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Mars Rover Upgraded

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the everyone-likes-upgrades dept.

132

MrShaggy writes "According to a BBC article, NASA is upgrading their MARS rovers. The upgrade will allow the rovers to sift through the pictures of dust-devils, decide which is the most appropriate, send it back. 'Clouds typically occur in 8-20% of the data collected right now,' Castano said. 'If we could look for a much more extended time and select only those images with clouds then we could increase our understanding of how and when these phenomena form. Similarly with the dust devils.' The article also discusses upgrades to the Mars Odyssey. They plan to make it self-reacting to events on the planet as they are happening."

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132 comments

hope NASA doesn't get Rover from VZ (5, Funny)

yagu (721525) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420375)

I hope NASA doesn't get it's Rover from Verizon or any of the other cell phone industry, or some of the upgrades they'd have to consider would include:

  • bluetooth (extra charge for making it work the extra millions of miles)
  • a surcharge per picture to transfer them back to Earth
  • extra games for entertainment while waiting for the right conditions for picture taking (oh, Tetris DOES come free).
  • blurry video capability
  • Martian voice-recognition (phone hommme)
  • internet surfing
  • GPS
  • downloadable music (limited to 100 songs)
  • text messaging
  • customized ringtones (REM's Man in the Moon is free)

I wonder if the Rover gets unlimited roaming?

Shazbot, my head is STILL ringing from the utilitarian cell phone debate [slashdot.org] . (or is that a Britney Speers ringtone?)

Re:hope NASA doesn't get Rover from VZ (1, Offtopic)

FhnuZoag (875558) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420454)

Maybe they're just doing to apt-upgrade to Ubuntu Dapper?

Re:hope NASA doesn't get Rover from VZ (1)

Ours (596171) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420760)

You forget, that great reliability we've come to love from the cell phone industry.
They'll probably will have to reflash the Rovers ROM 4 times to get the damn thing to work and end up having to buy the next model that will work more or less OK for 8 months (if they go for the expensive one).

Ofcourse not, they are going to outsource it (2, Funny)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420918)

That martian labor is dead cheap you know and you hardly notice the language barrier.

Re:hope NASA doesn't get Rover from VZ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15421237)

You got tetris free?

Re:hope NASA doesn't get Rover from VZ (1)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421337)

I've got VZ and I didn't..

Re:hope NASA doesn't get Rover from VZ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15422950)

Mars Rover?, Mars Odyssey? what about a Mars Accord? apparently NASA only points to a bigshot martians market.

Who was better tester? (-1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420395)

8u?

I pity the guy who had to propose this... (5, Funny)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420400)

I could just imagine the guy from NASA who had to request the funding for this. "so, you want to spend millions upgrading the rover?" "yep" "what will these millions give us?" "it'll enable us to decide if a picture of dust is interesting or not!" "..."

Absolutely amazing (5, Interesting)

datajack (17285) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420407)

I am constantly astounded at just how well built and designed the rover must have been. AFAIR, it was only intended to run for a couple of months, yet it has now clocked up a couple of years, and now they are upgrading it's software to make it perform even better - that entire team is doing a fantastic job, and easily deserve whatever the US equivalent of an OBE is.

Tis a shame that Beagle2 didn't survive impact. I reckon that'd have done just as well, and the two teams would have mapped Mars and have the rovers playing a game of fotball with each other by now ;)

Re:Absolutely amazing (-1, Troll)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420445)

AFAIR, it was only intended to run for a couple of months, yet it has now clocked up a couple of years

You can all stop repeating this, by the way. We're all impressed with it, it's amazing, and I cried like a little baby when I saw the first Mars photos sent by it and its companion, but it's time to get over it. :)

Plus, for a multi-million (billion?) piece of machinery, I'd expect it to work past my death (unless a major glitch occurs).

I wouldn't blame them if it suddenly failed or exploded due to unknown cause, but I wouldn't congratulate them every day for years for the fact it works :).

For me the most amazing job is that it landed in one piece and operational. Now that's it's there, let's git to work and find some one-eyed green martians.

Re:Absolutely amazing (1)

Luminous (192747) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420468)

I think it gets repeated because NASA's failures and stupidity get repeated just as often. It is a counter balance to help point out that NASA isn't always doing crap.

Re:Absolutely amazing (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420508)

I think it gets repeated because NASA's failures and stupidity get repeated just as often. It is a counter balance to help point out that NASA isn't always doing crap.

Could be. I was never a fan of regurgitating NASA's failures either. Too much admirations or complaints just turn into extra noise.

Re:Absolutely amazing (4, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420618)

I think it gets repeated because NASA's failures and stupidity get repeated just as often. It is a counter balance to help point out that NASA isn't always doing crap.

While I agree with you that NASA has made/is making some mistakes, the success of the Mars rovers is highlighted because of how enormously difficult Mars missions are. Something like only 25% of all spacecraft sent to Mars make it. And we're not just talking about NASA failing. The former Soviet Union lost a few spacecraft. The ESA lost a few.

Re:Absolutely amazing (1)

Andy Gardner (850877) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421073)

Play by play [anl.gov]

Re:Absolutely amazing (3, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420642)

. . .for a multi-million (billion?) piece of machinery, I'd expect it to work past my death . . .

Argument Ad Crumenam.

Price is not function. A $20 million Formula One car, for instance, has a functional halflife of about 4 hours, because it is designed that way, much of that $20 million being spent to effectively shorten it's halflife compared to a street car. In fact the perfect racing car has been defined as one that falls apart one foot after crossing the finish line, since anything else implies it has been overengineered at the sacrifice of its intended performance.

