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Space

NIMA Locates The Mars Polar Lander 115

Posted by timothy
from the so-that's-where-it-was----on-*Mars*! dept.
Skyshadow writes "Space.com is reporting that the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) believes they've located the Mars Polar Lander, intact on it's landing legs. They've apparently had their people looking for the lander in photos taken by the Mars Global Surveyor, which has been tasked to take more photos of the landing area later this year."
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NIMA Locates The Mars Polar Lander

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    The answers would destroy society.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    'Let's go through this in our heads. Where did you say you had the probe last?'

    "I was goin' over to Billy's house when I thought it'd be fun to go swimming in the river. But then, when I had taken off my shirt, with the probe in the breast pocket, aliens came and stole my shirt!"

    'Mikey!'

    "I'm for serious! It happened. And then, after they took the probe, they mocked me by building a face in the sand! I stormed over to it and stomped on it with my feet but the stupid thing stayed there. Then the aliens left and I was able to enjoy swimming in the river for a while. But then the river died! All the water was gone! Out of the banks of the river, hundreds of little alien craft flew. I was scared, but they all took off. Only one was left and the guy inside was sad. Poor aliens. Their home dried up!"
  • The problem with optical interferometry (any interferometry for that matter) is that you have to know the distance between the telescopes involved to within a wavelength. This is easily done in radio wavelengths where the wavelengths are centimeters or larger, but at optical wavelengths, you are talking 10^-7 meters, that's very tricky (and can change very easily due to thermal expansion/contraction of equipment). Trying to pull this off in orbit (with a baseline of only ~100m) is one of the next big goals for NASA and its planet finder missions. I have a hard time imagining a spy agency pulled it off and has two telescopes in orbit 50 kilometers apart. Furthermore, unless you are spying on Martians full time or engaged in astrophysical research, that kind of resolution won't help you spy on Earth, since the atmosphere munges up your view downward much as it munges the view upward.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2001 @07:26PM (#352689)
    Keep in mind the diffraction limit of a telescope (the angular size of the smallest items it can distinguish) is given by a very simple equation (theta = 1.22*lambda/diameter where theta is the resolution in radians, diameter is the diameter of the telescope's primary and is in the same units as lambda, the wavelength of light used). Long story short, if they did spot if from orbit, it had to be Mars orbit. A telescope orbiting Earth would have to be about 46 kilometers in diameter to physically resolve a 1-2 meter sized object at a distance of about 150 million kilometers with optical light (although you could also pull it off with two small telescopes 46 kilometers apart, but that is another story). And frankly, I have a hard time imagining they did it from Mars orbit, although at least in that case, it is physically possibile (Mars observer does have very high resolution imaging capability).
  • Posted by IWAssassin:

    Oops I dropped my multi-billion dollar probe, now where'd it go? Wait I think I found it, maybe hmm dunno. Ah well... Hey it's a great thing they have possibly found it, well sorta. The space probe is still a practical loss if they can't raise the thing on communications till we send someone up there to fix it, and at the current rate that will be NEVER. Reason we made it to the moon was a race of pride with the Russians, we can never do something just for the sake of it being good for the human Race, it has to be to show other humans we're better than them. Well some day geeks will inherit the earth and we will go up there and fix our broken multi-billion dollar probe!
  • When a person lands on mars, they'll be able to go to the probe and -- it, and THEN it will work.

    It's just in a blue-funk.
  • If you read the article, it says that the images came from the Mars Global Surveyor, a NASA satellite orbitting Mars.

    It's not all that freaky. You've got one agency with a lot of experience doing satellite photo enhancement to pick out small details and another agency with a lot of experience throwing things very far. It's hardly surprising that NIMA did the better job here. The only thing that's changed is that the satellite is orbitting a different planet, otherwise, it's right up their alley.
  • I really appreciate the technical nature of your comment. We don't see enough of this on Slashdot any longer.

    What about an optical interferometer?

    Thanks

    Bruce

  • Given the amount of time spent, I suspect that this was largely a manual (or should I say "ocular"?) process. Had it been computer pattern matching, I would have expected the task to have run in a month at maximum, after all they are expected to handle terestrial images within hours and they must have some reserve capacity. Finding it in a month would tell us little about how fast they can process images, so I don't think they would have held off publishing the data, had they found it.

    I think this was people, not computers, going over images for a long time.

    I find it difficult to imagine having the patience to do that, but no doubt such people are employed by the government.

    Bruce

  • by roystgnr (4015) <[ude.saxetu.macit] [ta] [rngtsyor]> on Monday March 19, 2001 @08:10PM (#352695) Homepage
    I meant to say canyons and such, but my grasp of the English language seemed to escape me at that moment.

