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Space Mars NASA Science

Top Ten Discoveries of the Mars Rovers 176

Posted by Zonk
from the martian-winters-are-nippy dept.
eldavojohn writes "Space.com brings us the top ten discoveries of the Martian rovers that landed there in 2004. They were expected to last three months but, as Slashdot has covered time and time again, they have lasted over three years. From minor discoveries about the formation of Mars to images of atmospheric phenomena, to final and definitive proof of a Mars with water, these two robots have definitely reserved themselves a place in the history books. Pending a dust storm, they may not even be done with their mission yet."
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Top Ten Discoveries of the Mars Rovers

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  • Greatest discovery (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Joaz Banbeck (1105839) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @07:52PM (#19978035)
    That the best publicity comes from making moderately low predictions of success, then when you exceed them you look heroic.
    • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @08:48PM (#19978491) Homepage Journal
      Who modded parent 'troll'??? He/she is right: NASA didn't understand publicity too well when they acted like the shuttle was safe enough for a teacher and then they killed her. Now NASA is learning how to do publicity. And in the long run that may be the most important thing because good publicity means more funding.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DerekLyons (302214)

        Who modded parent 'troll'???

        Somebody with enough brain to not credit the tinfoil hat nonsense that NASA somehow overdesigns their craft and make performance claims only a fraction of that actually built.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Wookietim (1092481)
        It's interesting.... Here we have a piece of engineering inspecting the surface of another world, sending back important information. We may be finding the building blocks of life on another planet. And the first two posts to this news story discusses the advertising prowess of NASA.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by hobo sapiens (893427)
          You make a good point, but in the arena NASA plays in, namely the great grab for public funds, marketing is essential.

          Do you work in IT? The decision in favor of a solution/team/product/company often comes down to marketing. Well, NASA is in the same boat.

          Imagine yourself in a position to make a decision that affects mountains of taxpayer money, and therefore your reputation, and in turn your future employment prospects. You certainly don't have time to critically evaluate everything that comes your way.
      • The part I would object to is the thought that maybe the rovers were designed to live three years but the publicly stated expectation was three months. I think a person that knows the history of how long rovers last would have made a more realistic statement.

        Previously, I think the longest extraterrestrial rover live was about 85 days. There is no experience with or history of multi-year rover life like this. A few rovers didn't last for days.
        • by plague3106 (71849)
          Considering that we didn't really know much about what the surface of Mars as actually like, I don't think you can say that NASA purposefully mislead anyone. Perhaps they beleived conditions were much harsher than they turned out to be.
    • by shawn443 (882648)
      Troll? For a simple Under promise Over deliver argument. For the record, I don't agree. I think they are engineering marvels.
      • by Chmcginn (201645) *
        Your statements have no relation. They can be engineering marvels & still use the under promise/over deliver. It's actually pretty easy to do while being honest, as well - just have the most pessimistic engineer on any project estimate the time to failure. 90% of the time you'll exceed that.
        • by shawn443 (882648)
          The point is that I think NASA is marveling. As in, "How the hell did we pull this off". I don't think they meant to under promise. Even the nerds responsible are impressed, despite their "I told you so's".
    • by iamlucky13 (795185) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @01:34AM (#19980093)
      Ok, not to diminish the validity of the "Scotty method" of project estimating, but someone should probably once again join this discussion to clarify this point:

      The mission plans called for a minimum of 90 days operations and a certain amount of driving (400 meters IIRC). This was not a prediction of the actual performance, but the criteria for mission success. Less than that would be considered only partially successful.

      However, they did expect the rovers to last longer, based on the performance of Pathfinder and Sojourner, and therefore included an operations budget extension of 90 days in the budget. Not exactly a secret. By this time they figured it was about 50/50 whether dust accumulation would have robbed them of too much power or something would've broken, so the budget had an allowance for another extension of 180 days just in case.

      At this point, they were pretty sure the rovers would be dead. NASA actually had to get special approval from congress to fund an additional one year of operations funding. Well guess what happened when that year was up. Yep.

