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The Rovers That Just Won't Quit

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the still-going-bum-bum-bum dept.

Mars 299

smooth wombat writes "Like the Energizer bunny, the two martian rovers just won't quit. Spirit, after climbing to the top of Husband Hill during the past year, spent two months examining rocks at the top of the hill and scientists confirmed that those rocks were similar to rocks found along the side of the hill indicating that Husband Hill is probably the result of an impact crater. It will take about two months for Spirit to make its way down the hill after which the next target will be a feature called Home Plate located about a half mile away. Opportunity is exploring the northern rim of Erebus Crater, the largest crater between already-explored Endurance Crater and its next destination, Victoria Crater. The rovers were only supposed to last three months but have been operating for almost two years. NASA has also released a 360 degree panorama of images taken by Spirit as it explored Gustav Crater."

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Read this book. (5, Informative)

grub (11606) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881174)


I read Roving Mars [amazon.ca] a few months ago. It was written by Steven Squyres, the principal investigator for the Mars missions. A very good book with some behind the scenes scoop on the politics and squabbling involved in getting these things build and sent. Highly recommended.

Re:Read this book. (2, Interesting)

bartash (93498) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881479)

The reviews at Amazon USA [amazon.com] seem to suggest that the book only covers getting to Mars, not the actual operation of the Rovers. Is this true? Did it spoil the book for you?

Re:Read this book. (5, Informative)

grub (11606) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881503)

There's quite a bit of coverage of roving the planet. Boring into rocks, getting samples, etc. The reviews are incomplete.

Re:Read this book. (1)

bartash (93498) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881570)

Thanks, thait is good to know

I wish my Wife's Friend (5, Funny)

hcob$ (766699) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881188)

had the spirit to climb husband hill!!

Re:I wish my Wife's Friend (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13881244)

If you stopped visiting "home plate" so much, she might.

Re:I wish my Wife's Friend (2, Funny)

RipTides9x (804495) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881378)

It might just be the wife and her friend who are on the "mound".

Re:I wish my Wife's Friend (0, Offtopic)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881430)

I heard you were the shortstop. Also, she's sick of the bunting.

Continuing the lame pun... (1)

Dante Shamest (813622) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881428)

When we finally colonise Mars, I guess we know the right spot to practice husbandry [reference.com] .

Even lamer pun (4, Funny)

joggle (594025) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881495)

Did she ever get the opportunity?

Re:Even lamer pun (1)

SuperRob (31516) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881592)

There was probably a lack of political will. Perhaps an outcry of public support would help?

Larger version... (4, Informative)

JoeLinux (20366) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881224)

Not to be cruel and kick up their bandwidth, but is a larger version [nasa.gov]

Re:Larger version... (4, Funny)

strider44 (650833) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881331)

They can put a man on the moon and robots on mars. I mean if anyone can withstand a slashdotting, surely they can.

All you fans of sterile deserts say WHOOOP!!! (5, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881356)

How many millions did we spend on this, again?

-Eric

Re:All you fans of sterile deserts say WHOOOP!!! (1)

Tibor the Hun (143056) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881652)

I know it's a joke, but it's important to remember that it is a sterile desert on a different planet.

The kind of place you and I know to exist, but will never see it with our own eyes.

Larger pictures? (3, Interesting)

fak3r (917687) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881226)

Does anyone have a link to LARGER pictures of what the rovers are seeing? The linked to 360 view [http://origin.mars5.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/sp irit/20051021a/site_A114_880_navcam_360_cyl-A627R1 _br.jpg%5D [nasa.gov] is cool, but too small for details. Looking for a nice one to span two monitors for a nice desktop. I remember some of the first shots showing the side of the landing craft, some tire tracks and such were just amazing.

The Criminals That Just Won't Quit: +1, Patriotic (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13881227)

work at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, D.C. [whitehouse.org] .

Thanks in advance,
Kilgore Trout, C.E.O.

The other side of the crater... (5, Funny)

pmike_bauer (763028) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881233)

"...and scientists confirmed that those rocks were similar to rocks found along the side of the hill..."

