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Spirit Outlasts Viking 2 Lander

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the in-for-the-long-haul dept.

Space 137

ScottMaxwell writes "Spirit, the Mars rover designed for a 90-day mission, has now outlasted the Viking 2 lander. Viking 2 survived until its 1281st sol (Martian day); Spirit is now on sol 1282 and counting. Assuming both rovers continue to weather the ongoing dust storms, Spirit's sister, Opportunity, will reach the same age in a few weeks. They aren't breathing down the neck of the all-time record just yet, though — the Viking 1 lander lasted 2245 sols on the surface of Mars; Spirit and Opportunity won't break that record for another 2.7 Earth years."

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Spirit? Opportunity? (1)

UncleWilly (1128141) | more than 7 years ago | (#20206949)

If I were a space-exploring-robot I'd want a better name:

* Robot
* Gigantor
* Bender
* James Bond
* Borg I
* CowboyNeal

Re:Spirit? Opportunity? (2, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#20206985)

Good list, but I'd add a couple more:

* V'ger
* Nomad

Re:Spirit? Opportunity? (0, Redundant)

tukkayoot (528280) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207047)

If I were a Mars lander, I'd want the same kind of name I want as a human ... Herculees Rockafeller, Rembrant Q. Einstine, Hansum B. Wonderfull, Max Power, etc.

Or if I were a female robot, maybe Busty St. Claire or Chesty La Rue.

Re:Spirit? Opportunity? (4, Funny)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207563)

I'd want to be named
Johann Gambolputty-de-von-Ausfern-schplenden-schlitter-cr ass- cren-bon-fried-digger-dingle-dangle-dongle-dungle- burstein-von- knacker-thrasher-apple-banger-horowitz-ticolensic- grander-knotty- spelltinkle-grandlich-grumblemeyer-spelter-wasser- kurstlich-himble- eisenbahnwagen-guten-abend-bitte-ein-nürnburger-br atwürstel- gespurten-mitz-weimache-luber-hundsfut-gumeraber-s chönendanker- kalbsfleisch-mittleraucher-von-Hautkopft of Ulm.

For those whose heads that went over:
Explaination [wikipedia.org]
Video [youtube.com]

Re:Spirit? Opportunity? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207603)

Not over my head ... I've been a Monty Python fan since PBS first began broadcasting it here some thirty years ago. Truthfully though, I've never seen Johann's name spelled out in it's entirety before.

Re:Spirit? Opportunity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20207649)

Didn't mean over your head specifically, just didn't want to get modded down because some kid had never seen the flying circus before :)

Re:Spirit? Opportunity? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207705)

I know. Some people just don't get Monty Python though, even if they have seen it. Now, I'm American and I always enjoyed that show immensely, but I know that I don't get a lot of it. I've watched episodes of Monty Python with a couple of English people around to explain it to me, and there's a lot going on in that show that is over my head. Funny stuff.

Re:Spirit? Opportunity? (1)

LouisZepher (643097) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208747)

That sounds sensible to me, but I would want to be named "Malcolm Peter Brian Telescope Adrian Umbrella Stand Jasper Wednesday (pops mouth twice) Stoatgobbler John Raw Vegetable (sound effect of horse whinnying) Arthur Norman Michael (blows squeaker) Featherstone Smith (blows whistle) Northgot Edwards Harris (fires pistol, then 'whoop') Mason (chuff-chuff-chuff) Frampton Jones Fruitbat Gilbert (sings) 'We'll keep a welcome in the' (three shots, stops singing) Williams If I Could Walk That Way Jenkin (squeaker) Tiger-drawers Pratt Thompson (sings) 'Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head' Darcy Carter (horn) Pussycat 'Don't Sleep In The Subway' Barton Mainwaring (hoot, 'whoop') Smith"

They are superstitious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20207121)

The names are a lot better than Challenger, which didn't challenge a whole lot.

Re:They are superstitious (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20207577)

You're wrong, as usual, AC. Challenger challenged its crew to survive re-entry without a spaceship.