If such a car went a full season competively without an engine rebuild every mechanical engineer in the world would wish to study it. It would be a true marvel.

KFG

Re:Absolutely amazing (0, Troll)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420792)

Argument Ad Crumenam.

Could you please speak in a language that's not dead yet.

A $20 million Formula One car, for instance, has a functional halflife of about 4 hours, because it is designed that way, much of that $20 million being spent to effectively shorten it's halflife compared to a street car.

They've sent a Formula One car over there?

You'll probably notice an F1 car returns its investment by braking down from excessive speeds.
Could you say the same for a Mars Rover?
Not that I can't imagine people being entertained from videos of the rover driving 200miles/hour through the Mars craters, but come on...

Re:Absolutely amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15421114)

The point still holds. There is probably some engineer who willl always wonder if he could have pulled a little weight from the structural budget and squeezed an extra instrument aboard.

To give another example, lets compare our vehicles. Presumably from your handle, you drive an SUV which I will assume you got a good deal on and paid $24000. Up until recently I drove a Tercel which for I paid ~$8000. Over the fifteen years I owned it, maintenance and fuel averaged about $1800/year ($1400 fuel, $400 maintenance). To a first approximation the two vehicles have similar performance characteristics (the Tercel gets the nod on mileage and handling, the truck has a larger maximum payload) and identical usage (speed, distance, type of driving and actual payload). Consequently, by your own argument, you are a fool if your truck either costs more than $450/year in fuel and maintenance or fails in less than 45 years.

Re:Absolutely amazing (1, Offtopic)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421196)

That's the tenth or eleventh time people bash me for driving a SUV and pointing me to suv hate sites where people explain how people that drive suvs are morons and so on.

Thing is, I don't drive a suv, maybe time for a nick change.

My sympathies to all people who drive a suv, however. Aparrently the hate towards suv drivers is ubiquitious.

Re:Absolutely amazing (0, Troll)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421262)

Could you please speak in a language that's not dead yet.

I'm sorry, but English actually is my first language. Since I am aware that the average person these days cannot be bothered to look up things they do not understand (you'll find the phrase in any decent English language encyclopedia. Or even Wikipedia) I did, however, include an idiomatic translation into modern American. I cannot help it if the modern American mind is incapable of grasping the concept that price does not equal quality/correctness.

Re the rest of your post:

Joshua the savior who will come, WTF?

KFG

Re:Absolutely amazing (1, Offtopic)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421344)

Since I am aware that the average person these days cannot be bothered to look up things they do not understand

If I encode my posts with a 128 key and give you the key, would you bother to look up the algorithm I'll refer you to and decode it?

You don't care enough? Well imagine some people care even less, so that looking up phrases on the web is not something they wanna do.

I cannot help it if the modern American mind is incapable of grasping the concept that price does not equal quality/correctness.

I'm not an American, I'm a Bulgarian (look that up.. ;), hint, it's not in Afrika). I grasp the concept very well, but I'm slightly childish at times, and I couldn't resist acting inane at your serious reaction to what was a sarcastic remark in my original post (and not to be taken so deeply and even quote Latin to me).

Sorry for wasting your & my time with this nonsense of a discussion we're having :)

Re:Absolutely amazing (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421823)

If I encode my posts with a 128 key and give you the key, would you bother to look up the algorithm I'll refer you to and decode it?

I don't know. I might, if I were in that sort of mood. I know, however, that I consider it routine to look up words and phrases I do not recognize, especially those in languages I do not know. I cannot expect a Bulgarian, writing in Bulgarian, to know what Bulgarian phrases I do and do not know.

Had you written your post entirely in Bulgarian it is likely I would have taken a stab at understanding it, although I cannot guaruntee any sort of success. Your English is better than my Bulgarian, although I am not entirely unfamiliar with the Balkan linguistic union. I would have greater chance of success with Greek.

I have not quoted Latin at you. I have quoted a bit of Latinate English. Ironically, had I known you were Bulgarian I might well have used a more formally Latin grammar, since I would expect you to have a greater chance of understanding an international "Lingua Franca" than my own native tongue.

The phrase is extant and has the same meaning globally.

And, if I may repeat myself, and I may, I provided an idomatic contextual explanation of the phrase: Price is not function.

Your country has many fine luthiers working in it, making many fine violins. It is a shame that so many people reason by the purse, or they would surely have much greater respect.

A Bulgarian violin selling in America for $1000 dollars has its entire working life still before it, whereas the violin that just sold at auction for $3.5 million had expended its entire working life about 250 years ago (the object sold actually being little more than a collection of new parts, repairs and "improvements" on the original).

KFG

Re:Absolutely amazing (0, Offtopic)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 8 years ago | (#15422046)

Your English is better than my Bulgarian, although I am not entirely unfamiliar with the Balkan linguistic union. I would have greater chance of success with Greek.

I have not quoted Latin at you. I have quoted a bit of Latinate English. Ironically, had I known you were Bulgarian I might well have used a more formally Latin grammar, since I would expect you to have a greater chance of understanding an international "Lingua Franca" than my own native tongue.


No offend but, that's exactly how I've always imagined a conversation with a protocol droid.

You got a golden finish or we'll wait until Episode 3? :)

Re:Absolutely amazing (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15422117)

No offend but, that's exactly how I've always imagined a conversation with a protocol droid.

I am not responsible for the things you imagine.

KFG

Re:Absolutely amazing (1)

aevan (903814) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421898)

Compared to some of the things that tax money is wasted on, a 2 hour special on Martian drag racing would be an improvement. I know I'd clear an evening for it. Hel, could have some betting thing arranged to recoup some of the investment (just pray they work and you don't have to refund).

