | (#12152867)

This and successfull space flights by private industry has rekindled my hope in being able to visit space and the moon... and possibly mars, within my lifetime.

You must be new here...

Re:When NASA gets it right, (2, Insightful)

Dammital (220641) | about 9 years ago | (#12153421)

"These things have dramaticly outlived their projected lifetimes, while their british counterpart didn't even survive to the first day."
Don't be so hard on Beagle; space travel is hard. Or have you forgotten the spectacular failures of NASA's own Mars Observer [msss.com] and Mars Polar Lander [space.com]?

Good old NASA (4, Insightful)

kkelly (69745) | about 9 years ago | (#12152824)

Perhaps we are getting back to the good old days of NASA. You just cannot go cheap on space/planet exploration. Look at the original Pioneer probes, these things might just run forever, they were overengineered for the task from the get go. After all of the recent shuttle and probe failures, I'm glad NASA is getting more than they paid for on this one. Space exploration shoud ensure the future of the human race.........

Re:Good old NASA (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | about 9 years ago | (#12152863)

"recent shuttle accident" was on an aging design that they couldn't keep maintained...

Keep in mind that absent the absolute control over all variables pretty much anything [including space travel] involves a whole heap of "luck" along with that over engineering.

Ever been in a plane? Prove that it was impossible for it to crash.

tom

Great News (1, Interesting)

Cruithne (658153) | about 9 years ago | (#12152826)

It's unfortunate that this probably wont make up for (in the general public's eyes) the previous mars rover's failures.

If only the rest of the public held the majority view of slashdot (but only in this case... in general that would be SCARY).

Re:Great News (3, Insightful)

wjsteele (255130) | about 9 years ago | (#12153237)

Which "previous mars rover's failures" are you referring too? No other "rovers" have failed. All the failures were either orbiters or landers, not rovers.

The previous rover was Sojourner in '97... and it lasted much longer than it's planned mission as well.

Bill

Manned mission to Mars (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12152836)

I wonder if the first man to walk on Mars will be given the job of fixing the Rover?

Re:Manned mission to Mars (2, Funny)

McBainLives (683602) | about 9 years ago | (#12152934)

I've often wondered if he'll find one of 'em sitting up on 6 little cinder blocks and with the radio missing...

Re:Manned mission to Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12152958)

Unlikely - if the robot needs repairing it's cheaper and more effective to send another robot to replace it than to send a human - particularly if only men are allowed to go, with half the pool of talent to choose from, you'll be less likely to get the top talent.

Matter of fact, as time passes there seems to be less and less reason to send humans anyway - seems like a hiding to nothing. Robots (as these rovers demonstrate) are just as capable in a hostile environmebt, are more reliable, potentially more adaptable, and far cheaper than fragile flesh.

Need to lob... (0, Offtopic)

Gilmoure (18428) | about 9 years ago | (#12152851)

...some chamois and new car smell their way. Just have to build a large enough trebuchet...

Extra 18 months might: (2, Funny)

raynet11 (844558) | about 9 years ago | (#12152866)

be enough time to find weapons of mass destruction
but additional funding may be needed.
The director head was commented:
"It's a tiny shovel, it just takes time but were
confident that Iraq put them there.. our sources say.. "

Obsession Compulsive Disorder (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12152986)

I'll bet you see GW Bush in every shadow. Maybe you should kill yourself or something.

The little golf carts that could (3, Interesting)

Zerbey (15536) | about 9 years ago | (#12152873)

Well done NASA and the MER team, you've really exceeded all expectations with this one! I'm really intrigued to see how long they'll continue to function. Aside from some minor issues, they're still in perfect working order.

Here's hoping they'll be getting another extension in September 2006!

asking 'bout the software (1, Interesting)

filthy-raj (581774) | about 9 years ago | (#12152883)

First, this is really ace! I have found this to be an enthralling journey and many would agree it has been an awesome success for NASA :D

I was wondering though, I think it was advertised here on one of the /. banners ~15 months ago, wasn't there some cool APIs that were bundled into an open-source SDK that NASA (and Sun maybe?) had for the community? I think it was communications, instrumentation and control specifically. And I'm pretty sure it was Java and (maybe) MATLAB.

If anyone knows what I'm on about, is there a still a link?? is there still interest?? I have some time atm to do some tinkering, any help is greatly appreciated.