Re:They are superstitious (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20208197)

No, you're wrong, as usual, AC. The Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff. There was no re-entry.

Re:Spirit? Opportunity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20207279)

Best Robot Name

Robot [impoll.net]
Gigantor [impoll.net]
Bender [impoll.net]
James Bond [impoll.net]
Borg I [impoll.net]
V'ger [impoll.net]
Nomad [impoll.net]
Cowboy Neal [impoll.net]


Your comment has too few characters per line (currently 7.3).

Re:Spirit? Opportunity? (2, Funny)

toddestan (632714) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207777)

On the contrary - the hardware may eventually perish, but the Spirit will live on forever.

Re:Spirit? Opportunity? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207893)

Optimus Prime?

Re:Spirit? Opportunity? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207913)

If I were a space-exploring-robot I'd want a better name

How about Troller 1 and Troller 2
       

Re:Spirit? Opportunity? (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208363)

If I were a space-exploring-robot I'd want a better name

How about Troller 1 and Troller 2

Only if they get up on IRC & pretend to be 14/f looking for 'older'.

Re:Spirit? Opportunity? (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208827)

* Moonraker :)

Write "Martian day" (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20206991)

Just because the JPL uses "sol" in their press releases doesn't make it right.

Re:Write "Martian day" (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207293)

Just because the JPL uses "sol" in their press releases doesn't make it right.

But it sounds cooler. "Martion day" has no soul (pun). "Bup bup bup bup bup, I'm a sol man..."
       

Nuclear powered (5, Informative)

FTL (112112) | more than 7 years ago | (#20206993)

Mars lander trivia:
  • Both Viking landers were nuclear powered [space.com] (RTGs).
  • So are both of the rovers, to a certain extent. Both rovers contain slugs of plutonium [harvard.edu] which keep the electronics boxes warm and reduce the amount of solar power needed for heating.
  • Viking 2 lasted 1281 sols and died when its batteries failed. Although the RTGs would have produced usable power for another ten years, the power levels were too low for 70s electronics. So the RTGs would slowly charge the batteries then the batteries would power up the lander for short durations.
  • Viking 1 lasted 2245 sols and lost contact with Earth when a bad command [unmannedspaceflight.com] was sent which instructed Viking to point its antenna in a different direction (sort of like typing "shutdown -h now" on the command line of a remote server, there's no recovery short of a house-call).

Re:Nuclear powered (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207131)

sort of like typing "shutdown -h now" on the command line of a remote server
More like typing "ifdown eth0".

Re:Nuclear powered (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20207351)

I wonder what fine engineer had to take the fall. We all make mistakes... it must have been very embarrassing for him.

Re:Nuclear powered (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20207945)

Yes, everyone makes mistakes, like your parents...

Re:Nuclear powered (2, Interesting)

cdrudge (68377) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208033)

Not as embarrassing as the whole English/Metric units of measure though.

Re:Nuclear powered (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20207813)

Sure, your analogy is closer to describing the situation but the original served its purpose. While we're on the subject of oneupsmanship, there's really no analogy that perfectly describes it, since its like pointing your antenna the wrong way. Perhaps its like turning the rotor dial on your yagi beam past where it can return (broken stops?). Either way, you'd think they could send another robot over to push the rover or antenna back into receiving orientation.

Re:Nuclear powered (2, Informative)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208647)

They could but why bother? The rover probably already did everything it was equipped for while the other bot wouldn't be much cheaper to make and could just be outfitted to do everything the Viking 1 could and more.

Re:Nuclear powered (1)

syzler (748241) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207277)

What exactly is a "Sol"? Depending on the duration of a sol, 1282 sols might not actually be that long. For insteance Seconds on Landing would not even be a full day of operation. What does it stand for/mean? Dictionary.com gave misc definitions ranging from currency to Roman Gods.