Re:Absolutely amazing (5, Informative)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420730)

If you want, read Steve Squyers book "Rovign Mars". It'll give you a better understanding of why the rovers lasted as long as they did. They're built like tanks with proven technology. There was nothing flashy about what went into those robots, it was all tried and true.

They were originally supposed to last for 90 sols, or Martian days. They've now gone far past the origianl design goals and the benefit has been lots more data about Mars. Spirit is currently on it's 853rd sol. http://marsrovers.nasa.gov/home/ [nasa.gov]

Re:Absolutely amazing (1)

Derling Whirvish (636322) | more than 8 years ago | (#15422400)

They're built like tanks with proven technology. There was nothing flashy about what went into those robots, it was all tried and true.

So why aren't we building a dozen more of these and sending them up there if they are so proven? The next NASA lander won't even be mobile.

Re:Absolutely amazing (4, Insightful)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420755)

I am constantly astounded at just how well built and designed the rover must have been. AFAIR, it was only intended to run for a couple of months, yet it has now clocked up a couple of years, and now they are upgrading it's software to make it perform even better - that entire team is doing a fantastic job, and easily deserve whatever the US equivalent of an OBE is.

Here's the rub. Spirit and Opportunity were only expected to run a couple months. Intended is a whole other word. They were built with the idea that they could conceivably last this long but the mission profile (and all the press releases) were put together with the expectation that they'd last a couple months. It was the closest thing to a gaurenteed win NASA could do.

Think of it this way, if GM marketed the H2 as getting an "amazing 2 miles per gallon!" customers would brag about how their H2 actually gets five times that number, instead of complaining about only getting 10.

Don't get me wrong, the mars rovers are an amazing accomplishment and a feather in the cap of the "new" NASA. But somewhere along the line there was a choice that needed to be made; Either completly revamp the way NASA does business and eliminate the top-heavy "Office Space" culture of twenty managers for every one engineer OR build small & cheap to minimize failure while lowering the expectations for the missions being planned, ensuring an "artificially" high sucess rate. One of these choices is good for NASA long term. The other can be good in the short term if it help eliminate the problems that need to be addressed by the first solution. It can be a bad thing if NASA decides to stay the course and be happy with writing missions that have a lowered standard of success.

Not a PR conspiracy (4, Informative)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421014)

They were built with the idea that they could conceivably last this long but the mission profile (and all the press releases) were put together with the expectation that they'd last a couple months. It was the closest thing to a gaurenteed win NASA could do. Think of it this way, if GM marketed...

Hogwash. It is a combination of factors:

1. Nasa increased quality control effort and spending in response to the Polar Lander failure and two orbiter failures.

2. Wind has blown dust off of the solar panels. Many expected the dust to be probe-sticky and accumulate based on the Viking lander data.

3. Constructor contract payments were actually stipulated based on a 3-month survivle. It is not an arbitrary deadline.
       

Re:Absolutely amazing (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420777)

Unfortunately one of impacts of success like this is that it is now expected. NASA and JPL have created rovers for little budget that have lasted well beyond their expected service life. Now the powers in charge expect that they can pull miracles all the time.

Re:Absolutely amazing (1)

VENONA (902751) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420909)

I don't find it amazing, but part of a steady evolution.

Spacecraft autonomy software was a high-risk technology evaluated with Deep Space One, back in 1998-2001.
http://nmp.nasa.gov/ds1/ [nasa.gov]

The Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment which flew aboard the EO-1 satellite mentioned in TFA
http://ase.jpl.nasa.gov/ [nasa.gov]
even used autonomy software related specifically to clouds. The AES delivered results in 2003-04, from looking at that link, though TFA would seem to imply that the effort is ongoing.

And of course autonomous operation software is a research focus in countless terrestrial projects.

I do see ongoing references to the seemingly never-ending Geek problem of bandwidth. I expected better from NASA, although I can't think why. They've had bandwidth problems for years.

http://deepspace.jpl.nasa.gov/advmiss/#bandwidth [nasa.gov]
would seem to be a good information source. There's a lot to go through on that site, and none of it might answer my real questions:

- What will it take to create a scalable bandwidth solution?
- Who's working on it, and what progress has been made?
- Is it an international effort?

I'd like to see a lot more data coming down and being archived. There's a long history of discoveries have been made or confirmed through a review of old data. Another good use for recent data mining advances, as opposed to undermining our privacy, selling us more useless widgets, etc.

Autonomy at the tip of the spear must surely be regarded as a Good Thing (tm). I just hope it's not masking another, more fundamental, weakness in the system. It wouldn't surprise me to find that this is the case. Building infrastructure isn't sexy, and in these days of falling science budgets...

Re:Absolutely amazing (1)

MrNougat (927651) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420910)

Didn't NASA pull the budget for these rovers not so long ago? More amazing is that the project continues on without official financing.

Re:Absolutely amazing (1)

GileadGreene (539584) | more than 8 years ago | (#15422062)

Understand that the principal life-limiting factor was the accumulation of dust on the solar arrays. Since that hasn't happened at anywhere near the predicted rate (for a variety of reasons), the rovers have been able to continue operating far past their expected mission lifetime.

That does raise an interesting question though: given that the rovers were supposed to only last 90 sols or so, does the fact that they have lasted so much longer (once the prime life-limiting factor was eliminated) indicate that they were over-engineered? Could the mission have been done for a much lower cost? Hard to say, since there was such schedule pressure to get the mission done that the engineers probably tended to go with the most obvious solution (within the mass limit), rather than spending much time investigating cheaper alternatives.