The bot went over the crater, the bot went over the crater
The bot went over the crater, to see what he could see.
And all that he could see, and all that he could see
Was the other side of the crater, the other side of the crater
The other side of the crater, was all that he could see.

Could be a problem? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13881241)

Maybe..

For two reasons:

1. It raises the expectations for the duration of unmanned missions. If future missions don't last as long people will obviously compare it to these.

2. Funding. If the perception is these craft last a long time then maybe people will say you don't need as many.

Re:Could be a problem? (2, Interesting)

Iriel (810009) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881653)

To address your second point, I have to wonder if this could actually help funding. "Well I wasn't going to pay for a moving camera that would die in three months, but two years on the other hand..." Then the problem could go back to your first point: it could cut off funding if the next mission doesn't live up to expectations.

Hmmmm (4, Insightful)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881242)

I wonder if there are any realistic estimates on how long it will take to properly digest the data that has been sent back by these robots. The original estimate was for the rovers to survive 90 days and they figured that the data received would occupy planteary scientists for years to come. The data they have now ought to occupy scientists for decades.

Re:Hmmmm (2, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881452)

"The original estimate was for the rovers to survive 90 days and they figured that the data received would occupy planteary scientists for years to come. The data they have now ought to occupy scientists for decades."

Except that a lot of the data will be redundant. Fixed time based on type of data for analysis, variable time based on quantity of data.

Not to say that the extra data is worthless, or that it can't provide additional insight... but some of the data is just increasing sample size.

Besides, we don't want people thinking that unmanned missions to other planets will be useless for the next couple decades, since all the planetary scientists will be busy already...

WTF? That's NEVADA! (5, Funny)

LearnToSpell (694184) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881256)

They didn't even Photoshop out the tennis courts on the right. I knew these things were faked!

conversion error? (5, Funny)

lawrenqj (782546) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881258)

I wonder if NASA accidentally used months instead of years when calculating the lifespan of the rovers.

Re:conversion error? (5, Funny)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881335)

In case anyone reads this and really doesn't know, NASA had expected that the solar panels would become dust clogged and stop providing power by now. But as it turns out, martians have been dusting them off every so often, so the rovers have lasted much longer than expected.

Re:conversion error? (5, Informative)

Hussman32 (751772) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881523)

That is pretty funny, and not untrue.

One of the designers gave a presentation to our conference the day after they landed. It's easy to say they sandbagged their estimate, but they have had a host of challenges such as
  • In addition to the dust, they had concerns about the batteries freezing. They have a very small bit of plutonium included to keep them warm, but it was a very real possibility that they would lose too much heat and be dead in the water.
  • The firmware for one of the rovers (Opportunity, I think) had to be completely uploaded and rebooted remotely (that's when it was lost for a while).
  • Leaving the landing foam was a pain, I think one of the Rovers was stuck for a while before it got out.
  • The terrain itself is unpredictable, and even though they have six wheel independent suspension traveling at a slow pace, one wrong crater and they are screwed. One of them did get stuck for a while, they wiggled their way out.

So yeah, say they sandbagged it, but in reality, it was entirely possible that they could have worked only for a day (or not at all) and they would have been ostracized for being incompetent when they actually did a fine job. Congratulations to them.

Voyeger (2, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881682)

I know that you are being funny, but this is the same work as Voyeger. Basically, they tell the politicians that the mission will last a short time, so that they appear to be relatively low-cost missions and that all objectives were met. Now, it appears as though these are wildly successful so the pols keep the money coming. smart engineers, dumb pols.

Re:conversion error? (2, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881835)

I wonder if NASA accidentally used months instead of years when calculating the lifespan of the rovers.
My guess would be "yes." Nobody knows what to expect from a Mars rover (not even NASA, really)... so set expectations for the lower bound, then pat yourself on the back for whatever else you get.

May be.. (2, Funny)

mayhemt (915489) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881264)

Somehow if we ./ them they will quit??

One thing no one is really talking about... (3, Interesting)

hcob$ (766699) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881268)

While it's outstanding that these things are running so well for so long, it's amuzing that people haven't thought of this from an engineer's perspective.