Re:Nuclear powered (3, Informative)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207331)

From the summary, it looks like sunrise/sunset cycle on the local planet (~24 hours on earth). My knowledge of the solar system is fuzzy (it's been a long time since I was a "junior astronomer" but I think the martian day is about 25 Earth hours (their year is considerably longer, though).

Re:Nuclear powered (2, Informative)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208167)

This [solarsystem.org.uk] is a good site to bookmark. It includes a virtual scale model of the Solar System. It is quite informative to scroll from Sol out to Pluto. BTW, Mars has a rotation period (sol) of 24 hrs, 37 mins, 22.66 secs, and a year of 686.98 Earth days.

Re:Nuclear powered (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20207359)

A 'sol' is a day in local time. Different planets rotate at different speeds making the length of their days different. One sol on Earth is 24 hours. One sol on Mars is 24.5 hours. One sol on Venus is a staggering 243 Earth days.

Re:Nuclear powered (2, Insightful)

drsquare (530038) | more than 7 years ago | (#20209363)

Then why don't just they say 'Mars days', or even 'suns', so everyone knows what they're talking about?

Delete *.* (2, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207343)

lost contact with Earth when a bad command [unmannedspaceflight.com] was sent which instructed Viking to point its antenna in a different direction (sort of like typing "shutdown -h now" on the command line of a remote server, there's no recovery short of a house-call).

That seems to happen too often in space flight. Everyone remembers the metric conversion, but there is also the "cook battery" command on a recent Mars orbiter death (fortunately, it lasted almost 10 years before the error), and then the Titan probe receiver didn't get the 2nd-channel "on" command, reducing the imaging coverage. Seems like they need better simulators to catch that kind of stuff. (Although in 1977 that's probably asking too much.)
       

Re:Delete *.* (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207419)

It would be nice if the remote software were able to reject commands deemed likely to cause mission failure.

But now I'm torn between references to "I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave" (too obvious) and the Cardassian OS O'Brien had to deal with on DS9. (Almost too obscure.)

Re:Delete *.* (2, Interesting)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207553)

if the remote software were able to reject commands deemed likely to cause mission failure.
The kind of AI it would need to effect this would be horrendous, and probably suck more juice than they really want the hardware sucking.
Now, if they gave each command to a terrestrial version of the hardware, and saw how the command played out, the engineers running the mission might have a chance to say "oops, let's not bother to send that one..."

Re:Delete *.* (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208679)

The kind of AI it would need to effect this would be horrendous, and probably suck more juice than they really want the hardware sucking.
That's ridiculous. Bounds checking is common programming practice. A simple pre-failure feedback mechanism (i.e., if signal strength is reduced beyond a factor of X, where X is a remotely-set register, cease command and signal error.) would prevent a variety of issues.

Software need not be complicated to detect when measurable parameters fall outside of acceptable bounds. Certainly, you don't want to spend energy continuously polling external inputs, but that's what interrupts are for. Or even silicon, if you're sufficiently confident you know all the parameters you want to protect for this mission.

Re:Delete *.* (3, Insightful)

Lord Crc (151920) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207591)

It would be nice if the remote software were able to reject commands deemed likely to cause mission failure.

Or perhaps something like what they did to the display resolution dialogs after a while... Ie if communication is lost after a command for X time units, undo the command.

Re:Delete *.* (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207703)

Idea for a new slogan: In space, there is no 'undo'

     

Re:Delete *.* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20208631)

It would be nice if the remote software were able to reject commands deemed likely to cause mission failure.
It doesn't help if your Safe Mode is what killed your spacecraft (like with MGS)!

Re:Nuclear powered (1)

3vi1 (544505) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207509)

when a bad command was sent which instructed Viking to point its antenna in a different direction


I'm surprised that systems, even back then weren't designed for some kind of autonomous "recovery mode". No communications with Earth for an extended period? How about slowly rotating the antennae through a pattern in search of a "beacon" we would send out on a separate frequency in such an event?

Re:Nuclear powered (1)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207845)

It also seems that they could have wrapped a recovery mission into a probe flyby. Just have a small probe fly past and shoot a signal down to the surface to reset the antenna.