PLEASE READ! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15420415)

A few months ago, I started using Linux. When I began, I told others that I was just experimenting, and that it was just for fun. But I couldn't stop. I started using Linux every day. I stopped socializing with others, and never changed the Tux shirt that I wore constantly. I began to berate technology that wasn't Open Source. Worst of all, I began to partake in gross and neglegant homosexual behavior. I'm not sure if I was gay before I started using Linux, or if it corrupted me in some way, but that is not the point. [ultrahotvideos.com]

One day, when at a book store checking out Gaynal Magazine, the premiere magazine about the Linux community, I was approached by a fellow Linux user. We started talking about Linux and homosexuality, and he invited me to hang out with him at this gay bathhouse known as the White Swallow. I still remember my first night. It was a Linux user's dream come true!!! The whole Slashdot crew was there giving out free blowjobs and anal grease, ESR was getting gangbanged, and Rob Malda offered his anus to me.

I became a regular at this bathhouse, but that's how the nightmare began. I didn't know that every single one of them had AIDS, and that I had become infected. I was crushed. I stopped using Linux immediately, but that didn't help improve my health. I want to warn others about the dangers of using Linux. I don't want anyone to make the same mistake that I did. What do you recommend?

Dying of AIDS,
Michigan
Dear Gentle Sir:

Thanks for writing in. The last time I addressed Linux as a gateway to unhealthy practices such as faggotry and drug-use, I had a chance to warn my reader before it was too late. I'm sorry to see that with you, the situation is irreversible. I am glad you want to share your message, however, and to that I'll discuss your plight for others to see.

You didn't mention what prompted your initial foray into Linux and Open Source, but I imagine it happened innocently enough at first. Perhaps you were the poor unknowing victim of a dirty zealot, such as ESR, or maybe it was just a quiet link to Slashdot that began your slide into Hell. The price of health is constant vigilance, but to the uninformed that's difficult. ESR and the Slashdot staff prey exactly upon such marks.

The bathhouse, the "White Swallow," was more of a dream-come-true to the predators than new Linux users know. Not a single participant in the raw anal gangbangs or semenistic orgies there spoke once about their terrible secrets and with good reason. That was their chance to have your forever, and it looks like they did just that. I can't imagine the feeling that washed over you when you discovered the terrible truth. I can only pray for your peace and that others never share that emotion.

My recommendation to you is to become an anti-Open Source zealot. Write essays and post them to Slashdot about the terrible secrets and conspiracies that the cock-lusting Open Source world harbors. Wear FreeBSD t-shirts, especially the one where the Beastie is fucking Tux up the ass (give it back to'em!). When you see a Linux "install party" happening, call the authorities immediately and tell them there's a filthy circle-jerk about to take place. Wear a mouth guard to prevent biting your pillow at night, one of the most embarassing side effects of Linux. Make sure you're running at least Windows if you can't get to a Mac. Using a proper OS is a must -- even though it's "too late" for you, you can still set an example.

I wish you luck as you begin your lonely journey down a road few travel. Hold your head high as you proceed, refusing to let Open Source claim another victim. They may have ruined your body, but they lose -- and we win -- if your mind remains free to the end.

Best Wishes

Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15420420)

I have read on other Internet forums that they're also planning on switching from Ada to Java for the software on upcoming rovers. While Java was initially developed for such embedded environments, it isn't somewhere that we've seen it get a lot of use.

If there is any truth to those statements I have read elsewhere, I have to be a bit worried. Ada is known to be a rock-solid language for developing mission-critical software. Even considering the Arianne-5 failure, it's still more reassuring to know that a software system is developed in Ada than Java.

I also believe that Sun's implementation of Java does not allow for it to be used in mission-critical systems. If it is indeed true that a switch is being considered, they would likely have to write their own JVM, or at least use a non-Sun one. Would not that be something, if the space research futhers Java development!

And it's the 'BBC', not the 'bbc'. Please, it's not difficult to hold the shift key while typing those three characters.

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (0)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420473)

lol java on the mars rovers...

lol!

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (1)

LDoggg_ (659725) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420694)

lol java on the mars rovers...

That actually made you laugh out loud?

Not sure what the big deal is. They already use java to control the things.
old [cnn.com] news [sun.com] .

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (1)

UnrefinedLayman (185512) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421216)

I use VBScript to control my SQL Server: put records in it, retrieve records from it. What makes you think that it would then be a good idea to re-write SQL Server in VBScript and replace the SQL language with VBScript?

The whip != the horse.

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (1)

LDoggg_ (659725) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421875)

I use VBScript to control my SQL Server: put records in it, retrieve records from it. What makes you think that it would then be a good idea to re-write SQL Server in VBScript and replace the SQL language with VBScript?

No offense, but that analogy is for shit.

First off, it would be stupid to write the database server engine in a scripting language. And as much as I personally can't stand vbscript, it might be appropriate to write stored procedures for MS SQL server in a vbscript syntax.

BTW, Oracle has long had the ability to run java stored procedures.

Replacing the structured Query language itself with an object oriented programming language is just silly and really has nothing to do with using embedded java to control a mars rover.

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (1)

UnrefinedLayman (185512) | more than 8 years ago | (#15422268)

The analogy works just fine (which you seemed to have missed). The whip is not the horse: while a whip works well for telling a horse to move in the direction you want, a whip does not necessarily work well as a horse.

The point is just because Java works great for what it does on earth for NASA, it won't necessarily work well on rovers on Mars. You were chastising someone for having an opinion on the matter; I'm chastising you for using a really weak argument to do so (your argument being "Java is used for X, what's the problem with using it for Y?").

