Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Mars NASA

Spirit Outlasts Viking 2 Lander 137

Posted by Zonk
from the in-for-the-long-haul dept.
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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Spirit Outlasts Viking 2 Lander

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

    * Robot
    * Gigantor
    * Bender
    * James Bond
    * Borg I
    * CowboyNeal
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ScrewMaster (602015)
      Good list, but I'd add a couple more:

      * V'ger
      * Nomad
      • by liquidpele (663430) on Sunday August 12, 2007 @09:14PM (#20207563) Journal
        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]
        • 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.
        • 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 (squeak
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by toddestan (632714)
      On the contrary - the hardware may eventually perish, but the Spirit will live on forever.
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      Optimus Prime?
    • by Tablizer (95088)
      If I were a space-exploring-robot I'd want a better name

      How about Troller 1 and Troller 2
             
      • by jamstar7 (694492)

        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'.

    • by antdude (79039)
      * Moonraker :)
  • Nuclear powered (Score:5, Informative)

    by FTL (112112) <<eman.resarf.lien> <ta> <todhsals>> on Sunday August 12, 2007 @07:48PM (#20206993) Homepage
    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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday August 12, 2007 @08:09PM (#20207131) Homepage Journal

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

      • by Anonymous Coward
        I wonder what fine engineer had to take the fall. We all make mistakes... it must have been very embarrassing for him.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cdrudge (68377)
          Not as embarrassing as the whole English/Metric units of measure though.
        • by beckerist (985855)
          and I wonder where the antennae is pointing now? and what alien race is seeing incoming data from an uninhabited planet and scratching their...top-most-body parts...!
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        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: (Score:2, Informative)

          by KDR_11k (778916)
          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: (Score:2, Funny)

        by diodeus (96408)
        I think the rovers should find the Vikings and beat the snot out of them.
    • by syzler (748241)
      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 (Score:4, Informative)

        by nelsonal (549144) on Sunday August 12, 2007 @08:38PM (#20207331) Journal
        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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by camperdave (969942)
          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 (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 12, 2007 @08:41PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by drsquare (530038)
          Then why don't just they say 'Mars days', or even 'suns', so everyone knows what they're talking about?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            or even 'suns',

            What exactly do you think that "sol" means?

            • by drsquare (530038)
              If sol means sun, why use sol in the first place? I hope for the sake of consistency, that they use latin names for all the other words. Otherwise they'd just be pretentious.
          • Re:Nuclear powered (Score:4, Informative)

            by C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) on Monday August 13, 2007 @07:54AM (#20210931) Journal
            because not everyone in the world speak english. and nasa colaborates wit the ESA, wich is composed by many countries wich speak latin languages (portuguese, spanish, french, italian,...). and "sol" comes right from latin.

            it's all about being nice with their partners.
    • Delete *.* (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Tablizer (95088)
      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 Tit
      • 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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          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 *.* (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Lord Crc (151920) on Sunday August 12, 2007 @09:17PM (#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.
    • by 3vi1 (544505)

      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?
      • by Bios_Hakr (68586)
        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: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PPH (736903)

      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.
    • Could Viking 1 be returned to service if a signal reached the antenna?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by xant (99438)
      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.
    • The 2008 lander left earth Aug 3 for a polar region landing May 25, 2008. Surpisingly it is still solar powered, though the solar intensity is much low at that latitude. It doesnt move, but digs deep into the permafrost. It is a replacement for craft that crashed due to the meter-feet mixup.

      The 2009 rover is nuclear powered. Its the size of a minivan and considered too large for solar power. Its also too large for an airbag landing like the last three rovers, so it has retro rockets.
  • that needs a big fat asterisk. Seriously, a "90-day mission" and it's still going 3 years later? Something is rotten in Mars.
    • by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday August 12, 2007 @08:29PM (#20207263) Journal
      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.
             
    • by camperdave (969942) on Sunday August 12, 2007 @09:51PM (#20207817) Journal
      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.
    • by oni (41625)
      a "90-day mission" and it's still going 3 years later? Something is rotten in Mars.

      I'm not sure what you're getting at. What exactly is rotten on Mars? NASA asked for a rover with a design life of 90 days. Engineers built a rover that would last at least 90 days. What's the problem?
  • 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 (Score:5, Funny)

      by niteice (793961) <icefragment@gmail.com> on Sunday August 12, 2007 @08:02PM (#20207075) Journal

      Challenger

      Columbia

      • Made me wince, then laugh
      • Re:NASA (Score:5, Informative)

        by TheSuperlative (897959) on Sunday August 12, 2007 @08:13PM (#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: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          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: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward
            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 be
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          If you really want to pick nits... Challenger didn't fail, the shit to which it was strapped failed.
      • Well, the expected operational life of a shuttle was only 10 years, so Challenger, yes, but Columbia, no.
    • Re:NASA (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Rorzabal (1138403) on Sunday August 12, 2007 @08:04PM (#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 /."
      • by Tablizer (95088)
        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 co
      • Do you even understand what engineers do? How did this meme get started anyhow? It's like people want to pretend they could do better if only THEY were allowed to design the rovers instead of JPL. I just don't get it.
  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Sunday August 12, 2007 @08:18PM (#20207199) Journal
    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: (Score:2, Funny)

      by tftp (111690)
      Finally, finally: I have no friends.

      But you have 23 fans ...

      • by DynaSoar (714234)
        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.

    • And they've slowed it down since then to check against digging oneself into a sand dune as they did for six weeks two years ago.
  • 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.
    • by Tablizer (95088)
      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".
           
    • 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,
      • 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.
      • by Tablizer (95088)
        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
      • by jamesh (87723)

        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.
      • by SolusSD (680489)
        surely you've changed your oil, check fluid levels, etc.
  • by dnoble (56642)
    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]
    htt [nasawatch.com]
  • by LS (57954) on Monday August 13, 2007 @03:44AM (#20209637) Homepage
    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
    • by Ogive17 (691899)
      While normally I would agree with you, I must admit that those two tags gave me a chuckle when I read them this morning.

      It seems that every few days they open up the tagging system and we see these unhelpful tags pop up on stories. Then they go back to being strict about the tags... maybe it's just one editor who finds them funny.
  • Have it go through a drug test and then we'll see how valid its 'streak' holds up.
  • 37 kilometers in eleven months in 1973. ABout three times further than Opportunity. Since computers werent that great in those days, it was operated in real time with two-second delay controller. Mars can have time lag up to 30 minutes.

If money can't buy happiness, I guess you'll just have to rent it.

Working...