I guess they got everything out of the rover they needed. Additional time from the rover would not have added any significant value.

IIRC, the main reason these new rovers were really stressed is that the first one landed in a shithole. They needed to go a few miles to get out of volcanic ash to find anything interesting.

Re:Nuclear powered (2, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207517)

Viking 1 lasted 2245 sols and lost contact with Earth when a bad command was sent which instructed Viking to point its antenna in a different direction (sort of like typing "shutdown -h now" on the command line of a remote server, there's no recovery short of a house-call).

Maybe Viking 1 just liked the programming on a different satellite.

Re:Nuclear powered (1)

celticmonkey (907466) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207829)

Could Viking 1 be returned to service if a signal reached the antenna?

why?? (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208187)

Isn't it amazing....we can build rovers on a shoe string budget (compaired to the shuttle & ISS) but the shuttle can't take off in rain, foam strikes can destroy it. Maybe they should cut the shuttle budget, and make these idiots think outside the box on how to do with less. Kudos to the NASA department that came up with the rovers. Personally, with robotics increasing in their ability to do their jobs, I'd prefer to spend the money on rovers than to spend it on sending men to mars.

Re:Nuclear powered (2, Funny)

xant (99438) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208799)

Viking 1 lasted 2245 sols and lost contact with Earth when a bad command was sent which instructed Viking to point its antenna in a different direction (sort of like typing "shutdown -h now" on the command line of a remote server, there's no recovery short of a house-call).

Sounds like a good mission for one of the rovers. Go bump the bastard in the right direction.

Another broken record (1)

42Penguins (861511) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207009)

that needs a big fat asterisk. Seriously, a "90-day mission" and it's still going 3 years later? Something is rotten in Mars.

Sorry, not Barry Bonds here (5, Informative)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207263)

that needs a big fat asterisk. Seriously, a "90-day mission" and it's still going 3 years later? Something is rotten in Mars.

Most thought that dust on the solar panels would end the missions after a few months. Turns out that whirlwinds clean them every now and then. They didn't know such would happen since long-duration solar missions hadn't been done yet.

And mechanics *are* wearing out, it is just that they find workarounds. Spirit drives backward because of a failed wheel, and Oppy holds its elbow in a single place most of the time, using wheels to maneuvor instead of bend the bad elbow. And some if it is probably luck; the electronics could snap at any time due to heat-cold cycles. (Oppy's front wheel is showing signs of wear also.)

It is also true that statistically, once missions get past the early phase, they tend to last well. The failure spots are usually early in most missions if there are failures.
       

Yawn: Another broken record (3, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207817)

in 1962 Canada launched Alouette 1 into orbit. It had a one year design lifespan. After running for ten years, the satellite was deliberately shut down. It is still in orbit and can be re-activated by sending the correct wakeup signal.

Re:Yawn: Another broken record (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20208913)

REEEAAaalllyyy...

NASA (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207013)

Say what you want about them, but they sure as hell know how to make a good autonomous vehicle. Anybody want to make a list of things NASA has made recently that didn't last waaay longer than anyone thought?

Re:NASA (5, Funny)

niteice (793961) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207075)

Challenger

Columbia

Oh, Burn (1)

Hecatonchires (231908) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207093)

Made me wince, then laugh

Re:NASA (5, Informative)

TheSuperlative (897959) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207159)

Got me on Challenger, but Columbia, no. The shuttles were all designed with a 10-year lifespan in mind - they have more than outlasted that expectation

Re:NASA (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20207295)

The shuttles were designed with 100-flight airframes. The original specification called for one launch every month - per orbiter. Thus each orbiter would wear out after a decade.

As it turned out, the maximum flight rate they could get was about one launch per year - per orbiter. An order of magnitude less than the spec. Thus it is little wonder that the shuttles "lasted" longer than their design life. Each orbiter has only flown an average of 30 times.