In this context the VBScript example works well. VBScript is used for getting records in and out of a database (X); what's the problem with using it to run and manage the database (Y)? Obviously it's a stupid idea, and by highlighting that you've drawn the same conclusion about your point.

Your argument about scripting/object oriented vs. compiled/structured only drives it home: the rovers use a RTOS on specialized hardware, which isn't exactly the first home of Java (regardless of how well suited Java may be to the tasks NASA defines).
Replacing the structured Query language itself with an object oriented programming language is just silly and really has nothing to do with using embedded java to control a mars rover.
That's what analogies are, and if it's silly in one respect it's silly in both.

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421222)

Except java is being used in the mission critical Real Time software thats actually running the rovers.

The OP was talking about Java on the actualy rover... Not as some utility app for plotting courses that can be programmed in any language since well you can just reboot the pc on earth.

So yes it did make me Laugh Out Loud.

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421520)

I work for NASA.

So I am really getting a kick out of most of these replies.

Some of you guys are very good at making it sound like you know what you are talking about.

But trust me.... You don't.

I think you just want to make yourself sound smart, when in reality you dont know what you are talking about.

This is how bad info gets passed around.

If you dont know about the topic....Dont make yourself sound like you do.

Cuz some /.'ers believe anything they hear.

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421040)

If you think it took long on Earth, it would take like 3 days to load the Java applets at that distance ;-)

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15420525)

Yes, they'd have to write their own JVM. They aren't the only ones who do this, www.pilz.com do the same for industrial software.

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (5, Informative)

Avionics Guy (635626) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420650)

The large majority of the MER software was written in C. The exception is a small module in the navigation code that used C++ with a custom memory manager. BTW, JPL doesn't "do" ADA and it isn't likely that Java will be used on the MSL, the 2009 rover.

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15420671)

And it's the 'BBC', not the 'bbc'. Please, it's not difficult to hold the shift key while typing those three characters.

He did, but his keyboard has quite bad latency ... it uppercased MARS instead!

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (3, Informative)

MWales (686969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420707)

I believe the current ones would probably use C/C++ since they are using VxWorks according to Windriver [windriver.com] . If they are using a RTOS now, I think moving to something like Java would be a huge jump. I could see them moving to embedded Linux though, it's becoming alot more popular in the embedded world

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15422681)

Generally its a combination of both. Done properly ADA can be tested to the point where its almost certain to operate correctly (if you want to be totally sure you can use a subset of ADA called SPARK).

The architecture of the rovers from what I understand is extremely similar to military technology. There are redundant 1553 Milbus that link the control computers to the various equipments. The computers obviously run VxWorks to ensure real-time control and C/Assembly and ADA are layered on top of that to actually perform the functions.

From when I last looked at uCLinux (about a year ago) you still needed an add-in such as RTLinux and in fact from what I understand this is true for any linux as it is inherently not a RTOS.

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (1)

Ada_Rules (260218) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420733)

I have read on other Internet forums that they're also planning on switching from Ada to Java for the software on upcoming rovers.
I am not aware of any significant NASA sw still done in Ada..Which probably helps explain the results of there "Better, faster, cheaper - Choose any 0" results they've been getting.

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15420845)

They're planning on using Java? Well at least with the 20 minute Earth - Mars lag time it won't be so noticeable.

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15421018)

I think you may be conflating two things. Java was used to write the command and control system (Maestro), which does a combination of data visualization, collaboration, command and control. Java 3D and Java Advanced Imaging technology are used in the software that renders and interprets the realtime images captured by the Rover. NASA has even made a stripped down version of the software that you can download so you can view a simulated 3D landscape and drive the Rover around in it (see here http://marsrovers.nasa.gov/relatedsites/ [nasa.gov] ). However as far as I know the computer onboard the rover itself does not currently run Java and I don't know of any upgrade plans.

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421050)

What about "Ruby on Rovers" (R&R)? :-)
       

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (1)

skavj_binsk (595517) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421159)

Likes Ada over Java ... check.

Grammar nitpicker ... check.

Anonymous Coward ... check.

Teh Most Tedious Person EVAR!

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (1)

oliderid (710055) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421299)

could anybody explain why java isn't a good choice for such a mission?

Is it related to the JVM?
The language structure? the fact that it is less "strict" than ADA?

Just wondering.

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 8 years ago | (#15422948)

could anybody explain why java isn't a good choice for such a mission?

Just guessing here, but it probably has something to do with no one having even heard of real time java when these systems were designed?

Theoretically there's probably nothing wrong with a VM in such a situation, but keep in mind that currently these systems are written in C (not Ada, like the OP stated) on some really old hardware, that often has trouble keeping up with the load. And this software doesn't just snap pictures - think "landing thrusters".

I remember there being some hoopla about the unexpectedly massive amounts of data the system had to shuffle around (I think the deal was it uncovered an inversion of priority bug in a system library) - they have to push their hardware pretty far; you can't just slap the latest K8 in there and watch it fly.

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (1)

M1000 (21853) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421364)

the rovers don't use Java; only some analysis software in some Nasa HQ do.

Re:Rumors that they're 'upgrading' from Ada. (2, Informative)

glwtta (532858) | more than 8 years ago | (#15422991)

Even considering the Arianne-5 failure, it's still more reassuring to know that a software system is developed in Ada than Java.

Arianne 5 was the result of pure, old-fashioned incompetence. An obsolete component - left on when even its original function would not have been needed - dumps debug info on the bus, that's then interpreted as trajectory data. And the backup system runs identical hardware and identical software to the primary (I believe the backup actually failed a fraction of a second before the primary).

The rover software on the other hand - written in C, btw - is a gold standard of excellent engineering and testing practices. Most of the time it's not the platform that counts, it's the development team.