These things are horribly over-engineered. Not that it is a bad thing they are proving so resilliant, but we're now at 8x the "designed" life span. In my mind, that means they could have probably built it half as robust and still been outstanding pieces of machinery(and alot less expensive).

I know that hindsight is 20/20, and I'm not judging the engineers poorly on this feat(quite the opposite in fact). I just thought someone might want to point that little tid-bit out...

Now, FLAME ON!!

Re:One thing no one is really talking about... (5, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881329)

Well, look at it this way: the rovers were designed with redundancy and robustness so that if things go somewhat wrong they can still provide their target lifespan. A side effect of this is that when things don't go wrong, they exceed their target lifespan.

Re:One thing no one is really talking about... (4, Insightful)

am 2k (217885) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881359)

In my mind, that means they could have probably built it half as robust and still been outstanding pieces of machinery(and alot less expensive).

The problem is, when you build them less robust, they might not survive the landing, so you would get a zero livespan...

Re:One thing no one is really talking about... (1)

leinhos (143965) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881732)

This is a good point. The total probablity of mission success would be the wieghted sum of all possible events minus thier mutual probablity. To get through the first few events (transit to orbit and landing), the amount of over-engineering required could easily render the probabilty of failure later on negligible.

P(failure)=P(crash) +P(land){P(!survive landing)+P(all other failure events after landing)-overlap}

Re:One thing no one is really talking about... (1)

largentin (911938) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881763)

Usually what determines the life of these robots are the batteries: how many charging cycles they will stand specially in those extreme temperatures. So I don't think they were overengineered.

Re:One thing no one is really talking about... (2, Interesting)

Apreche (239272) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881797)

This is true, and so is the parent post. I can't really speak for this particular project, which is actually cheaper than most NASA stuff, but most other NASA missions are over engineered and too expensive.

Think about it like this. To make a project that is 90% sure to work it costs X dollars. To make the project 99% sure to work it costs 2*X dollars or more! As the levels of redundancy and robustness of the equipment increases the price increasess exponentially. The 99th percent costs more than the 98th percent and so on.

The problem is that most NASA missions go to the 99th percent no matter what. The reality is that sometimes they could do the same mission 10 times over at 90% reliability for less money than doing the mission ones for 99% reliability. So one out of 10 missions would blow up, but 9 out of 10 would rock the house. That's a lot better than the few we have now.

Re:One thing no one is really talking about... (3, Funny)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881380)

"probably built it half as robust and still been outstanding pieces of machinery"

Yeah , why did those engineers bother over engineering. They could
have made them out of some old beer cans and kit from radio shack.
Hey they might only have lasted 10 seconds but think of all the
money saved!

People love unexpected results. (1)

EasyComputer (797633) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881388)

Another possibility is that with all the bad publicity they had been getting about not delivering on promises, they decided that they would grossly underestimate how long the rovers would last, so when they actually did last longer than they were supposed to the scientists would be hailed as heroes and the american public could latch on to the seeming "miracle".

People love unexpected results.

What would be the real savings? (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881399)

My guess would be the over-engineering of the rovers was not a significant part of the cost? Maybe some more expensive components and materials, but the labor costs might have been unchanged. Surely the cost of getting the rovers to Mars would not be affected.

This is nickel and dime stuff. And for those nickels and dimes we get over a year of solid planetary science? Where's the down side again?

And the expected lifespan might have been a lower limit on their MTBF analysis. Those are always lowball because reliability engineers like to cover their butts. ;-)

Re:What would be the real savings? (1)

mforbes (575538) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881811)

I agree with you on this, but I also wonder what the breakdown of costs for the ongoing missions looks like. Some expenses are well in the past already (hardware and software development, testing, launch, etc), while others are ongoing (human capital, computers to analyze the incoming data, facilities in which the scientists work, office supplies for them, etc).

How many people are still actively working at least thirty hours per week on the rovers (or rather, on keeping them running on learning from the data sent back)? How does the cost of supporting them compare to the cost of developing and building the rovers? To putting them on Mars?