    That's OK; it's an honest mistake. An ironic one, too. Giovanni Schiaparelli (I would have never remembered his name; yay Google!) saw the optical illusion of lines criss-crossing Mars and called them "canali": a word that means "channels", but was mistranslated "canals". In English, "channels" generally means any fluid passage, but "canals" implies a water passage of artificial origin. So all the 19th century wonder about intelligent life on Mars was first sparked by an English mistranslation of someone else's language.

    And doubly ironic, there are channels on Mars. They might be from lava flows instead of water, and they're much smaller than the optical illusions some squinting pre-Space Age astronomers saw, but they are there.
  • I got the impression from the article that it was a somewhat 'backburner' type of job, not a mandate of "Find this spacecraft now" but "If ya get a chance, take a look through these NASA images and see if you can find anything".

    If my job consisted of examining images of Iraqi and Chinese air bases and munitions plants, I'd probably welcome some Martian landscape for a change.

    Of course, I could be all off in this...

  • Geeze, you already had it spelled out for you.

    They have enough detail to see a thing that looks like it has tripod legs. Based on what they see, if it is the Lander, then it's sitting upright on its legs. If it isn't the Lander, then it's just something that happens to look like it has legs in a picture taken from orbit. It isn't incrongruous to say both, because there is a non-zero probability of each case.

    Just because we see something that looks like a face on Mars doesn't mean it is a face. They're just being more careful in their declaration than, apparently, you would be.
  • "WASHINGTON ? The Mars Polar Lander may have been found -- intact -- by a top-secret spy imagery agency."

    Great, with no Red Menace in the form of the USSR, the US has turned it's eye to the Other Red Menace. Mars.

    Those Martian Bastards don't stand a chance.

  • And they were reading newspapers from orbit almost 40 years ago. It doesn't shock me when they say they can pick out a car sized object from a coupla hundred million miles away.
  • Anyone Remember the _Mars_ series? The tailrider with a personality disorder (whose father funds the mission) wants to recover a NASA lander and sell it at a public aution. The strong, silent hero objects because that isn't scientific.

    So when does the first interplanetary antique go on sale?

    -j

  • by mattkime (8466) on Monday March 19, 2001 @08:38PM (#352701)

    I think this was people, not computers, going over images for a long time.

    I find it difficult to imagine having the patience to do that, but no doubt such people are employed by the government.

    Interns.

  • Disclaimer: I have no special knowledge in the areas of photo interpretation or geology, but to me there seem to be several common-sense reasons why good imagery doesn't give you all the answers.

    Even if you had centimetre-resolution images of Mars, that's not necessarily going to tell you whether canals were formed by water. Why? Because it only shows what's there. It doesn't necessarily show you how it got to be that way.

    Secondly, on Earth, you can use aerial imagery of well-known areas to learn what certain features look like, and then extrapolate to other areas. On Mars, we have (by comparison) bugger-all ground-based imagery, let alone extensive studies of geology and the like, to use to do extrapolation.

  • All this planet are belong to you!
    But this planet are belong to us!
  • *removes tounge from cheek*

    Catchphrase? Hey, at least I didn't say "all your polar landers are belong to us."

    At the very least if she's upright, we can attempt to power her up and get her going. This also gets rid of the whole "Martians shot it down" discussion since we now know that all NASA did is forget where they parked.
    --

  • by RasputinAXP (12807) on Monday March 19, 2001 @06:52PM (#352705) Homepage Journal
    at least we know Xenu didn't get it.
    --
  • Hey, you're forgiven ... as somebody else noted, there are channel and canyon features on Mars, just not the ones that Schiaparelli thought he saw (and that Percival Lowell was convinced were created by intelligent life).

    See Mars in Popular Culture [nasa.gov] for the origin of the term.

    To have some final fun with the idea, sf writer Kim Stanley Robinson envisioned a colonized Mars with free waters restored, creating not only oceans and crater lakes, but a system of manmade canals to connect them! See Blue Mars [amazon.com].
    ----
  • by DHartung (13689) on Monday March 19, 2001 @07:18PM (#352707) Homepage
    NIMA isn't using telescopes. They are using their crack photographic analysis skills (case in point: hey, JFK, there are missiles in Cuba!) to analyze the photography of the Mars Orbiter Camera onboard Global Surveyor.

    This isn't a dig at NASA; NASA simply turned to the agency with the best equipment and experience in the task at hand. The bigger dig at NASA here may be that the lander's failure was misdiagnosed after all.
    ----
  • by DHartung (13689) on Monday March 19, 2001 @07:10PM (#352708) Homepage
    It's one thing to have an image; it's another to interpret the results. Two scientific teams working from different points of view could come up with incompletely consistent conclusions from the same data.

