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Mars NASA Science

Spirit and Opportunity Are Back Online 145

Posted by kdawson
from the back-after-a-good-long-hunker dept.
PinkyGigglebrain sends us news that the Mars rovers have survived the dust storms that have swept the surface of Mars for the last 6 weeks. How well they survived remains to be seen. Due to a combination of dust still suspended in the atmosphere and dust on the rovers' solar panels, they are only producing about half the power they normally would. The article is a little sparse on the exact health of the rovers but it's good to know they are still with us.
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Spirit and Opportunity Are Back Online

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  • from Mars!

    Ehm, anyway, it's nice to know they're still alive, but it would be interesting to see how the reduced power affects the rovers.
    • Simple Advice (Score:4, Informative)

      by VernonNemitz (581327) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @10:52PM (#20447753) Journal
      WAIT. Eventually a Martian dust-devil will pass over a rover, and after this "cleaning event" [space.com] occurs, THEN is the time to start significant operations again.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        What a bunch of NASA lies!

        The REAL truth is that both rovers are zombie robots, and have been for years. My advice is to send nukes immediately before the find a way to get back to Earth!
        • by Tablizer (95088)
          NASA lies! The REAL truth is that both rovers are zombie robots, and have been for years. My advice is to send nukes immediately before the find a way to get back to Earth!

          This is your brain on too much cheezy sci-fi.
               
      • Nope. Do what you can with the power you have now. The work done will accumulate more slowly; but, you're still making progress. When (if) the "cleaning event" occurs, ramp up operations.
        • Why not just have wipers on the solar panels? Or a vibrate and anti-static function like you get on CCDs in digital cameras.
          • by rucs_hack (784150)
            wipers would have meant extra mass.

            Also, they originally thought the rover would only last three months.
          • Wiping the dust off the panels would do more harm than good because it would scratch them up. Anti-static function won't work either because a.) it would require more power than they had and b.) what is the typical polarity of the Martian dust?
            • So we're left with shake. Should work fine as long as Nintendo or Anne Summers don't sue them for nicking their rumbly technology.
            • by necro81 (917438)
              When Alexander Litvinenko [wikipedia.org] was poisoned with Polonium-210, the media publicized that it was commercially available, although in very small quantities, in little brushes used for removing dust from lenses and old film [amateurpho...pher.co.uk]. Po-210 is an alpha-particle emitter, which imparts that +2 ionization onto whatever it impacts. Once the dust on the lense or film is positively ionized, it repels itself and whatever it's sticking to, allowing it to be removed with essentially no mechanical action (like wiping), which could
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 02, 2007 @10:37PM (#20447673)
    So the site didn't get too many details? Just go to the NASA page... Convienient NASA website [nasa.gov]
  • by Sneakernets (1026296) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @10:40PM (#20447679) Journal
    I'm so glad these machines made it, I was seriously concerned if we would get any more information from these rovers. From what I heard, it would have been many months for replacements to arrive, and that would only be if there would be replacements at all.

    Go, Spirit and Opportunity!
    • by Tuoqui (1091447)
      Yeah now if only they could build a car as durable as these things
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Blahbooboo3 (874492)
        They can, you just wouldn't want to pay for it... :)
      • by jamstar7 (694492)

        Yeah now if only they could build a car as durable as these things

        We certainly got our moneys' worth out of these rovers, that's for sure.

        Yeah, it'd be nice for us the consumer if we could get cars that would last a similar amount of time. But that would be seriously bad for the auto manufacturers, the auto making unions, and a few zillion other people as well. Don't expect to see it happen in our lifetimes...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by NormalVisual (565491)
          I'd settle for just a durable power window mechanism, instead of those Bowden cable pieces of shit they use now.
        • by Brickwall (985910)
          Yeah, it'd be nice for us the consumer if we could get cars that would last a similar amount of time. But that would be seriously bad for the auto manufacturers, the auto making unions, and a few zillion other people as well. Don't expect to see it happen in our lifetimes...