Anyone who knows me already knows I'm an unapologetic space-nut, so please don't view this is an attack on NASA's spending on this mission. It's not intended that way at all. I'm just curious to see how the budget pie for the mission breaks out into slices.

Re:One thing no one is really talking about... (1)

greginnj (891863) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881407)

These things are horribly over-engineered. Not that it is a bad thing they are proving so resilliant, but we're now at 8x the "designed" life span. In my mind, that means they could have probably built it half as robust and still been outstanding pieces of machinery(and alot less expensive).

Wow, you take things very literally. A few points:

1. 'Robustness' isn't linear...
2. it isn't even well-defined.
3. It's an estimate, influenced by past experience, inducting over many designs - not a function of dollars spent in any predictable sense.

It might be interesting to work out the mean active useful life (estimated and actual) of all the Mars missions -- Opportunity and Spirit may just be bringing the actual mean back to the estimated mean, after all the mishaps with the other probes.

Re:One thing no one is really talking about... (3, Interesting)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881825)

One of my Mech Eng profs liked to tell us that robustness is marketing-speak, it has no real meaning to engineers.

For example you don't talk about robustness of a strut, you talk about strength and fatigue. You don't talk about robustness of an robot, you talk about manuverability and degrees of freedom. You don't talk about robustness of a Mars Rover, you talk about sensors, speed, solar panel life, etc.

Now before you poo-poo this, name one parameter that is best described by robustness, rather than an actual engineering term with real units.

(of course we filled the final presentation for that professors course with all forms of the word, including robustitude)

Re:One thing no one is really talking about... (2, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881489)

Sure, so next time they build an unmanned probe without so much redundancy and resiliency, and something small breaks on the thing rendering the entire craft useless. You don't think they would get heat for that?

Space flight is hard. Landing on another planet is hard. Driving around on another planet by remote control is hard. The redundancy and robustness is built in to these systems because we know there are about 10,000 things that could go wrong, and we want to protect against these things. If we don't protect against these things, and one of them happens, we can't just call for a tow from the MAA (Martian Automobile Association).

Re:One thing no one is really talking about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13881530)

It's really not a case of over-engineering at all. The expected point of failure was dust settling on the solar panels over the course of months, until the Rover had no power left to keep its electronics from freezing. However, when this started to happen, they got lucky and a wind storm came along and cleaned off the panels. Which is great, but relying on that would be foolish.
E.

Re:One thing no one is really talking about... (5, Insightful)

Rasta Prefect (250915) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881564)

These things are horribly over-engineered. Not that it is a bad thing they are proving so resilliant, but we're now at 8x the "designed" life span. In my mind, that means they could have probably built it half as robust and still been outstanding pieces of machinery(and alot less expensive).

Thats a problem with your mind, not with NASA's strategy. In short, the actual construction costs of the rovers are a very small portion of the cost of a mission of this nature. Skimping on the construction isn't going to save significantly on design costs, nor is it going to reduce the cost of flinging it halfway across the solar system and monitoring it on the way.

What you call "Over-engineering" likely only increased to cost of the project by a couple of percent at most, and greatly improved the chances of success, avoiding the necessity of paying all of the overhead costs _again_ to lauch another one because this one plowed into the ground.

Penny wise, pound foolish as my Grandma would say. :)

Re:One thing no one is really talking about... (4, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881584)

These things are horribly over-engineered. Not that it is a bad thing they are proving so resilliant, but we're now at 8x the "designed" life span. In my mind, that means they could have probably built it half as robust and still been outstanding pieces of machinery(and alot less expensive).

If I may interject, WHO says they're overengineered? In fact, to the best of my knowledge they are anything *but* overengineered. When the Spirit rover had technical difficulties shortly after landing, one of the things that came out was the lack of backup systems and the inability of the craft to keep its solar panels clean. Things that many of us wished the rovers had were RTGs, Solar Panel Wipers, Longer Lasting Batteries, Redundant Computers, Larger Storage Capacity, Anything but Vx[Doesn't]Works, etc. NASA hadn't put many of these goodies onboard because the rovers were built in a relative hurry, with all expectations of short lifespans.