    We do know that Mars had water, and probably still has some; we just don't know how much, we don't know how recently, and we don't know how important it was in shaping the Martian surface. If it's not on the surface, or in the atmosphere, has it bled away to space, or is a large amount still encased in the ground? The results from the Global Surveyor cameras have only just begun to be analyzed in a rigorous fashion, and the scientific results you look for will be forthcoming over the next several years. Just don't expect pat answers.

    Anyway, uh, canals? There ARE no canals on Mars, kiddo. Maybe you should get your astronomy books more recent than 100 years old.
    ----
  • by DHartung (13689) on Monday March 19, 2001 @08:58PM (#352709) Homepage
    Goonie wrote:
    Even if you had centimetre-resolution images of Mars, that's not necessarily going to tell you whether canals were formed by water. Why? Because it only shows what's there. It doesn't necessarily show you how it got to be that way.

    Yep. Actually, the bigger problem is that on Earth, we can observe features over time to determine how they are changing. There are geologic processes on Mars, but they will move glacially by comparison. We can't observe the Valles Marineris canyon system over time and see processes like erosion and sublimation, because they aren't happening -- or if they are, it's on a scale of tenths of a percent as fast as on Earth. So even observation over time is largely denied us as a tool.
    ----
  • Thats my name who knew there was a whole project with the same name as me. God Bless Slashdot for opening my eyes. No more crying at nights wondering why i am the only nima in the entire united states.
  • MPL was part of NASA's "Better, Cheaper, Faster" program. Although still a bit more than your average cup of coffee, MPL came out to around $265 million USD.

    MPL's twin, which is due to be launched soon, has been fitted with some additional safety measures, and as a result its price has grown to around $295 million USD.



    --
  • It is not only image clarity, but hyperspectral analysis and interpretation of atmospheric conditions and geologic conditions, angles of light etc... that one has to wade through on both Mars and Earth. On earth we at least have some degree of ground truth to help inform us, but the time it takes should also give some indication of how difficult much of this analysis is. There are pattern recognition algorithms and cluster analysis techniques that one can use to determine features or objects and narrow down datafields, but it is still the human analyst that is so important (and the time limiting factor) in remote sensing. This is another reason why the NSA, NRO and CIA are drowning in data. They have tools with which to extract massive amounts of data, but it still has to be analyzed by someone with more training and feature extraction skills drawn from a huge respository of knowledge than can be currently programmed for automation.
  • Simple. You forget the camera resolution... with a surface resolution of only a metre or two, the entire lander would only take up one or two pixels at most, it may even be sub-pixel!

    How do you look for something that small? You don't. What the NIMA guys are almost certainly doing is looking for the shadow of the lander! At certain lighting angles, the lander would cast a shadow 10s or even hundreds of metres across the surface.

    NIMA looks for shadows, and estimates the size of the objects from the lighting angle. How do they tell if it's the lander and not a boulder, or if the lander is upright?

    Come back later (like the scheduled observations in october?) when the lighting is at different angles, and take more pictures. From the way the shadow changes, you can guess the shape of the object, and if it's on the surface or a metre above it on legs.

    The NIMA guys ovbiously have narrowed it down to a few likely candidates, and are waiting for more images.

  • you're not kidding..from what I gather they don't have a positive ID yet.. it could be a large rock or just some martians playing games.
  • The linked article seems to indicate that NASA has another, identical MPL sitting there unused because they presume that the first one failed for mechanical reasons. However, if this is true, that the MPL landed safely, and we just can't communicate with it, then that means we just need to fix the comms gear and then we can send the other MPL out to do the first one's job.

    Can anyone confirm whether there is another MPL craft, and if the finding that the first MPL landed OK would mean the mission could be tried again?
  • "Shortly after the loss of Mars Polar Lander, NIMA and NASA began working together analyzing images of the intended landing site and to try to locate the spacecraft," said Jennifer Lafley, a NIMA spokeswoman.

    NIMA is DoD. The do what they want and NASA can't really say too much if they step on our toes. Fortunately in this case, NIMA's expertise payed off bigtime.
    --

  • Before this announcement, the most probable reason for failure was either (1) the landing rockets shut off too early, causing the lander to fall; or (2) the rockets failed to shut off after landing, causing the craft to skid along the ground, kick up a lot of dust, or possibly flip over.

    In either case, it is possible that the lander could have ended up sitting upright, more-or-less in one piece. Just because it's sitting on all 3 legs doesn't mean it is functional. It could be all smashed up from a rough landing, or covered in dirt. It might have flipped over a couple times and eventually come to rest in an upright position.
    --

  • Yes, most of the image analysis people at NASA are civilian geologists. Of course they have computers, but they tend to look at rocks and soil, wind and water erosion, spectroscopy, and stuff like that. When MPL was first lost, NASA searched their photos for easy-to-spot things like the lander's large parachutes, or a crash site with a crater and lots of debris.