          Um, they've lasted three years. My last car lasted 13 (and I didn't do any maintenance on it either), and it was North American (Chrysler). But, to take you seriously, I assume you mean that they've lasted 12 times their expected life

  • Amazing (Score:5, Informative)

    by fishthegeek (943099) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @10:42PM (#20447687) Journal
    I used to think that there was just NO WAY that R2D2 could take the kind of crap he took and still survive... who'd of thought. Those robots are completely amazing to me. Designed for a 90 day mission, and here we are at over 13 times that number of days. The best part of the mission is all of the fantastic images they have sent. Check them out here [nasa.gov]
    • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Funny)

      by MouseR (3264) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @11:10PM (#20447871) Homepage
      Designed for a 90 day mission, and here we are at over 13 times that number of days

      Well, the S.S. Minnow's crew was out only for a 3 hour tour and see how long they lasted on that island?
      • by Tablizer (95088)
        Well, the S.S. Minnow's crew was out only for a 3 hour tour and see how long they lasted on that island?

        Because the Professor whipped up some nuclear-powered coconuts.
               
      • That is one of the funniest things I've read in a while. I expect this type of comedy gold from Fark, not from Slashdot :-)
      • That was brilliant!
    • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kjella (173770) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @11:24PM (#20447967) Homepage
      Well, they were never designed to be worn out after three months, they were supposed to be out of power because of dust build-up. The reason they could pass that limit is the surprising discovery that there's enough wind to clear the panels, not some feat of engineering. Still, you have to be impressed by the overengineering done in every part of the construction to let it go so far beyond the expected scope.

      I don't really get the comparison with R2D2 though, these robots are completely sealed up robots that have taken no kind of "beating", yes they've driven in hostile climate but it's all on the outside with no nasty tumbles. The way R2D2 was getting beat up he probably got all kinds of impact shock, dirt and grime in its system which would almost certainly rendered it unfunctional. To say nothing of C3PO which was torn apart several times...
    • Here's the best picture. [nasa.gov]

      Seriously, this Mars rover business is really freakin' cool. It actually has me rooting for a robot, just because these things will not quit.
    • I used to think that there was just NO WAY that R2D2 could take the kind of crap he took and still survive... who'd of thought. Those robots are completely amazing to me. Designed for a 90 day mission, and here we are at over 13 times that number of days.

      You do know that this was the estimate of the time it would take for the dust to cover the solar panels to the point where they ould be inoperable?
      Turns out wind clears up dust on Mars AND on Earth! Whowouldathought?

      The nifty dirt devil helped, too.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tablizer (95088)
      I used to think that there was just NO WAY that R2D2 could take the kind of crap he took and still survive... who'd of thought. Those robots are completely amazing to me.

      The Force is with them.
             
    • by bilabrin (1127623)
      Designed for a 90 day mission, and here we are at over 13 times that number of days

      They're like the Maccabees of Mars!

  • Ideas for next time? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wilson_6500 (896824) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @10:42PM (#20447689)
    I suppose if we send another rover to Mars, they might--out of optimism--include a way for the solar panels to free themselves of dust? I know they supposedly didn't expect the rovers to last for quite this long, but it seems like being proactive about this sort of thing really wouldn't hurt for the next time around. I imagine it'd have to be a pretty low-energy method for doing so, and if it's really fine dust it might be a tough job. Maybe piezoeletrically vibrating the panels, if they're set at an angle, would work.
    • by scoot80 (1017822) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @10:48PM (#20447723) Journal
      I think getting an extra arm with a dust wiping cloth would be a good idea too. Maybe two arms - one that sprays Windex, and the other one to polish. Might be a little energy inefficient, but quicker.
      • This guy is a genius!! Where can I send money to??
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Strider- (39683)
        It's very simple. They had the opportunity to put on a panel cleaning system that may or may not be effective, or launch another scientific instrument. The weight and power budget did not allow for both. They made the right choice.
      • by Brickwall (985910)
        I think getting an extra arm with a dust wiping cloth would be a good idea too. Maybe two arms - one that sprays Windex, and the other one to polish. Might be a little energy inefficient, but quicker.