Unexpectedly, it turned out that pretty much all the components on the rovers far exceeded their expected lifetimes. As far as the engineers are concerned, the solar panels should be caked, the batteries shouldn't hold a charge, the wheels should be gunked up, and the computers should have no remaining capacity. Yet the rovers live on. Very puzzling for the engineers, but very nice for the scientists. :-)

Re:One thing no one is really talking about... (1)

garver (30881) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881667)

Or the requirements fed to the engineers were wrong or grossly exagerated. Not suprising since we hadn't been there before and didn't really know what it was like on the surface.

So, they planned for the worst case environment on Mars and found things more hospitable. Lucky us.

Re:One thing no one is really talking about... (1)

21chrisp (757902) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881694)

Keep in mind that the launch cost is the most expensive part of the mission. These rovers cost a lot less than the hardware they fly on, so it makes sense to overengineer them. Sure you could leave out backup systems A through D, but that will only save $10 to $20,000 on a $.5 million+ project. What's the point? You may as well take all the precautions possible to keep your hardware going once it gets there.

Re:One thing no one is really talking about... (1)

zentinal (602572) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881708)

That is an interesting take, which leads me to wonder, perhaps Mars isn't quite as hosile as the engineers originally thought.

Wait, before you flame me (oh, go ahead), consider this. The engineers made certain assumptions regarding how abrasive / corrosive the Martian dust is, how difficult it would be to move around in, how the materials the rovers are constructed from would react to the atmosphere / uv exposure / etc.

While it is obviously a hostile environment, perhaps it is not quite as hostile as we've originally thought.

Re:One thing no one is really talking about... (1)

bcattwoo (737354) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881724)

Does anyone know what the expected failure mode of the rovers was supposed to be after three months?

Perhaps they were not so much "over-engineered" as much as conditions just weren't as harsh as were expected. There is a subtle difference. Like say the Martian dust was not quite as plentiful, sticky, or abrasive as engineers were led to believe. That certain items would be built more robust than necessary in this case is due to poor specifications rather than overzealous engineering.

Or perhaps NASA isn't telling us about the helpful Martians who have been changing the oil every three months.

Re:One thing no one is really talking about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13881785)

Your car has also been overengineered for safety...so think about this the next time your crashing 55mph into a tractor trailer (gee...if they hadn't overengineered this car for safety...it might have cost me like a thousand dollars less :))

huh? (0, Offtopic)

shoelessone (924433) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881271)

i dont understand. what about ninja alians?

Why not more? (5, Insightful)

EriktheGreen (660160) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881298)

So, why aren't we applauding these things louder, and mass producing twenty or thirty more? They're a raging success, a proven concept, and surely cheaper than developing a completely new exploration system for other worlds. We should take the plans and use them to build an army of rovers for mars, then put an equal number on the moon... we could explore the moon from laboratories, universities, offices and homes on earth directly.

Oh, that's right... NASA's main purpose isn't exploration or science, it's to preserve its own existence. New projects mean new money, and old sucesses are only good for arguing for more funding for new toys.

Erik

Re:Why not more? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881398)

I wonder how well they would work out on the moon. On one hand, there should be less airborne dust - there's no air. On the other hand, the dust it kicks up will be more likely to end up on the panel - no air (to speak of) getting in the way and slowing it down, and nothing to blow it off.

Re:Why not more? (4, Funny)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881466)

and nothing to blow it off

Slant the panels and build in a small vibrator.

Man, this all sounds oddly offensive. ;-)

Re:Why not more? (2, Insightful)

broggyr (924379) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881528)

I'm not sure if they kick up so much dust - I thought the moved slower than a walk. Dust spray ought to be minimal at best... -- "I uh... could be wrong, you know!" - Bugs Bunny

Re:Why not more? (1)

EriktheGreen (660160) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881678)

Dust won't matter anywhere near as much as on mars. There's no wind to blow it off, but since the moon is very much closer than mars, there's quite a bit more power available anyway... enough to either ignore the dust problem, or enough to run extra systems that clean the solar panels.