Re:NASA (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20207691)

The difference being that mission parts that are replaced in the orbiter's downtime are not what have an impact on the operational lifespan of the vehicle. The platform's non-replaceable parts were meant to last ten years--the time on Earth is much harder on them than a high operational tempo.

Each orbiter was only meant to last, structurally, for ten years. The number of missions it flew is largely a separate issue, given that much of the vehicle is replaced after each mission. Time was and always has been the enemy.

Re:NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20208419)

Columbia was to be retired when it landed. so yes it did do all its missions. (except return its last crew)

Re:NASA (2, Insightful)

earnest murderer (888716) | more than 7 years ago | (#20209359)

If you really want to pick nits... Challenger didn't fail, the shit to which it was strapped failed.

Re:NASA (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207169)

Well, the expected operational life of a shuttle was only 10 years, so Challenger, yes, but Columbia, no.

in a similar vein... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20208989)

Lisa Nowak?

Re:NASA (4, Insightful)

Rorzabal (1138403) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207089)

It's called "managing expectations". Someone at NASA decided, "Let's tell everyone we're only expecting it to last 90 days. If the thing craps out, no one will have expected it to last longer. If it lasts longer, we'll be praised by all the geeks on /."

Re:NASA (0)

Hes Nikke (237581) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207167)

It's called "managing expectations". Someone at NASA decided, "Let's tell everyone we're only expecting it to last 90 days. If the thing craps out, no one will have expected it to last longer. If it lasts longer, we'll be praised by all the geeks on /."
in other words, NASA is the anti-scotty

Re:NASA (1)

jascat (602034) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207245)

I think it's very much in the Scotty style. Rather than doubling the expected time to delivery, drastically underestimate the life expectancy. I'm sure Scotty would approve.

Re:NASA (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20207329)

She canna' take much more cap'n! And it tends to last the last 10 minutes of the show :P

Re:NASA (2, Informative)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207485)

In the ST:TNG episode Relics [memory-alpha.org] , Scotty criticized Geordie for giving Picard accurate repair time estimates.

Re:NASA (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207859)

It's called "managing expectations". Someone at NASA decided, "Let's tell everyone we're only expecting it to last 90 days. If the thing craps out, no one will have expected it to last longer. If it lasts longer, we'll be praised by all the geeks on /."

That's hogwash. Contractor pay and specifications were predicated on duration and success. As described elsewhere, the main reason for duration is the unexpected panel cleaning by the whirlwinds. Heavy QA & testing after the Polar Lander failure also contributed.
     

Re:NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20207757)

Mars Observer

Mars '96

Mars Climate Orbiter

Mars Polar Lander

Re:NASA (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207877)

Huh? The Mars Polar Lander crashed. If this is meant as a list of long-lasting probes, then perhaps include both Voyagers and Pioneer 10 & 11. Mariner 10 also exceeded expectations.

Re:NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20207935)

None of the probes or orbiters listed accomplished any part of their primary missions before catastrophic failure.

Re:NASA (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207983)

Okay, you are right. I misread it. It is curious to note that most missions exceed planned duration once they get past the early phases of the mission (orbit insertion, landing, etc.). I don't know of any single mission that croaked soon after starting the main phase. The closest I can think of is the Galilleo Jupiter orbiter, where the main antenna never opened, limiting its imaging capability. However, outside of volume imaging, it was a relatively long and successful mission. There was a moon orbiter in the 60's that had a camera problem, but still returned useful images.

JPL Closed, Scientists Search for Nothing (4, Funny)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207199)

Immediately following the news release regarding the Mars rovers' longetivity, JPL announced its intention to replicate the rover design as an energy efficient and highly durable automobile. As a result, American, Japanese, American, that one German outfit, and American automobile manufacturers forced the entertainment branch of U-global-S business, the US government, to close JPL, claiming violations of monopoly, unintellectual property, lack of unrenewable energy usage, and for no good reason other than they can, Homeland Insecurity.