        I know, I know!! Send up an army of squeegee kids with the rovers.. of course, then you'd have to equip the rovers with dollar bills.

    • The problem isn't necessarily dust on the panels, but dust in the atmosphere. Only reliable way I can think of to overcome that problem would be nuclear power, or very large batteries.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Tablizer (95088)
        The problem isn't necessarily dust on the panels, but dust in the atmosphere.

        It's both actually. The dust in the atmosphere appears to be settling on the rovers as it settles from the sky. Spirit's microscope became fogged with dust during the storm because of this and they are taking images to assess the damage and to use as reference images to attempt to digitally correct the distortion caused by the dust. I've read that both rovers are currently performing tests of most their instruments to assess dus
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by QuantumG (50515)
      The next Mars lander Phoenix [arizona.edu] launched last month. It will arrive in May next year.

      Although it's not a "rover" it does have solar panels for power. I believe there is no way to clean the solar panels of dust.

      So, in short, no, lesson not learned.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by arthurpaliden (939626)
        The lesson has been learned. The problem is how do you get permission to launch a satalite with a nuclear (alpha partical emitter) power genarator when you get every brain dead anti-nuclear chicken little screaming that you will cause the death of all humanity.
        • The problem is how do you get permission to launch a satalite with a nuclear (alpha partical emitter) power genarator when you get every brain dead anti-nuclear chicken little screaming that you will cause the death of all humanity.

          The problem is slashdot posters who haven't a clue what they are talking about repeating memes that are absolutely at variance with the facts.

          The fact is, protests and lawsuits over RTG powered probes have been noticeable by their absence for the last few. (JIMO had non

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by isotope123 (1151153)
        The Phoenix lander is going to the pole, so it isn't expected to survive long enough for dust on the panels to be a problem. The mision is 90 days. Once winter comes, the probe will be frozen in carbon dioxide ice, which will pretty much kill it. I believe they plan to try to talk to it again when summer comes the next martian year, just in case it survives though. The next Mars Rover, the MSL is planned for launch in September 09 and will be powered by a RTG (radioisotope thermoelectric generator). Sa
      • by cbreaker (561297)
        While I'm sure there's plenty of people working on these things that know a hell of a lot more then I do, I've never been satisfactorily explained why you can't wipe dust off of a panel of glass?

        They sent the damned thing to mars - you'd think they'd be able to adapt a wiper to work on it.
        • Maybe because wiping the dust off would produce scratches that would be worse than the dust sitting there? Don't know, just a guess.
          • by pakar (813627)
            Just a few simple ideas that would help them..

            - If there is an atmosphere you can use a simple fan to blow the dust away.
            - Make the solar-collector a little convex and add some type of 'shaker' that would allow the dust drain off the panel. Maybe even just driving around would cause enough vibrations for this.
            - For the camera, add a simple lens-cap that could protect it.
            - For additional cleaning of different areas, have a number of tubes to the lens and other critical areas and then have a small fan attache
            • I don't know for certain, but I don't think that the atmosphere is thick enough to make a fan cost-effective for the weight that would be required. A small pump and resevoir might be able to take that thin atmosphere, compress it and blow the dust off the solar panel. If this were possible, the air nozzle could even be mounted on an articulated arm so that it could clean dust off almost any part of the rover.
            • by Rakishi (759894)

              - If there is an atmosphere you can use a simple fan to blow the dust away.

              Atmosphere is thin.

              - Make the solar-collector a little convex and add some type of 'shaker' that would allow the dust drain off the panel. Maybe even just driving around would cause enough vibrations for this.

              Constant vibrations would probably cause damage to the rover. Curved solar collector is less efficient. Dust seems to stick to the panels so it wouldn't come off anyway.

              - For the camera, add a simple lens-cap that could protect it.