Re:Why not more? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881406)

It still costs a huge amount to send rovers into space. It's not like a PS2 where R&D costs a few hundred million and then they can run them off at $100 a pop, you know. Therefore it's probably worth the extra cost of designing a new mission with more, better instruments.

Re:Why not more? (1)

EriktheGreen (660160) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881648)

They don't cost $100 a pop, but they don't need to cost several hundred million. The economics of mass production work at almost any scale, hence the reason why the industrial revolution happened.

It's true that operations and launching cost a lot more than development over time. So why not save the development cost and put that money toward operations? Also, can you argue that mass production of identical units wouldn't cut operations costs over time as their quirks are worked out, and problems corrected, and optimization of process and program for cheap launches done?

Re:Why not more? (1)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881437)

You are being very cynical. I honestly think that NASA's future WILL include robotic exploration of the moon and Mars (moreso than now). But it would be foolhardy to send the same rovers in mass quantities. These things are not like consumer electronics. There have been lessons learned in fielding these robots and those lessons need to be rolled-up in a future iteration.

As for saying that universities/offices/homes could be driving the rovers around. Well that is daft. The moon is not some big RC race track in the sky. (Although it would be be ideal for it). These rovers move slowly and take copious readings at every metre of the journey. They are not toys to be goofed arond with by students and families.

Re:Why not more? (1)

EriktheGreen (660160) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881536)

You can "roll up" lessons learned using any normal engineering change process. New versions with the fixes could be mass produced, but NASA never considers doing that. Rather, they start from scratch every time. Re-inventing the wheel over and over...

Note that my saying they could be controlled from anywhere means they should be controlled by anyone. Rather, I mean that the bottleneck of communication and control is removed on the moon as opposed to working via an orbiting satellite on mars, and sitting in a big government building 24 hours a day. Why not pass control for each rover among 3 scientists at 3 sites for 11-12 hours each? Follow the Sun.

Re:Why not more? (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881508)

"NASA's main purpose isn't exploration or science, it's to preserve its own existence."

Well, duh, it's a government agency.

That's a primary purpose of all governments -- to preserve their own existence.

Not to say that government agencies, and governments in general, can't do things that are in the public good. On the individual level, people in government are often motivated by partially (even sometimes mostly!) altruistic reasons. But there are finite resources to be had, so on the institutional level, they work hard at preserving their own existence.

Re:Why not more? (1)

EriktheGreen (660160) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881729)

Don't get me wrong, I'm not surprised.

I used to work at USPS doing IT stuff. They had reached the second stage of government evolution, where not only was preserving their existence their first priority, but the second priority was preventing anyone else from doing their job, third priority was preserving the dignity and pensions of the high school educated managers (Union shop too) and serving the customers was somewhere down around 4th place.

I consider my experience there to have been considerably more damaging to me professionally and emotionally than being groped by my former kung fu teacher.

Re:Why not more? (2, Interesting)

mbrod (19122) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881517)

This is the same question I keep asking since the rovers success. I would have thought with the plans they had, you could mass produce them and save a lot on costs. Then send an army of them to mars or the moon. Students at various universities and even amateur scientists could help with planning or requests for various places to search.

Instead they came up with the idea that we should switch to manned missions again and it will take 10-20 years.

The robots are already can already do alot of the exploring for us. We should be launching robotic missions to the moons around Jupiter and more robotic missions to Mars, lots of them.

Not one or two every three years, send 10-100 at minimum.

Re:Why not more? (1)

iabervon (1971) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881795)

In addition to the other issues, it takes a large team of people at NASA to use each rover. If they had another 20-30, the manpower allocation to driving these things around would be impractical. On the other hand, the DARPA Granc Challenge was actually completed this year, so it's possible that they'll be doing rovers that can drive themselves around before too long, which will be much more efficient in terms of support staff.

Of course, the success of the rover program doesn't just mean that the rovers are good designs, but also that the equipment in the rovers is good. Making a dozen more identical rovers is probably not worthwhile, but having devices you can debug and fix the software in from a different planet is a big win, and those solar panels are clearly a great part.