The unemployed JPL engineers and scientists then gathered their equipment at the Florida shore and launched a rover-based underwater probe to locate the cause of the Bermuda Triangle. Unfortunately the mission was a failure, as the Bermuda Triangle seems to have disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle. This important failure was discovered by the scientists who noted the rover's failure to fail to return. Hopefully the ex-JPL crew will turn their expertise to neuroscience in order to discover precisely why the previous sentence makes my brain hurt.

Finally, a public service announcement: Friends don't let friends post to /. after watching The Best of Spike Milligan.

Finally, finally: I have no friends.

Re:JPL Closed, Scientists Search for Nothing (2, Funny)

tftp (111690) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207335)

Finally, finally: I have no friends.

But you have 23 fans ...

Re:JPL Closed, Scientists Search for Nothing (1)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208009)

tftp (111690) sez:

>> Finally, finally: I have no friends.

> But you have 23 fans ... ... which would certainly account for my ability to move a large amount of hot air. Better that than RAW air.

rovin' (1)

SolusSD (680489) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207249)

what is really impressive is the fact that these things have been mobile for this long without *any* physical maintainence millions of miles away! and that they are completely solar powered. impressive when you really think about it. It may not have as much shock value as landing on the moon did, but its an impressive accomplishment.

Re:rovin' (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207401)

what is really impressive is the fact that these things have been mobile for this long without *any* physical maintainence millions of miles away!

At least not any we know of (scary music, wooo....)

and that they are completely solar powered.

Not exactly. They do have small radio-active "warmers".
     

Re:rovin' (1)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207547)

Haven't they only traveled a few kilometres though?

While my car car hasn't had to withstand millions of miles wrapped up in radiation soaked gold foil, pass through reentry on a distant planet, followed by a good bounce across the ground, it has managed to take me more than 120,000 kilometres in 2 years without ever needing a service. Traveled on all kinds of road surfaces - including that outback powdery red dirt crap that is rather common in Australia. Alright, I had to change the tires a couple of times, but only because the 'law' gets all angry if I let them go down to the metal strands of the steel belt.

Re:rovin' (1)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207619)

Alright, bad form to reply to myself, though before anyone flames me, I did have to refuel rather a lot - the rovers, not so much. Nuclear reactors are still socially unacceptable under the hood, otherwise I'd have one - stupid hippies.

Re:rovin' (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207819)

Haven't they only traveled a few kilometres though? While my car car hasn't had to withstand millions of miles wrapped up in radiation soaked gold foil, pass through reentry on a distant planet, followed by a good bounce across the ground, it has managed to take me more than 120,000 kilometres in 2 years without ever needing a service.

Huh? Are you suggesting we put your car on Mars? Note that the rovers perhaps could have gone further and faster if distance was their only goal, but they stop to smell the scientific roses all the time. (Actually, the wheels were not designed for long distance, and have been sticking of late, complicating the trek.)
       

Re:rovin' (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207851)

120,000 kilometres in 2 years without ever needing a service

I sincerely hope you had at least 9 or 12 oil changes in that time (depending on the schedule). And checked the air filter regularly, especially if you'd been spending time in the fine red dust.

Change your oil regularly and your car will love you.

Re:rovin' (1)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208601)

I did top the oil up every very infrequently (mobil 1 synthetic), but I never changed it at all. Before I sold it, the only work I had done was a new regulator and a standard service / grease and oil. The garage said it all looked in pretty decent condition to them considering. By that time it had about ~140,000km - still ran like new - was a Toyota Corolla Seca. Similar to this: http://memimage.cardomain.net/member_images/7/web/ 2215000-2215999/2215171_4_full.jpg [cardomain.net]

Oh my goodness me (-1)

AbRASiON (589899) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207309)

I'm going to make a dumb dumb post but I thought I'd share it with you all.

I had no idea we had landers on mars before!
I knew we had one which failed a couple of years before spirit and oppourtunity arrived.