              Now you need a motor to take t off and on, circuitry to control the motor, heaters to keep the whole mess from freezing and so on.

              - For additional cleaning of different areas, have a number of tubes to the lens and other critical areas and then have a small fan attached to blow away any remaining dust. Might even be useful to clear away dust from stones it want to study.

              Atmosphere is thin. Fans would work like shit. Then they'd die from continual usage.

              - To reduce the weight why not put most of the processing power into the lander that extends an antenna a few meters into the air while keeping the same size on the solar panels to allow for more power to the instruments and drive, and if the lander-relay is out of range just reduce the power to the instruments and increase the power to the transmitter.

              Then you need the lander to clean its own panels and keep itself alive. The processing power is already a

        • by Dunbal (464142) on Monday September 03, 2007 @02:05AM (#20448911)
          I've never been satisfactorily explained why you can't wipe dust off of a panel of glass?

          They sent the damned thing to mars - you'd think they'd be able to adapt a wiper to work on it.


                Why on earth is everyone trying to wipe dust off the panels? THE ROVERS ARE STILL WORKING DESPITE THE DUST. If it ain't broke, don't try to fix it. You're just adding another level of complexity, and another system that can break (and take the rest of the robot with it).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tablizer (95088)
        The next Mars lander Phoenix launched last month. It will arrive in May next year. Although it's not a "rover" it does have solar panels for power. I believe there is no way to clean the solar panels of dust. So, in short, no, lesson not learned.

        You have to understand how it works. They are given a fixed budget and specific goals. They cannot blow the budget just because something *might* outlast the design goals. Plus, Phoenix is expected to be completely buried in water or CO2 ice by mid-winter with no
    • by Jmanamj (1077749)
      Hmmm... Im thinking fancy little window wipers like certain upscale cars use on their headlights... These rovers have been surprisingly robust. Wheres the people who say America makes cheap vehicles now?
      • Problem is, all the American engineers that know how to create a durable vehicle are busy building Mars rovers, instead of your next Impala/Taurus/Sebring.
      • by David Gould (4938)

        Im thinking fancy little window wipers like certain upscale cars use on their headlights...

        I would have assumed they'd have the ability to tilt the panels (to point them toward the sun), which is why I was surprised by this:

        Mission managers directed the rover to head for the slope of the Victoria crater. This will mean the solar panels will be pointing directly at the sun, allowing the little craft to maximise its photon collection.

        If they have to move the whole rover to point the panels, that seems to imply that the panels aren't movable. But if they were, they'd be able to get another dust-removing mechanism almost for free, just by making the mounting's range of motion a bit wider, such that they could turn it upside-down to dump the dust.

    • ...include a way for the solar panels to free themselves of dust?

      While admittedly hit or miss as a design element for future rovers, dust devils have been observed responsible for blowing off of the solar panels dust which had previously accumulated in larger dust storms.

    • by solafide (845228)
      From what I've heard, the dust particles are electrically attracted to the solar panels, so most wipers won't work.
      • by Brickwall (985910)
        From what I've heard, the dust particles are electrically attracted to the solar panels, so most wipers won't work.

        If this is true, doesn't that imply that the dust particles are charged ions? Is so, wouldn't making it possible to change the electric polarity of the skin for a few moments clear all the dust?

    • by Kjella (173770) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @11:29PM (#20447991) Homepage
      If they had a good method, they would have implemented it last time. If it wasn't practical or important enough for a three month mission where it was the clearly limiting factor, why would it be when they can run four years plus without them?
      • by SimonInOz (579741)
        I imagine the best people to ask would be the the digital SLR folk - they definitely have some experience there.
        Mind you, something of a different scale of problem. And of course their sensors are vertical, not horizontal.
        Worth a shot, though.