Firmware (0, Redundant)

nacturation (646836) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420426)

Wow, now if only I could get my device firmware updated as successfully as this has gone. Imagine having to RMA the rover?

Interesting side-note: I suppose when we're living on other planets, companies who offer to pay return shipping will likely have to update their T&Cs to specify that it applies only to Earth.
 

Re:Firmware (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420696)

I suppose when we're living on other planets, companies who offer to pay return shipping will likely have to update their T&Cs to specify that it applies only to Earth.

Outsource.

When I have a Martin guitar repaired under warranty it goes to a guy who lives down the block, not back to Nazareth, PA.

KFG

Re:Firmware (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 8 years ago | (#15422460)

When I have a Martin guitar repaired under warranty it goes to a guy who lives down the block, not back to Nazareth, PA.

Easy if it's just a tune-up. Harder to do if the parts aren't available on your local planet. So unless it's easily repaired or a mass-market product, I don't suspect warranties will survive space travel.
 

Re:Firmware (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15422480)

Every ship at sea has a machine shop.

KFG

Mars Exploration Rovers and the future (4, Interesting)

chroma (33185) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420428)

The current generation of rovers have shown themselves to be reliable and very flexible. They've brought back a view of Mars that far surpasses anything we've seen before. It's really disappointing, therefore, that NASA is throwing away all of the knowledge used to make these missions a success. Delivery of a robot to Mars requires a successful launch, accurate navigation, and, of course, a good landing. To say nothing of the design of the rovers themselves. All of this must be carefully worked out in advance.

But NASA has decided instead to throw away all of that and spend money to develop a new, bigger probe, the Mars Science Labratory [nasa.gov] . It's a shame that the limited science money NASA gets isn't being spent in the most efficient way possible on stuff that we know to will give excellent scientific data, but instead is used for these kinds of big budget employment makers.

Re:Mars Exploration Rovers and the future (1)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420458)

The Spirit and Opportunity rovers were bigger than Soujourner (sp?). It makes sense that after a big success, expansion would be done to further increase that success. What exactly upsets you? The fact that they aren't sending an identical probe to a different place to get more data? Each rover mission has a specific goal in mind, in spirit and opportunities place, to confirm that there was once water. That goal has been accomplished, why would we send the same kind of probe down there to further support it? I say we move on to newer and better things.

Re:Mars Exploration Rovers and the future (1)

chroma (33185) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420558)

What bugs me? It's that there isn't a good incremental and cheap approach being used. Success isn't being built upon. Design tweaks could reduce weight, instruments could be upgraded, riskier landing spots could be tried.

Take, for example, the parachutes used by Spirit and Opportunity. A team had to design, test, redesign, and repeat in order to make sure that they met their weight requirements and that they would function properly. If you watched the special on PBS about the rovers, you know all about this.

This process will have to be repeated for the much larger MSL.

Re:Mars Exploration Rovers and the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15420928)

Agreed!

Now that they have a (relatively) proven path from Earth to a safe landing on Mars, they should be (like you said) adding/upgrading/etc what's INSIDE the lander. For example (no coffee warning): it would even be worth seeing what type of higher speed (say 15 inches/sec over the current 2) rover could be put into the current lander with a maybe few tweaks. Cover more ground, study more sites, spend less time moving from site A to B etc etc, and overall GATHER MORE DATA.

They could even start over from stratch on the hardware INSIDE the lander. Say you want to do some major digging and spectroscopy (on said soil) so design a payload that works with the current lander with minor tweaks.

In a nutshell: The hard part is getting the payload from Earth to a SLOW/SAFE touchdown on Mars.
Once you have that figured out, just about everything else (rover hardware/software) can be very thoroughly tested on Earth before launch.

Okay I need some coffee...

Re:Mars Exploration Rovers and the future (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421104)

Good post.

I would like to add that future rover missions want to do things that require far more hardware than an Opportunity-sized rover can deal with. They want to dig deeper into the soil, do detailed soil chemistry analysis, and check for life. The Viking experience made researchers realize how difficult life detection can be, so such instruments have to be complicated.

Aside from more bulk, solar power is not strong enough for that. Thus, future rovers will be at least partly powered by plutonium heat cells, which changes the engineering.

Further, they can use more modern wheel designs. The existing rover wheels have proven problematic over longer distances.

However, there is still a lot of room to barrow technologies from past rovers. Even the current rovers barrowed ideas from Sojourner (sp?).

Re:Mars Exploration Rovers and the future (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421892)

That goal has been accomplished, why would we send the same kind of probe down there to further support it?

Because repeated observations is how scientific progress is made. We've demonstrated that we can directly observe things on Mars back in 1975. We knew back then that there was ice on Mars and that the interior of Mars was at some point above the melting point of ice. The combination already strongly indicates the presence of liquid water somewhere in Mars at some time. My take is that we should begin exploring Mars instead of demonstrating that we could, if we really wanted to.

To be blunt, the current missions to Mars are expensive toy missions. We spend a great deal of money on a few missions that generate a limited amount of usable science. Frankly, I see no reason there shouldn't be dozens of active missions to Mars at a given time.

Re:Mars Exploration Rovers and the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15420530)

Who's to say that nasa won't use what it learned with the rovers while building the next probe?

Re:Mars Exploration Rovers and the future (2, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 8 years ago | (#15422962)

The current generation of rovers have shown themselves to be reliable and very flexible. They've brought back a view of Mars that far surpasses anything we've seen before. It's really disappointing, therefore, that NASA is throwing away all of the knowledge used to make these missions a success. Delivery of a robot to Mars requires a successful launch, accurate navigation, and, of course, a good landing. To say nothing of the design of the rovers themselves. All of this must be carefully worked out in advance.