    NIMA, on the other hand, has the skills to pick out small objects like people and cars from satellite photos of earth. I don't see why JPL would doubt NIMA's findings. The question now is how much NIMA can talk about their findings or discuss the techiques they used without disclosing anything classified. At the very least, they should be able to say to NASA "these are the photos we used, and we believe the lander is right *there* (see, if you squint your eyes you can sorta see something...)
    --

  • No, no, no.

    They found it by analyzing photos of Mars taken from orbit around Mars. These are the same photos that NASA has, because they are photos taken by NASA spacecraft.

    NIMA is able to analyze those photos with an entirely different toolset and skills. NASA may have the rocket scientists, but they don't have spooks who can read newspapers from orbit ;-)
    --

  • The rats use their engineering skillz to save Mrs. Frisby's home and children. No magic stone needed.

    Are you sure? After all, the rats did get all kinds of drug testing done on them. Though I'll concede on the magic point. Everyone knows that the best way to get engineers to do anything[1] is to get them magically stoned.

    Simon
    [1] Well, okay, there's a 15% chance they'll do something useful, and an 85% chance that they'll just gorge themselves fit to burst on pizza, but that's a risk you have to take.
  • If they were using their own equipment, then that means that they have telescopes a million times more powerful than what NASA has. I'm taking a wild guess that this is not the case, but if so, that's pretty spooky.

    Well, if they did have their own, they'd be in Earth orbit, and big enough that you'd be able to see them on a clear night. Even with active-optics, you can't get that kind of resolving power from the ground, and even Hubble can't get a clear look at Mars (the resolution is still not high enough for the kind of detail you'd need) -- which is one reason why they sent the mapping probes, rather than just scanning from here.

    Simon
  • If NASA is able to spot a polar lander from orbital photography, why do we still have all these disputes over the history of mars; i.e. whether or not Mars had water, whether canals were formed by water, etc.

    Uhhh... what canals?

    Lowell had a dodgy telescope.

    martian canals ('canali') [xrefer.com]


    Optical illusions, produced by telescopic viewing of Mars with a resolution of poorer than about 100 km, first reported by Schiaparelli ('canali' is the Italian for 'channels') and especially championed by Percival Lowell (1855 - 1916). These observers produced maps of the martian surface showing interconnected networks of canals, implying the presence of intelligent life on Mars. The intelligence which devised the canals was, however, on the terrestrial side of the telescope.

    A Dictionary of Earth Sciences, © Oxford University Press 1999 [xrefer.com]
  • Jeezus... all they do is make maps and catalog satellite imagery... it's not like they are the CIA... they make maps for the most part, having formerly been the DMA (defense mapping agency)... very informative web page for a "top secret spy agency."

    Look at it here [nima.mil]

  • wouldnt it be messed up if we found out they forgot to turn it on? :)
  • From the article:

    "If anybody is saying that they have definitively proved to [the] 99 percentile that Mars Polar Lander has or hasn't been found, they are overstating the situation grossly," Weiler said.

    Now remind me again, what was the Slashdot topic for this story?
  • We do know that Mars had water, and probably still has some; ...

    We definitely know that Mars has some water left. A few of the Viking lander photos showed dustings of frosting on the rocks.

    ... we just don't know how much, we don't know how recently, and we don't know how important it was in shaping the Martian surface.

    Yes. I'd like future missions to answer some of those questions.
    --

  • Well, then, let's abandon all astronomy. After all, pictures of stars and galaxy clusters don't show you how they got to be that way. And forget geology, because most stuff happens too slowly to observe.

    Seriously, it's called making theories based on observations. If you see a big rock with a big groove in the earth near it, you might conclude the rock was moved, say, by a glacier. On the other hand, if there's a nearby lava flow, maybe it was moved by volcanic processes.

    That's a slightly silly example, but the point is that better data is really valuable. If anything, our experience correlating aerial views with ground views on earth provides a powerful reality check against our interpretations of mars photos from space.

    Boss of nothin. Big deal.
    Son, go get daddy's hard plastic eyes.

  • by Malcontent (40834) on Monday March 19, 2001 @08:35PM (#352728)
    I hate "journalism" like this. Why even report something using words like "may have". It conveys nothing. "monkeys may have flown out of butt" yes folks that's a true statement. I see this all time on talk-tv especially on fox. Most of their analysts are very fond of saying "may-have" when they just want to smear someone without presenting evidence. Too bad americans are so easily fooled by these weasel words.
  • I got the strong impression that NIMA just re-examined images from the Mars Global Surveyor. Examining images at the limit of their resolution is no easy task, so it's not surprising that an agency what specializes at that would do better than NASA on the same images.
    --
    Patrick Doyle
  • Actually, I thought that the MGS produced images with a surface resolution of about 2 meters. Therefore, the MPL would appear as a single pixel.