        Or maybe we could sent along a cat, which could sit on the solar panel and occasionally sweep it with its tail. That'd work.
        • Umm, I don't think so. We photographers just pull the lens and wipe the sensor with a little brush [visibledust.com]. Maybe you can teach your putative Space Cat to do that but I don't believe giving cats opposable thumbs would be a good idea in general.
      • by evanbd (210358) on Monday September 03, 2007 @01:14AM (#20448555)
        The issue was complicated. First, they weren't sure what the effect of dust storms would be. They got lucky; the storms seem to clean the panels more than they add dust. Second, they evaluated a number of different options for panel cleaning -- wipers, peel-away plastic covers, electrostatic devices, etc. The conclusion was there were a number of options, any of which would probably work for a while. However, it was decided that any of the options would take the place in space / weight of approximately one instrument. They decided that they'd rather have better info for a shorter time, especially given that the dust storms might turn out to clean the panels and let the rovers keep going without any cleaning system at all. So, they opted for instrumentation over longevity, and lucked out and got both.
        • Just make a tiny robot the size of an ipod that slowly drives on the panels and cleans the dust away and then throws it out the side like a mini hoover.
          Doesnt matter that it would take 1 week to clean a whole panel, it would be powered by its own battery/recharge on the side.

          Or just be cheap use a one time sticky roll on roller that rolls off, total weight a few ounces , zero electronics, 100% glue based.

          • by evanbd (210358)

            You can't build a rover that tiny and have it last as long as Spirit and Opportunity have. The reason is the same one this latest round of dust storms was worrying -- heat. Batteries need to stay warm; if they freeze, they are severely damaged or destroyed. The current rovers use a combination of a warm lump of plutonium (even with the requisite shielding, the energy density is ridiculously high) and electrical heating, along with aerogel insulation. Big things are easier to keep warm (cube/square law o

    • by Trogre (513942)
      They could make them shake with an alternating rolling motion like a wet dog. Not only would it be effective, but rather comical to behold.

    • by p0tat03 (985078)

      As an undergrad engineer, I can see a problem with this idea. Older and wiser engineers feel free to correct me :)

      The problem is that the amount of heat transfer you get from an angled panel is significantly less than one that is pointed almost perfectly at the heat source (aka sun). This is especially true considering that the panels would need to be angled steeply enough for dust to come off when small vibrations are applied (which, realistically, is all a piezoelectric vibrating thingamabob could do).

      • Too bad the panels couldn't move, changing their angle while being vibrated, huh?
        • by p0tat03 (985078)
          In my limited engineering experience, solving a complicated problem by inserting even more complicated machinery is generally a bad idea. You want something that "just works", which in mechanical-speak means that you use as few servos as possible. Keep in mind that such motors require complex control systems (heat, power drain) or large motors, or perhaps both.
          • Very true. Something inherently designed to perform it's function is what engineering is all about. Take example SpaceShipOne. It's designed to aerodynamically stabilize itself during re-entry to prevent breakup/buildup.
      • I could imagine electro statically powered nano motors to slowly move the dust. After a dust storm then the small transparent motors just make the surface move and move the dust with it. they could be on all the time, powered by the dust collecting on the panel.
    • To clean dust off the panels I'd think it be best to use a proven method: puffs of air. A small motorized air condenser could slowly pump up the pressure in a canister and then use it to blow dust off the panels. Or, just send pre-pressurized air, although that would limit the puffs. We know whirl-winds can do it. Piezoeletrical is untried and may make the problem worse if we don't understand Mars dust. Fast-moving air is known to work.
    • by students (763488)
      I heard a talk by one of the NASA people running the project. He addressed several of the ideas in this thread. His justification for the lack of any dust-removing technology was that the rovers were already at their weight limits.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 02, 2007 @10:57PM (#20447779)
    ...someone deciphers the alien lettering scrawled in the dust on Opportunity's solar panel as reading "wash me."
  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @11:05PM (#20447837) Journal
    I don't think it's at all improper to anthromorphize the little widgets and turn them into heroes. We need all the heroes we can get. Just as we'll need to expand our definition of life so we know it when we find it, we need to expand our definition of worth as individuals so we know them when we create them. I think we'll find we create them in our minds, and so already have.