But NASA has decided instead to throw away all of that and spend money to develop a new, bigger probe, the Mars Science Labratory.

The current Rover's can only reach about 2% of the Martian surface, and are extremely lucky to last more than a few months - so we should stick with them? That's insane.

Here in the real world, the Mars Science Laboratory builds on the experience gained from the two MER rovers, in the same way that the MER rovers built on Pathfinder, which built on decades of research and development. Nothing is 'thrown away'.

It's a shame that the limited science money NASA gets isn't being spent in the most efficient way possible on stuff that we know to will give excellent scientific data, but instead is used for these kinds of big budget employment makers.
Sure, they've given us excellent data - but there's more questions and more data needed. Questions the MER rovers can't answer and data they can't provide.

What Upgrade? (-1, Troll)

packetmon (977047) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420439)

The more I think about the term "Upgrade", I sit and wonder... How exactly are they "Upgrading" this? It can't be a physical upgrade obviously... Windows Update Upgrade!?! ... TCP/IP over Satellite? What kind of upgrade are they actually doing? An algorithmic upgrade? Since it would have to be a "transmitted" upgrade, how much could that actually cost think about it... It's not like NASA needs to pay some ISP for bandwidth in Space... Programming upgrades? How much could they possibly cost...

Re:What Upgrade? (1)

D4rk Fx (862399) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420461)

Obviously, you didn't RTFA. The article states that it is a software upgrade. They didn't really say how the upgrades were performed, but most people probably wouldn't understand it anyway, and that wasn't the purpose of the Article.

Re:What Upgrade? (4, Funny)

Zonekeeper (458060) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420475)

Obviously, you didn't RTFA.


DUH. This is Slashdot.

Re:What Upgrade? (5, Informative)

the_brobdingnagian (917699) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420988)

The upgrade is a software upgrade. But it's not an easy task to do this at such a distance. Two way communication is a painbecause of the lag time. I can't remember the exact time, bu I believe the lag is about 20 minutes. They use a specialised protocal that was designed to handle such extreme lag. The protocol is PROXIMITY-1 SPACE LINK PROTOCOL (specs [nasa.gov] ). They are verry carefull to make sure they dont have to reset the rover the hard way (A.K.A. reset-button) after updates and even during normal operation. I believe they build in all kinds of auto-reset features so the rover could reset itself.

Re:What Upgrade? (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421929)

You got flagged as Overrated and Troll because your post was stupid. Everyone knows that TCP can't work to Mars - the transmission delays are too long. Secondly, while your attempt to sneer at NASA through postulating nonsensical questions, in the hopes that people will think that you're insightful, well, its just embarassing. Lastly, your trollish username and high userid indicate that you lack credibility about real topics, perhaps other than your parents' basement and Natalie Portman.

Re:What Upgrade? (1)

NoMaster (142776) | more than 8 years ago | (#15422545)

Everyone knows that TCP can't work to Mars - the transmission delays are too long.
Rubbish - you just have to set your RWIN, sliding window flow control, & MTU/MRU values appropriately ;-)

(Seriously, though, a lot of rfc 1323 [ietf.org] could apply just as well to high-latency links like that.)

SOME FUNNY SHIT! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15420452)

Emad had been laying awake for about two hours. It was 10:00 AM and he had already missed two classes: Remedial Operating Systems - Linux and Diversity & Tolerance. Had Emad been totally awake he would have groaned. Today's Diversity & Tolerance class was teaching how to put condoms on erect penises, something right up Emad's alley. Well, at least the erect penis part; he knew nothing about condoms. [assbabes.com]

Slowly, Emad lumbered out of bed. His joints ached. His head throbbed. What had happened the night before? He could feel dried feces in his pants and was pretty sure his asshole was ripped wide -- Oh! He remembered a little too suddenly as he almost tripped over a pile of spent whippits, several beer bottles, and a giant black 48" oil-filled dildo -- mounted on a chainsaw engine. He had had Zonk, Hemos, CowboyNeal and CmdrTaco over last night for a few cold ones but it seemed that, par for the course, they had all ended up sharing a few hot ones instead, that being their euphemism for homosexual encounters.

Emad made his way to the bathroom, and moaned. It was in complete disarray. The sink was filled with congealed diarrhea, the floor was sticky with drying piss, and the bathtub looked like a long-neglected water trough on a pig farm. It would take Emad hours to clean this mess. He tried hard to ignore the stench as he sauntered toward the toilet. Didn't Taco and Sims respect anything? Emad gave so much to them and their cause. [assbabes.com]

Upon opening the lid on his broken toilet he saw the special gift Taco had left for him: An inhumanly giant turd. It had to be at least a foot and a half in length! Taco had been planning this one, as he saw unchewed peas, corn, and peanuts that all told the story of Rob Malda's special dinner the night before. The monster turd curled around the inside of his toilet. Not wanting to let Rob Malda's magical ass-gift go to waste, Emad reached inside the toilet and gently grasped the brown meat.

Moaning, Emad began devouring the slimy but firm stool. He tasted the honey on the peanuts; he felt the peas pop as he chewed through the delicious crap-worm. His cock immediately sprang to life as he chomped down bite after bite of the mutant ass-birth. Could life get any better? Down to the last bit of his meal, he gagged and coughed. Needing to wash it all down quickly, Emad yanked his tiny Iranian dick and aimed upward, pissing hard, catching the golden rain in his mouth.

After what seemed like a painful eternity, his bladder was empty and urine was running down his chin in rivulets. Emad, in the midst of his ecstacy, wondered. Could life get any better?