I thought the current 2 were the ONLY 2, I'm shocked, impressed and actually ever so slightly less impressed at the current models now, I thought they were marvels of engineering (and they are) but the fact it was done in the 70's, wow amazing.

Don't flame, I had no idea, wouldn't be surprised if others thought the current 2 were the only 2 also.

Re:Oh my goodness me (2, Insightful)

phoenix.bam! (642635) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207405)

The Viking craft weren't rovers. They simply sat where they landed taking readings and running on a nuclear reactor. Not much on them to break. Since they ran off nuclear power dust and winter weren't obstacles to keeping the landers running. I think Viking was transmit only too. No user input to change the mission. The rovers are much more impressive.

Re:Oh my goodness me (1)

AbRASiON (589899) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207505)

Yeah I just realised that, it's still very impressive they had photos and successful landings of devices on the surface in the 70's - I'm really impressed.

Re:Oh my goodness me (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207771)

I think Viking was transmit only too.

I don't think this is the case. After all, they had to survey the surface to decide where to sample the soil from for the soil and life tests. They had the sampler arm turn over a small rock to get soil from underneath it. They had computers in them, just not very powerful ones.

The rovers are much more impressive.

But the Vikings were first. I remember when the paper came in the morning with images of rocks and dunes and a light-colored sky (artist depictions showed it dark, not knowing about air dust), it was totally amazing for a boy my age. The Vikings also did 3 life-detection tests, which the rovers are not capable of. (The results were inconclusive.)
     

Re:Oh my goodness me (1)

toddestan (632714) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207837)

don't think this is the case. After all, they had to survey the surface to decide where to sample the soil from for the soil and life tests. They had the sampler arm turn over a small rock to get soil from underneath it. They had computers in them, just not very powerful ones.

That is the case. As a matter of fact, what finally did Viking 1 in was a bad command issued to the lander's computers that caused it to point its antenna away from Earth.

Re:Oh my goodness me (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207423)

There is also the little Pathfinder/Sojourner rover in 1997. It was kind of a test run of rover concepts.
     

Re:Oh my goodness me (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207463)

Russia also had lots of rovers on the Moon and one lander on Venus, which took the only photos we have of the venusian surface, which is kinda muggy, murky, rocky and acidic.

Re:Oh my goodness me (1)

rgravina (520410) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208193)

Venus has always scared the crap out of me.

Re:Oh my goodness me (2, Funny)

Glowing Fish (155236) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208301)

muggy, murky, rocky and acidic

It was faked on a soundstage in New Jersey.

Re:Oh my goodness me (4, Informative)

big-magic (695949) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207535)

Assuming I counted correctly, there have only been 5 successful landers/rovers (Viking 1 and 2, Mars Pathfinder, Opportunity, and Spirit) and 1 partial success (Mars 6). Check the page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exploration_of_Mars [wikipedia.org] . There were a lot more missions to Mars than I realized, most of them failures. Going to Mars is hard, which makes the success of Opportunity and Spirit even more amazing. It would be a mistake for us to get cocky and think we've got this mastered, just because our couple missions went really well.

Re:Oh my goodness me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20208697)

Yes, but if that wiki entry is right, a 70+% success rate from NASA is astoundingly good IMHO.

Re:Oh my goodness me (1)

Wicko (977078) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208857)

Yeah no kidding. Theres a very high failure rate for just sending satellites to orbit the damn thing, something like 80% if my memory serves me. It's not exactly a guaranteed investment, thats for sure.

Re:Oh my goodness me (3, Insightful)

Sibko (1036168) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207575)

And yet, it's a bit sad to think that, since the 70's, all we've managed to do is land a couple more landers on mars.

20, almost 30 years of no significant space achievements. :(

Oh sure, there's a couple of impressive things that have been done with probes. Crashing them into asteroids, flinging them out towards Pluto, but where are the asteroid mines and space colonies, the moonbases and He3 refining facilities, or even an interstellar probe to the nearest star system?