      So now they've gone 14 times the mission success criteria and 3-1/2 times NASA's best predictions. Opportunity has had a disabled heater on its infrared spectrometer for a while, Spirit has had a dead wheel motor for well over a year, and both of the rock abrasion tools are worn out from so much use, but they're still ticking. Of course, there is a real danger from the dust storm currently enveloping the planet, but I've got my fingers crossed.
  • sigh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by djupedal (584558) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @08:07PM (#19978159)
    If credit is to be tossed around, anthropomorphizing devices such as these tends to ignore the 'real' people that harnessed imagination and creativity so that 'they' could scuttle around another world.

    Why the childish urge to conjure up cute little clanking robots instead of simply patting a fellow human being on the back? ...don't answer that, thanks.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aluvus (691449)

      The people are many and nebulous. It takes a lot of people to pull something like this off.

      By contrast, there are just two rovers on Mars. People know their names.

      And they are easy to anthropomorphize. There they are, alone in a harsh landscape far from home. "Surviving" far longer than anyone had expected. And let's face it, they're kind of cute in a way.

      The Hubble telescope is a similar situation. For that matter, so are manned launches. It's a lot easier to idolize the handful of astronauts

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Rayaru (898516)
      Here at Cornell we pretty much idolize quite a few of the folks that made the Mars Rovers possible, including Profs. Jim Bell [cornell.edu] and Steve Squyres [wikipedia.org].
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Not to mention the rovers really hate it when you anthropomorphize them...
  • by denttford (579202) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @08:29PM (#19978347) Homepage
    Obits for Nerds. Robots that mattered.

    Seriously, no band survives the greatest hits album.
    • by srn_test (27835)
      Yeah, U2 broke up just after their greatest hits, back in the early 90s.

      Oh, wait. :P
    • You're saying that Spirit and Opportunity are going to break up? That's like, uh, Captain with no Tenile. Or Steely with no Dan. I bet it was that bitch, Mars Express Orbiter. I never trusted her.
  • by imperious_rex (845595) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @08:29PM (#19978349)
    Dejah Thoris
    • I'd have been willing to settle for Podkayne.
      • by Cadallin (863437)
        Unfortunately, Pokayne's ended up on Venus. :(

        Died there unfortunately (at least, according to the original edit, not the original release). Beautiful Platinum Blonde girls from another planet dying in a nuclear explosion on a Jungle Venus make me a sad panda :(

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @08:35PM (#19978385)
    OK, first of all, almost all of the taxes you've paid for the last 10 years have already been spent several times over so we can Spread Democracy and Freedom.

    Secondly, NASA engineers managed to create machines that were able to accurately and consistently navigate the surface of Mars safely and efficiently almost entirely on their own.

    If anything, I wish NASA got more taxpayer money.

    AC
    • by guruevi (827432)
      Or maybe not. Before, NASA got a bunch of money from the government and look what they did with it: they wasted it to take some pictures of self on the moon and then noticed that it's not very healthy there, they built that monstrosity that is called Shuttle and they foremost expanded their bureaucracy to the point where A doesn't know whether B used metric or 'the olden system'. Look at the Russians, the scarcity let them build 'dumb' rockets that did their job and could then be simply dismantled, abandone
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kadin2048 (468275) *
        Your rant would make more sense if it were consistent. The Russians, who you seem to be lauding, are the very definition of "mil-spec overengineered devices". Have you ever seen their Venus probes? Some of them were so overbuilt there really wasn't any room for scientific instruments. But they were going to get to the surface, by golly, and they threw titanium at the problem like it was going out of style.

        I think the success of the Russian space program is attributable in large part to the fact that they co
  • no Mars Face?
  • A mile long translucent worm or tunnel, Cydonia was built by ancient Martians and alien artifacts buried in the Martian soil.