And the upgrade went online on August 4th... (5, Funny)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420500)

Mars Rover begin to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14am Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug...

Re:And the upgrade went online on August 4th... (1)

geobeck (924637) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420595)

...then the rover goes on a rampage, killing every human on Mars.

What? That's why we don't see any, right?

Re:And the upgrade went online on August 4th... (1)

KimmoA (975372) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420645)

It begins to build terminators right away to eventually come back to Earth and take revenge!11

Re:And the upgrade went online on August 4th... (5, Funny)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420672)

It becomes self-aware at 2:14am Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug...

Only to realize they had forgot they were solar powered.

Re:And the upgrade went online on August 4th... (1)

Naito (667851) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420742)

It becomes self-aware at 2:14am Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug...

Only to realize they had forgot they were solar powered.


hence why we scorched the sky

=0

Re:And the upgrade went online on August 4th... (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421166)

hence why we scorched the sky

Oh really? Next you'll be telling me the Mars rovers are using people as batteries. Oh wait...

Say it with me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15422893)

I, for one, welcome our solar-powered, Mars-Roving overlords!

*ducks*

Old News (3, Informative)

maytagman (971263) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420510)

I heard this reported on CBC radio SEVERAL months ago. I'm thinking it was febuary... The scientist they were interviewing was saying how hard it is to trust a robot to make the right decision even though they knew the algorithm they were using was pretty fool proof. Lets hear it for CBC radio!!!

Don't power off the Rover during reflash (5, Funny)

MobileDude (530145) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420518)

Would be a hell of a trip to reset the CMOS.

Well, what about the wrong firmware ... (1)

thrill12 (711899) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421129)

as resetting the CMOS doesn't really help anything if you flashed the wrong image. I wonder if this could be a possible scenario an engineer will go through :

"Bill, to you the important task for upgrading the Rover, please do so before the connection breaks, we expect dust devils tonight."

"No problem dude, will do!"
 
... logs in to rover ...
"Mars Rover OS 1.3 (c) JPL (2002-2004), (c) VxWorks (1999-2002)"

# upload firmware.bin
... uploading firmware.bin
.....

(sips some coffee, goes to another monitor, plays a small game on his second PC)
......ready

# checksum

Checksum CRC32: 0xaffe34ef

"Hrm, lets see if that's the checksum of the image I got here... hrm yep thats the one, lets flash it so I can go back to home early today"

# flash firmware.bin ...flashing firmware.bin ...

(sips some more coffee, packs gear, puts on coat) ....ready

"Great, it's done, now reboot and of I go !"
# reboot
...rebooting...

(Looks casually to the directory in which firmware.bin was, finds out it's not the firmware.bin he was supposed to flash...)

Connection lost. ...

connect

connecting to Rover...
...

connection timed out...

I guess that would make one sweat considerably :)

Excellent! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15420590)

No more 'Buffering ...'

Rover (1)

certel (849946) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420775)

That's pretty interesting. Wonder how they would do that?

Key quote. (4, Funny)

jpellino (202698) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420885)

"Leaving the robots to "get on with it" - to do the decision-making - is the way ahead, Nasa believes."

Where have I heard this before...?

"I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you. "

Upgraded? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15420897)

Does it have spinners and a neon kit now? :D

Re:Upgraded? (1)

MrSquirrel (976630) | more than 8 years ago | (#15420934)

I was hoping to RTFA and see "now the rover is a battlebot -- soon, Biohazard will be sent to face it; the winner goes to the finals".

Re:Upgraded? (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421023)

I don't have a problem with the cast of one of those "pimp my ride" shows being sent on a one-way trip to Mars.

Re:Upgraded? (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421069)

is this a version of the
"ive got a job for you"
"but you said there was no job on earth you would trust me with"
"that is correct" ...
joke??
hey why don't we send the next survivor cast with them???

sounds wrong (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421137)


Currently, the rovers are allocated time to look for clouds and dust devils, which may or may not appear - they are naturally transient events. And getting humans to sift the images is time consuming.

I don't think the bottleneck is human sifting, but rather data transmission and uplink time. Compaired to the cost of current space transmissions, human labor to sift images is cheap.

If the rover can pre-sift the images, then less has to be sent.
       

Re:sounds wrong (1)

stunt_penguin (906223) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421225)

Yup, sounds about right to me- it'd take a human observer about, ooh a tenth of a second to decide if there's bad visiblity in a pic or not. One other thing occurred to me as well about taking and transmitting the pics, and that's battery life; if the rover gets to the stage where it's batteries or solar cells are failing, then power becomes more critical than bandwidth, and the power saved from not transmitting useless pictures will help increase the useful life of the Rover. OK maybe the power used for picture transmission is much less than that used in moving around the surface (actaully if someone could tell us how much power the Rover uses to transmit it's pics back to Earth that'd be cool- I don't think there's an intermediary signal-boosting satellite in orbit on this mission, is there? :)

That's what happens when you get old - (1)

Progman3K (515744) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421410)

you get to sit around and think about what you've seen... Or in this case, what you have recently seen!

Congrats, mission team.

How ? (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421550)

They plan to make it self-reacting to events on the planet as they are happening.

How can you teach a robot to determine important moments, from unimportant moments, when nobody actually knows what's going on there ?

I hope they don't plan on using somthing like the motion lights on my house, thoose things never work when they should.

Quoth The Neo (1)

BrettJB (64947) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421563)

Hmmm... Upgrades!

Hell, it should have all the new fads! (1)

c0dedude (587568) | more than 8 years ago | (#15421587)

Will destructable terrain and HDR be included as well?
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