    That's what I remember a Cornell professor who was involved in the MPL project saying anyway...
  • There are amazing techniques we can use to increase resolution, with multiple samples combined:

    Summary:
    http://ic-www.arc.nasa.gov/ic/projects/bayes-gro up /group/super-res/

    Examples:
    http://ic-www.arc.nasa.gov/ic/projects/bayes-gro up /group/super-res/2d/

    More projects:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=bayes+super+resol ut ion
  • OK, let's do a search... Aha! www.nima.mil [nima.mil]. The site seems relatively sparse of information, but not surprising for a site that claims it is 'representing a fundamental step toward achieving the Department of Defense vision of "dominant battle space awareness." ' :)

    You have to think that while there are several experts in the world who can probably spot this kid of thing from a photograph using the human eye, a lot of what they do is computer based. I wonder if "working in their spare time for fun" involved putting the highres files through their supercomputers during some spare CPU cycles...

    I'm not surprised that most of the people at JPL are going "Yeah, right". I'm assuming the image analysis people at NASA are mostly geologists. Picking out small objects in that kind of picture is a completely different skillset. It's going to take a while for NIMA to convince JPL of what they may have found.
  • Ok everyone, remember where we parked...
  • The military guys could be getting ridiculously high resolution with a space-based version of the Keck Interferometer [slashdot.org]. Such a space-based long-baseline optical system has been proposed by several authorities in the past -- it's just that NASA has never seen fit to fly such a system -- for some reason. The proposals I've seen claim you can gang up a whole bunch of small mirrors into a huge light-gathering interferometer as long as you have them laser-linked to each other to maintain their configuration. I suspect this means the military interferometer is in a high orbit -- possibly even a Lagrange point.
  • by JWW (79176) on Monday March 19, 2001 @07:36PM (#352735)
    Perhaps this could provide proof that the Martian probe deactivation beam truly works!! ;-)
  • The engineers probably tuned the lander's radio to xxx in AM instead of FM or FM instead of AM. ;-)
  • Why don't you simply check the nasa site?
    Or look at: http://photojournal.dlr.de/ (there is likely a link to the US version of that site, its only a mirror).

    Photos do not tell enough. we have very stron evidence from photography that there is still water on the mars. However no one saw the water itself only the relicts of flowing water.

    Unfortunalty the geological processes are not easy to determine from images, regardless of clarity, where on earth do we have a survace that old and un touched like that of mars? Nowhere. How should a gelogist learn how to interpret a image?

    Regards,
    angel'o'sphere

    P.S. no offence, but likely you have the wrong net name if you only ask such questions instead of investigating them and giving some links :-)
  • Yea, People have no respect now adays. Imagine! Trying to locate a crashed probe!
    Next they'll be looking for the Titanic!
  • On that score, internet journalism is no worse than print or TV...
  • "monkeys may have flown out of butt" yes folks that's a true statement

    NIMA may have the ability to confirm that for you.

    --Clay

  • Probably they see a rectangular smudge of a slightly different color than the surrounding smudges, and if it's the polar lander, then the width and height of the smudge would be consistent with it standing up, but not consistent with it laying on its side.

    'Course, if the Martians really are playing with us, it might be standing on its head...

  • It's not like they definitely found a probe and now they're wondering which one it might be.

    Probably the only thing they see is a rectangular smudge against a muddy background, and if it's the polar lander, then the width and height of the smudge would be consistent with it standing up, but not consistent with it laying on its side. I really doubt they're getting good enough image clarity to see individual landing legs.

    'Course, if the Martians really are playing with us, it might be standing on its head...

  • we can see from the photos things that look like there was water, but just becase it looks like it, doesn't mean there was.

    _________________________________
  • That's one of the best replies I've seen in a long time. Damn funny.
  • To land near the MPL, locate it, and find out *how* the Martians shot it down. This without suffering the same fate... For that they will be needing more support from the .mil guys.

    Sad thing, that the first contact had to be so hostile.

  • <mood type=foul>Can we not moderate catch-phrase-spouting drivelists up, please? Is it too much to ask for intelligent discussion?</mood>



    Though he does have a point, sort of. This tells is it's intact, possibly still working. It didn't crash, although it may have simply crashed.



    -BS
    I don't claim to be right, I just claim to be thinking about it.