Spelling? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13881302)

That's Gusev crater, not Gustav. :P

Testament to JPL (5, Interesting)

Sierpinski (266120) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881304)

I think this is a testament to the folks at the JPL. Those rovers have lasted way longer than anyone expected, and probably hoped. In the early stages of the project, I heard a lot of criticism from the standard armchair astronauts saying about how they could get so much more done if they didn't go 'so damn slow' all the time. I've read about times where haste would have probably halted the program in its steps, like when there was concern about traversing the side wall of a crater, worried that the rover would tip. Its a testament to their planning, skill in design and execution of their plan, and of their patience in their procedures.

Good work JPL!

Re:Testament to JPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13881499)

I guess the moderator is someone who think we should spend less on space exploration and more on... well... anything else. Good thing you can't post here now.

2 years and still no postcard! (4, Funny)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881312)

I dunno , some robots , just no consideration for those left on earth.

Re:2 years and still no postcard! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13881698)

Did you even follow the link to the picture?

What do you mean? (1)

infernalC (51228) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881752)

Haven't you seen this [erickerickson.org] ?

Hats off (3, Insightful)

GroeFaZ (850443) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881337)

to the guys responsible for the whole mission, from cleaners to engineers to management. Surpassing a mission duration by at least 700% (*knock on wood*) is a nice change from all the missions Mars has claimed so far.

Gustav Crater? (4, Informative)

utexaspunk (527541) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881346)

It's called Gusev crater [nasa.gov] .

Re:Gustav Crater? (1)

S3D (745318) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881634)

BTW this Gusev is not related to the hero of the novel Aelita [wikipedia.org] (wiki link to the movie) by Aleksey Tolstoy, who made expedition to Mars. Matvei Gusev was a Russian astronomer of the XIX century [1826-1866].

Re:Gustav Crater? (1)

illtron (722358) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881754)

Damn, you beat me to it.

Ummm (2)

KSobby (833882) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881389)

Can you really tell the difference between all of the photos that are released by the little dudes? I think NASA is photoshoping and then releasing the same photos every so often, saying it is really a new place on Mars. It's a giant conspiracy I tell ya.

But seriously, Way to go little dudes. You have more energy than me. I get bored by my second bowl of cereal let alone doing the same thing for months on end.

Re:Ummm (1)

Chubby_C (874060) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881459)

it is almost the same place, they don't move very fast, and haven't moved very far in 2 years

Low Resolution Images.... (0, Troll)

Mehster (925993) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881409)

What the heck is it with all the low resolution space images? I wanna see the freaking cracks in the rocks and some color while your at it. Is this too much to ask in this age of digital cameras?

Re:Low Resolution Images.... (1)

billster0808 (739783) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881571)

In this age of cameras, no. Unfotunately, the cameras ont there were designed quite awhile ago. IIRC, they're .5 megapixel cameras.

Re:Low Resolution Images.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13881617)

First of all, they are solar powered, so that leaves not much juice for communications. Secondly, do you have any idea what the link budget for martian communications is? I think its pretty damn impressive that the pictures are as good as they are. Furthermore, how long ago was it that these things were manufactured?

Think before you speak.

I LOVE this country (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13881446)

I love you NASA!! These rovers have been sensational. They have made the wait for the next ones a dream

Any ideas? (1)

darkitecture (627408) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881505)


Does anyone have any information on how exactly these Rovers are powered? When the Rovers exceeded expectations by a couple of months, I was under the impression the end was nigh due to inevitably failing power supplies. But now it's been a couple of years and the things still have juice. What gives?

Re:Any ideas? (4, Informative)

stickytar (96286) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881543)

These babies are solar powered and NASA figured that dust from the atmosphere would render the solar panels useless after two months. The wind kept pushing the dust off the panels so.. there they go again.

Re:Any ideas? (1)

darkitecture (627408) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881620)


These babies are solar powered and NASA figured that dust from the atmosphere would render the solar panels useless after two months. The wind kept pushing the dust off the panels so.. there they go again.