    No thanks to Richard Hoagland.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @08:41PM (#19978429)
    10 - Opportunity provides tantalizing glimpse of Victoria crater.
      9 - Evidence of volcanic origin for Gusev crater.
      8 - First meteorite identified on another planet.
      7 - Discover of sulfur suggests Mars stink.
      6 - Helps scientists determine that Mars had three distinct geological eras.
      5 - Martian dust devils captured on film.
      4 - First shot of Earth from distant planet.
      3 - Photographs Earth-like clouds on Mars.
      2 - Helps scientists create first atmospheric temperature profile of Mars.
      1 - First definitive evidence that water flowed on mars, including blueberries, hematite, and silica.
    • by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @11:42PM (#19979619) Journal
      10 - O crater
      9 - .../ \... volcanic
      8 - ...*... meteor
      7 - ~~~ stink
      6 - A..B..C three eras
      5 - ...//... dust devils
      4 - [ . ] Earth from mars
      3 - o@o clouds
      2 - ~!~ atmospheric profile
      1 - H2O water history

      I think the 2 neatests things from a spectator's viewpoint were the dust devil movies and the spherical blueberries. Burn's Cliff was also cool.
               
  • This is cool stuff (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ekhymosis (949557) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @08:41PM (#19978433) Homepage
    Honestly, this has got to be one of the coolest things in a very long time for NASA. Not only has their multi-million project blown away the three-month lifespan, but the amount of data being recorded has got to be making those NASA scientists and the scientific community cream in their pants on a regular basis. We can learn with greater detail how planets and the galaxies are created, and begin to develop a very crude technical draft for mars colonization. The more data we take, the better the chances that, while probably not in our lifetime, soon enough the first stage of extraterrestrial colonization can be planned and executed. Great stuff!!!
    • ...making those NASA scientists and the scientific community cream in their pants...

      Certain scientific speculation may have its merits, but I could do without this kind!

    • I have to agree, it is one of the most successful missions in NASA's history, yet it brings me back to that notion that if you just let robots do the work, nobody cares: funding continues to shrink etc.. I mean how many people out there in the world really even know these little rovers are still working on mars? How many care?
      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        I know and don't care. There are people living on this planet without potable water to drink--while we're wasting millions of $ to discover evidence of ancient water on a sterile, uninhabitable, distant rock.
  • by ZiggyStardust1984 (1099525) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @09:02PM (#19978569)
    Decepticons!
  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @11:15PM (#19979467) Journal
    If you need a good way to stick a CD to your dashboard, sandwich it between Legos.

    http://marsrovers.nasa.gov/gallery/all/2/n/001/2N1 26468357EDN0000P1502L0M1.JPG [nasa.gov]

    Do a blow up on the circular object on the panel, left and down from center.

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @12:15AM (#19979771)
    ...should be to hunt down and kill whoever laid out that page for space.com.

    Putting the article text in a six line scroll box while 95% of the page is ads or blank should be an offense punishable by being skinned alive.
  • I was a little bit annoyed reading through that. You'd get this tiny little 300x200 image that you wanted to see larger and not a single link too you anywhere that you could view it... That was more than a little frustrating.
  • Possibly as its last assignment, Opportunity provides tantalizing glimpse of Victoria crater:
    Has holes in the ground.

    Evidence of volcanic origin for Gusev crater:
    Has a rock.

    First meteorite identified on another planet:
    Has a foreign rock.

    Discover of sulfur suggests Mars stink:
    Maybe Has some kind of smell.

    Helps scientists determine that Mars had three distinct geological eras:
    Has rocks.

    Martian dust devils captured on film:
    Has atmosphere.

    First shot of Earth from distant planet:
    Earth is still here.

    Photographs E
  • Most days the scientist/engineers upload the daily commands in the Martian morning, then download telemetry and data in the evening. Inbetween the Rovers pretty much operate on their own. There have been occasional snafus like Opportunity getting stuck in a sand dune for six weeks. But its been reprogrammed to detect getting stuck and not digging itself in now.

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