  • Well, it might not be MPL. Maybe it's a landing craft from when NASA sent men to mars in the 60's to fake the moon landings, using the men that killed JFK as actors. The men ran into Elvis there, who killed them in a drunken barroom brawl after they insulted Yoda.
  • The polar lander crashed. It was given up for dead. Have some respect for it.

    There are several good reasons to find out if the lander really did crash as people had thought up until now, or if some other failure caused it to lose contact with NASA. Firstly, if it did land correctly, NASA would know that their design is sound, and they don't have to spend millions of dollars re-inventing a new landing system. They can just re-use the same technology from the polar lander. Secondly, if it lost contact for some other reason, surely it would be a good idea to find out what that reason is (to avoid wasting resources in creating a new lander that fails in exactly the same way).

  • is there any chance of reviving mars polar lander if it is found to be positioned correctly on its landing gear? although the main communications gear was knocked out, wasn't there a way for mars global surveyor to communicate with mpl via short wave radio or some similar method? perhaps now that nasa knows the location of the mpl they can move the mgs into a position to communicate with mpl.

    Eastern Suburbs Rugby Football Club [clevelandrugby.com]

  • Welp. I am no expert here but maybe this thought will add to the discussion: The atmosphere here on earth and the gasses we generally refer to as 'air' exhibit many fluidic properties. Mars has an atmosphere that is nowhere near as dense as Earth's at see level but it is highly active and prone to huge dust storms and dust devils that scar the surface. Water errosion and wind errosion in images from Mars maybe comletely indistinguishable as to what created the features. That being the case I would have to say it is all just educated guess work at this point and the wars over how will rage on.

  • by SuperJ (125753)
    NASA: Mommy! Where's my Polar Lander? NIMA: Right where you left it!
  • The polar lander crashed. It was given up for dead. Have some respect for it.

    Heyyyy, waitaminute...the same thing could be said for Windoze machines everywhere. *grin*

    All kidding aside, this is a piece of hardware, trying to reprogram it or get it up and running again isn't the same thing as defiling it's grave.


    ----------------------------------------
    Yo soy El Fontosaurus Grande!
  • Actually, I did read the abstract, and the article. I've learned that trusting the abstract on slashdot is dangerous, and the word "apparently" encouraged my skepticism. The article itself is very vague on this point, so I explored both possibilities. If you had read my whole post, I'm sure you would have noticed that I was assuming they were using MGS photos.
  • Ok, so an agency that mostly works on images of Earth has found something on Mars. I'm guessing that they were using images taken from Mars orbit. If they were using their own equipment, then that means that they have telescopes a million times more powerful than what NASA has. I'm taking a wild guess that this is not the case, but if so, that's pretty spooky. Regardless, they have lots of expertise finding stuff on earth, but they were out of their element here. The fact that they did something on NASA's turf that NASA couldn't do tells you where the big money is going.
  • by Salsaman (141471) on Monday March 19, 2001 @11:25PM (#352755) Homepage
    NASA also reported a strange black monolith right next to the lander.
  • by grahamsz (150076) on Monday March 19, 2001 @06:59PM (#352756) Homepage Journal
    ... I wonder if i'll be able to contract out nima and have them analyse digital photos of my apartment to find my car keys. That would be a truely wonderful use of space age technology.
  • by slashdoter (151641) on Monday March 19, 2001 @07:05PM (#352757) Homepage
    Nasa claims now that they know the cause for the non functional probe. Nasa has discribed a " little green hacker seating next to the probe. NASA has discribed the little green guy as a "teenage student picked on by his peers"......


    ________

  • ... I wonder if i'll be able to contract out nima and have them analyse digital photos of my apartment to find my car keys. That would be a truely wonderful use of space age technology.

    No need to get NASA or NIMA to do that... there exists an older, and similarly reliable method of car-key divination:

    [sits in a lotus position]
    [rests a magic eight-ball on his lap]
    [makes suitably impressive "Ooohhmm"-ing noises]

    They're behind the couch. And for my next trick, I shall channel your TV remote...

  • Lockheed Martin has the 2001 lander (virtually identical to the MPL), which was never launched because of the failure of the MPL. Basically, NASA freaked out over the MPL/Climate Orbiter failures, and refused to launch the next one... very typical of post-Challenger NASA.

    It's mostly politics: JPL's Climate Orbiter failed, too, and JPL did one of the investigations into the two failures. Basically, they whitewashed their problems and crapped all over LockMart for what were very similar failings... not to excuse LockMart's bungling, just to point out another trait which NASA persistently exhibits.

    If indeed the Young report's conclusions [space.com] were correct, a line of code in the system controller's program would fix the problem: basically, when the legs deploy they tend to set the switches which tell the vehicle it's landed, thereby shutting down the landing motors as soon as they ignite -- simply reseting the registers after leg deployment does the job. In this case, LockMart wants to fix the code, and wants NASA to launch it (well, at least some of the LockMart employees want this).