Damn, I thought the solar panels provided partial recovery so as to extend mission life; this is great stuff.

Re:Any ideas? (1)

J.R. Random (801334) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881585)

They are solar powered.

Re:Any ideas? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13881588)

the batteries are indeed weaker, but the biggest suspected problem was dust collection on the solar panels. This hasn't been nearly the problem everyone thought, apparently the little green men come out and squeege the panels every so often. (seriously, look it up!)

Re:Any ideas? (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881640)

The power is via solar panels, but there's no way to clean them - once they get coated in enough muck that you can't get useful power out of them then that's it. I think they were surprised by how much the wind acted to blow the dust off, or something like that.

it is a conspiracy (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13881506)

The rovers are not on Mars. They are rather in Nevada or Arozona. It is just desert sand not Mars surface. Somebody is making fun of all of us and sucking out tax payers' money. NASA thought that we would be fooled with those computer generated/modified pictures. Hah!

Around the World in a Day (2, Funny)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881509)

"Rovers that won't quit"? Is it really Fitzmas [yahoo.com] already?

The Rover To-Do List (2, Insightful)

sizzzzlerz (714878) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881527)

Rover's Daily Schedule

  1. Wake up at 5 in the morning (Standard Mars Time)
  2. Warm up the wheels and top off the batteries
  3. Take a few pictures of some nearby rocks
  4. Move 50 feet in some arbitrary direction
  5. Take a few pictures of some more nearby rocks
  6. Talk to Earth
  7. Shut down at 5 in the afternoon (SMT)
  8. Repeat

Re:The Rover To-Do List (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13881768)

You forgot:

5.5 Start boring hole in rock (pun intended)

and

9. ???
10. Profit !!!

By Design? (1, Flamebait)

dpeltzm1 (706854) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881531)

OK simple theory; the guys that build these things aren't stupid, they know how long they'll last. they also are aware of the political budget process. so tell em 90 days to get the budget, then say geez its still running! youre not gonna make us shut it off? job security! profit! fame! pick one (or all 3!!!)

Re:By Design? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881606)

Sounds a bit like Scotty's engineering estimates: LaForge: "Yeah, well, I told the captain I'd have this analysis done in an hour." Scotty: "How long will it really take?" LaForge: "An hour." Scotty: "You didn't tell him now long it would really take, did you?" LaForge: "Of course I did." Scotty: "Laddie, you got a lot to learn if you want people to think of you as a miracle worker!"

longevity (1)

distantbody (852269) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881548)

While all this longevity is great for science, i just hope the space community doesnt start to actually rely on them just as they are most likely to die.

Overengineering (1)

flashpaul (853528) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881625)

The european rover was a 'cheap' model (10 times less than the yank one) and look what happened to that Sometimes overengineering is worth it

of course.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13881644)

Congress will have to launch an indepth investigation into why the rovers didn't function as planned. Billions will be spent to find the cause of this problem and fix it, so that next craft we send only works as long as it was planned too. After all the Amercian consumer should get exactly what it pays for!

Is this really such a feat? (0, Offtopic)

digitalstruct (906825) | more than 8 years ago | (#13881675)

While scientists say this is such a huge feat, with millions to billions of dollars spent on such machinary you would think these things would last for more than 90 days. Also with all of the people working on one project could they miss something to be so dentrimental to the operation?

While it may be good exploring other planets, I still do not see why we put so much funding into it. With the US debt only rising shouldn't we consider utilizing some of that money to pay off national debt. Thinking about it in a personal expense if we have a ton of debt could we still take most of our incomes and build new toys to play around with?

I think this is interesting nonetheless but we should really look at our own economy instead of exploring planets with millions apon billions of dollars.

Re:Is this really such a feat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13881782)

NASA just cut all of JPL. Wanna pay off debt? Talk to the defense budget.

Re:Is this really such a feat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13881832)

Why is the parent not considered flamebait?

Channukah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13881766)

It's kinda like Channukah and the thing where the one day's worth of oil lasted for eight days...
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