Re:Oh my goodness me (2, Insightful)

ynososiduts (1064782) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208303)

We are missing one big thing. Motivation. There is no Cold War anymore, and no need to prove ourselves. Thus interest in space exploration is down. Sad, but true. No good things come out of normal situations, there needs to be some bad before there is some good.

Re:Oh my goodness me (1)

MLease (652529) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208819)

So, what you're saying is, we need to convince the government that Al Qaeda has some terrorist training camps out in the asteroid belt? :^)

-Mike

Re:Oh my goodness me (1)

colmore (56499) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208469)

I think you might be misreading old promises from World of Disney as actual predictions.

Space is a hard engineering problem, and its expensive as well. We're only 50 years into this; we're doing well. How long did it take Greek Triremes to develop into something capable of crossing an ocean?

Re:Oh my goodness me (2, Funny)

solios (53048) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208715)

but where are the asteroid mines and space colonies, the moonbases and He3 refining facilities, or even an interstellar probe to the nearest star system?


They're hanging out with the flying cars, of course.

Re:no significant space achievements my a$$ (2, Informative)

agengr (1098271) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208907)

Since the early 70s we (NASA, its partners, and American industry) have accomplished such more than a few minor feats:

- The Shuttle program has logged almost 9 times the spaceflight of the Apollo+Skylab program
- The Shuttle program has averaged more than twice the flight rate of Apollo+Skylab
- The ISS joint-venture will triple the flight time of Shuttle by the time the station is closed in 2016, so that's approx 27-fold over Apollo+Skylab
- We since launched robotic missions to every planet (including Pluto) in the Solar System
- We have revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos using orbital telescopes (3 out of 4 Great Observatories launched by Shuttle)
- Private industry has demonstrated reusable suborbital flight with surprisingly good economics

I really hope you were joking when you asked "where are the interstellar probes." The fact is, we have made significant progress in spaceflight these last 20-30 years but those accomplishments have been overshadowed due to irrational expectations such as your own. It is inconceivable that we could have gone from Apollo to Lunar colonization, Mars missions, space industry, etc without further maturation of spaceflight technology. And as a stepping stone, the Shuttle/ISS have given us tremendous experience and capability that we did not have post-Apollo.

The greatest tragedy of all is that after debugging the Shuttle fleet of so many design issues, we are just going to retire them as soon as possible. If we were to build a new fleet of orbiters from scratch, we could implement a myriad of design improvements that would greatly lower cost and improve safety. Instead we're going to go pander to the "exploration" crowd...

C4ock (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20207443)

Hank Aaron is gonna be pissed (0, Offtopic)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20207833)

Maybe Spirit will break Barry Bonds' record also. That cheatin' druggie deserves to be whipped by a robot.

       

JPL Rebadging Controversy (2, Interesting)

dnoble (56642) | more than 7 years ago | (#20208663)

Kudos to everyone who has worked so hard to keep the rovers roving.

I just want to draw attention to the submitter's link:

        http://www.hspd12jpl.org/ [hspd12jpl.org]

There's a situation brewing where JPL employees (who are employed by Caltech, not the federal government) will be fired if they do not submit to unprecedented invasions of their privacy. Some other relevant links:

        http://www.nasawatch.com/archives/2007/08/hspd12_c oncerns.html [nasawatch.com]
        http://www.nasawatch.com/archives/2007/05/nasa_jpl _hspd12.html [nasawatch.com]
        http://www.editthis.info/jpl_rebadging/Main_Page [editthis.info]

Slashdot Tags of any worth? (4, Insightful)

LS (57954) | more than 7 years ago | (#20209637)

If you needed more evidence to support the fact that Slashdot tags are worthless, unfunny, manipulated by editors, and clearly not reflective user input, just look at the fantastically retarded tags attached to this story:

theydomakethemliketheyusedto, gogogadgetlander

What exactly is the criteria for tags getting on the front page? Are you seriously saying that several Slashdot users all came up with these tags at the same time? That is clearly either evidence of editorial manipulation, or that cyanide pills need to be handed at the next nerd convention.

LS
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