    If NIMA has found the MPL as described, however, then something else is wrong and there's no point in launching another (possibly fundamentally-defective) spacecraft. The Young report was pretty scathing: both JPL's MCO and LockMart's MPL were built for less than the wildly-successful Pathfinder lander, and both projects suffered from lack of supervision by experienced planetary spacecraft engineers, and from inadequate testing. It's not clear that all the potential problems have been identified, so NASA's decision to cancel the 2001 lander's launch may be a good call -- I have mixed feelings about it.

    But in any case, NIMA's "discovery" is extremely tentative (despite the ridiculously misleading headline (for shame, /.!), and I wouldn't base any decision on it at the moment. Something tells me that NASA won't launch it under any circumstances, especially given the Bush administration's attitudes toward NASA in general... more's the pity.

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  • i have a feeling that some aliens from mars detected a the mars lander and somehow meddle with it. have someone seen fanta or i think its f&n advertisement...haha...i forgot herlowwwwrrggg... firdaus
  • "Space.com is reporting that the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) believes they've located the Mars Polar Lander, intact on it's landing legs."

    I bet you the just found a rock that looks like the lander.

    Also didn't NASA sell the pathfinder on Ebay???
  • The polar lander crashed. It was given up for dead. Have some respect for it. We could probably 'rescue' it and try to reprogram it. The people over at Nasa are geniuses ( yes, the real rocket scientists) but the public has already said goodbye. Besides, how do we know this is not some 'coverup' by Nasa to get more funding now that Bush has cut their already meager supply back? 30 minutes, 300 million miles, and Photoshop, and they can have anything they want. Who is going to check them?

  • One Word:

    Illuminati

    --
  • I see a lot of people getting the wrong idea here.

    There are too many posts stating "Now we can get it up and running!" The problem was never "we can't find it to operate it", it was "we can't contact it to operate it." If it, actually, *is* the polar lander (it isn't a positive ID, yet), and it is intact and landed properly, it just explains that the problem wasn't a crash, but, in fact, a software problem. NASA didn't test it thoroughly enough.

    Sure, they will try and contact it again, but don't be surprised when it doesn't magically come to life now that they (possibly) know where it is.

    --
  • So that's what they are hiding in area 51

    My guess, NASA has been turning over the data from the mars polar orbitor and they have been going over it a pixel at a time.

    If I remember correctly, the lander was only supposed to be 2 to 3 pixels in size in the images. So I'm guessing they have a few pixels that don't look right.

    As for being able to see the three landing legs, I think this is a Red Herring. Remember Lou Dobbs (space.com) like NASA is a little short on money these days. The legs are an artifact of either the reporter or the person that leaked the story ...

    If these pixels are not the lander, and not image defects, what are they...

    TastesLikeHerringFlavoredChicken
  • If you've ever seen some of the interpretations of some of those PI guys, you would be amazed. The level of incredulousness is, well, incredulous.

    "See this thing here? That's an underground base. You can tell by the indentation... here... which is a vent..."

    It's all you can do to stop from saying "Give me a frikkin' break here! You guys are totally making this stuff up!"

    But they have years of PI experience and seem pretty confident in what they do. It's like having your doctor go over your x-rays with you. You're looking at white patterns on a black background. But they can see things you never thought possible.

    It is a good testament to the power of the human mind. I bet no computer AI could ever gain the insight the human mind can in these fields. Remember the sonar guy in (the BOOK) "Hunt for Red October"? How he could hear a whale fart from 100 miles and tell you shich kind of whale and what he had for breakfast? heh, that kind of thing...
  • It's no big secret. They have a lot of expertise in analyzing imagery. They said they would be willing to put some of their best people to spend some spare time on a fun project.Yup. Nothing more fun than trying to find an ill-engineered piece of equipment that cost US taxpayers millions. :)
  • I thought you installed the batteries.

  • I can't imagine how it managed to land on it's legs. the wildest streak of luck imaginable.

    I thought that it got flipped over and everything. but I guess not:

    NIMA is a combat support agency of the Department of Defense. The agency has a global mission and unique responsibilities to manage and provide imagery and geo-spatial information to national policymakers and military forces. A world-class leader in imagery intelligence, NIMA routinely supports the operations of top-secret U.S. national security spacecraft. They employ specialists in maximizing information that can be gleaned from surveillance photography.

    "Shortly after the loss of Mars Polar Lander, NIMA and NASA began working together analyzing images of the intended landing site and to try to locate the spacecraft," said Jennifer Lafley, a NIMA spokeswoman. "At this point, the results of this study are not conclusive, and the agencies are working together on resolving a number of technical questions," Lafley said.