Thanks folks.

Re:asking 'bout the software (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | about 9 years ago | (#12152920)

You could start looking at the Maestro [telascience.org] site.

Re:asking 'bout the software (1)

filthy-raj (581774) | about 9 years ago | (#12153066)

Cheers Andy-Cat :) checkin' it out now. Shame to be modded offtopic, but if anyone else has any project info on this, keep 'em coming. I guess we can have an open-source rover of our own to duel those two puppies in an interplanetary RobotWars Battle Royale! ;)

The truth ... (5, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | about 9 years ago | (#12152914)

Spirit has a smudged camera lens, a heavily used rock abrasion tool, and has previously struggled with intermittent steering issues."
Blurring vision, dulled senses, unable to go in a straight line ...

... the robots are frigging DRUNK!

.

.

Re:The truth ... (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | about 9 years ago | (#12152957)

Ye gads! And we thought they were finding evidence of water and ice! The sensors probably can't detect other mixers like cola or orange juice.

Re:The truth ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12152978)

No, just old.

Re:The truth ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12153464)

a heavily used tool?

it didn't just get drunk, it got LAID!

I bet a japanese robot vehicle wouldnt break down (-1, Flamebait)

voss (52565) | about 9 years ago | (#12152937)

American robot martian vehicles have crappy quality ;-)

Re:I bet a japanese robot vehicle wouldnt break do (3, Interesting)

The Cisco Kid (31490) | about 9 years ago | (#12152949)

Im sure you were trying to be funny (and when it comes to the used car market, Id be 100% with you), but what 'breakdown' are you referring to? The whole point of the story is that even though the rovers were designed to last only three months, so far they have lasted almost 4 times that long, and are still going strong.

Re:I bet a japanese robot vehicle wouldnt break do (1)

wjsteele (255130) | about 9 years ago | (#12153341)

Ok... only one point to make here... we have two rovers on Mars... the Japanese don't, for that matter, no other country does. 'Nuff said?

Bill

FOR SALE (5, Funny)

jmrobinson (660094) | about 9 years ago | (#12152959)

'03 Spirit Rover

odometer: 0000003 miles
abrasion tool slightly dulled
slight steering problem
needs a good buff
runs great!
Asking $15,000,000 OBO

Re:FOR SALE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12153095)

"With all we've been through, sometimes I'm amazed we're in as good condition as we are, what with the Rebellion and all."

Stoopid Martians..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12152964)

"while Spirit has a smudged camera lens"

Stoopid Martians.... I told them, always clean a lens with a soft clean cloth.

And they go and try 'spit and polish' with their greasy green fingers.

Pah. Never learn.

If only... (0)

jht (5006) | about 9 years ago | (#12153012)

Too bad they didn't think to put windshield wipers on the rovers - then they'd have been fine until they ran out of wiper fluid!

(though I have a rather amusing picture in my mind right now of a rover stopping at an obstruction, only to be assailed by little green squeegee men looking for a handout...)

Bravo, NASA!! (3, Insightful)

IdJit (78604) | about 9 years ago | (#12153203)

It's nice to know that some NASA projects perform beyond expectations, even with a reduced budget. The first rover mission was a prime example of pride in workmanship, despite the lack of proper funding.

Here's hoping they can get an additional 18 months of service out of those things!

Eventually it must come to an end (1)

kpwoodr (306527) | about 9 years ago | (#12153532)

As many others have commented, this program will eventually come to an end. Even at that point there will be arguments that the program should not be trashed, and for one reason or another, someone will get there feelings hurt and do some quiet sobbing in the corner.

To prevent this, I think the rovers should end their time on mars with the first ever interplanetary game of battle bots. Nasa could have a global raffle to sell tickets, or an ebay auction to sell the rights to pilot the two rovers. With all the sensors and cameras between the two, I think it could be quite interesting to watch. Add in the several minute delay on control inputs, and you've got yourself quite an adventure.

Seriously, as bad as reality TV sucks, this is great idea, and you know the slashdot community would watch!

And when they're done (2, Funny)

ch-chuck (9622) | about 9 years ago | (#12153578)

NASA could auction them off on ebay - The lucky buyer (or heirs) couldn't actually take possession of them for some time but it makes as much sense as paying to have a star named after someone.

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