    NIMA experts believe they have identified the Mars Polar Lander. Furthermore, the source said that the lander appears intact on the surface, sitting atop its trio of landing legs. If so, that finding calls to question a failure review board that cited a software glitch and inadequate testing procedures as a likely cause for the probe to smack into Mars' surface at high speed.

    Looks like that mapping geeks took to using the Nasa photos as a training exercise, or something. I think NIMA was featured in a couple of Slash stories a few months back, again featuring mapping stuff. but I can't find the links right off.

  • ... and don't forget all the fuel having been sucked dry.

    Damn'd martians. Thiefs, uncivilized. Sure they need a good police intervention to tech them to respect peaceful scientific equipment.

  • The Polar Lander MUST be somewhere on that photo. Of course it takes sharp eyes to find it, but, eeeeh, it took also more than one full year to specialized spies to spot it ! http://photojournal-b.jpl.nasa.gov/outdir/PIA02393 .22379.jpeg [nasa.gov]
  • Let what die?

    I've got news for you. It's a machine.

    It was built to serve as a scientific data gatherer and was thought to have failed.

    If this can still be somewhat accomplished, then you and me as taxpayers funding this excellent piece of engineering are getting more bang for our buck then we were originally getting. Hooray for that.

  • Real beaches won't exist by the time that happens.

    ---
  • Hey, you got me - I meant to say canyons and such, but my grasp of the English language seemed to escape me at that moment. Thanks for clarifying that with me.

  • by Daemosthenes (199490) on Monday March 19, 2001 @06:54PM (#352775)
    If NASA is able to spot a polar lander from orbital photography, why do we still have all these disputes over the history of mars; i.e. whether or not Mars had water, whether canals were formed by water, etc. It just seems like they would be able to determine it with that kind of image clarity. Perhaps someone more informed on the subject could elaborate...

  • the story says "may have" yet the headline says it did. lets hear it for internet journalism...


    NEWS: cloning, genome, privacy, surveillance, and more! [silicongod.com]
  • They can't have it both ways. Either they can see enough detail to see that this is a thing with tripod legs, or they can't. If they can, then its the lander. If they can't, well, then they can't, and making statements about orientation doesn't make sense. Its incongruous to say both things in the same article.

    Flat5
  • Relax, man. My point is that "intact, sitting upright on tripod legs" is a hell of a lot of detail for an object which they, at the same time, can't ID as the lander. Comprende?

    Flat5
  • by Flat5 (207129) on Monday March 19, 2001 @08:04PM (#352779)
    How the hell can they not be sure that they're seeing the polar lander, yet at the same time report that it is "sitting upright on its tripod legs"!?!

    "Ok, yeah, see that lander thing there sitting upright on its tripod legs? We suspect that might be one of NASA's craft, maybe even the polar lander that was supposed to land in that spot, which had tripod legs on which it was supposed to sit. But then again, we're just not sure... our crack 'mars lander-type objects sitting on tripod legs' team is working on it right now!"

    Flat5
  • Too bad americans are so easily fooled by these weasel words.

    You may have a point.

    Then again, what proof do you have that Americans are so much more gullible than any other nationality?

    I think a better statement would be: It's too bad PEOPLE are so easily fooled by these weasel words.

    And that's because people are not skeptical enough.
  • by Flavius Stilicho (220508) on Monday March 19, 2001 @09:35PM (#352784)
    I wish I could take credit for this but it was posted by an AC way back.... it may be closer to the truth than anyone could have guessed:

    "150 years from now when men find the crashed probe on mars, the LCD display will probably read: PH33R /\/\y 31337 h4x0r1n6 5K1LLZ!
    - K1n6 Kr4x0r! 1999"

  • I hate "journalism" like this. Why even report something using words like "may have". It conveys nothing...Too bad americans are so easily fooled by these weasel words.

    "Hey, slow down a bit. That bridge may have iced over."

    "Silence, foolish American! You convey nothing! I will not be fooled by your weasel word--*CRUNCH*

  • "If found intact, it would mean that we would have to re examine our most probable cause of failure."

    That should be reason enough.

  • by CrimsonHat (245444) on Monday March 19, 2001 @07:16PM (#352789)
    "If anybody is saying that they have definitively proved to [the] 99 percentile that Mars Polar Lander has or hasn't been found, they are overstating the situation grossly," Weiler said.

    According to the /. headline, it HAS been found. Anybody else get the feeling that things around here get overstated from time to time?

  • Where would you expect to find the mars polar lander?

    Behind the fridge

    Clamped in a parking lot

    trolling on slashdot

    CowboyNeal

    Mars

    Seemed pretty obvious to me.... CowboyNeal! ;-)

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