    I say, point them at each other and let them try to meet up. It's probably an impossible task and they'll probably die trying. But they'll die trying, and that's what heroes often do. It would serve to make us think along those lines about ourselves. We need more heroes, and heroes start out as just one of us. If they'll just try, it will give people reason to hope and to dream. We need those more than we need the science that results from the effort.

    And who knows? They might just make it, or at least look like they might. Imagine the effect on people. Some would probably even start to call for a Mars mission to rescue the heroes and bring them home. I think that's at least as good a reason to go as any other.
    • by jon287 (977520) on Monday September 03, 2007 @12:34AM (#20448379)
      I like your sentiment, but the real heroes work at NASA. These men and women almost certainly had a rough entry into adulthood at the hands of the ignorant doofuses who populate our schools only to be greeted, upon arrival, by a space program in decline, budgets cut to fund foreign wars, and a general "who cares about space, been there done that..oooh Paris got arrested!!" attitude from the public.

      What did these people do? They took their limited budget and did their thing on another PLANET, and took us along for the ride!

      I smile every time I hear mention of the rovers on tv or see the images. Its like a giant "up yours" to all of the worthless, dog-fighting "football stars" and useless "celebrities" of the world from geeks everywhere.

      Roll on NASA engineers. Roll on rovers. You are my heroes.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I say, point them at each other and let them try to meet up.
      Then we can have them fight to the death.
    • Some would probably even start to call for a Mars mission to rescue the heroes and bring them home.
      We can send up a delivery ship, and strap on a magnetic hoist, and then get this Chinese girl, and... where was I going with this?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by dradler (627109)

      I say, point them at each other and let them try to meet up.
      I've done that calculation. It would take about 300 years, for two rovers with all six wheels working. (Spirit is currently operating with only five working wheels.) We landed them about as far apart as you can on Mars, almost on exactly opposite sides of the planet.
  • When human drove itself to extinction. When an extra-steller probe is sent to the last and only activity in the solar system (namely: opportunity & spirit) just before extinction of the alien races.

    What would happen until the sun dies and the bots will be without solar power?
  • Spirit and Opportunity??

    ..on a monday morning ?
  • Cher or the rovers, which will die first?
    • The rovers are made of metal, while cher is made mostly of plastic.
      I would assume that metal would outlive plastic.

      But then you have to think about the environment the two are in. The rovers are in a quite harsh environment while cher spends most of her time with sailors and bikers. not to mention friction burn. I'm just going to stop there.
  • The rovers' solar cells must recharge Energizer batteries. They keep on going and going...
  • sigh... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by djupedal (584558)
    "...good to know they are still with us." pfft....

    We've had this conversation before (apparently to no avail). Anthropomorphizing machines, whether you choose to name the new document shredder in the next room or pine over a planetary research vehicle that is taking a licking and yet still kicking, only serves to marginalize the human element that put them where they are.

    You want a machine for a friend, fine...R2D2 is available, all for the price of a used DVD. Knock yourself out...but please stop kni
    • I would point out that most of the people currently watching over the rovers are very fond of the two, and there would have been more than a few tears if they had been lost. I know this because I have had the good fortune to meet some of them during my last employment.

      Just because you restrict your affection to humans doesn't mean everyone else should as as well. The Universe is large enough for all sorts of views.

      And I would never knit a red, white and blue sweater for either of the rovers, it would co
    • by toddestan (632714)
      We've had this conversation before (apparently to no avail). Anthropomorphizing machines, whether you choose to name the new document shredder in the next room or pine over a planetary research vehicle that is taking a licking and yet still kicking, only serves to marginalize the human element that put them where they are.

      I'm pretty sure the rovers would disagree with you.
  • IANARS (I am not a rocket scientist), but I wonder if NASA could start building these in relative volume (10-20 or so). Then, combined with a MIRV-like rocket (that would eject each rover's landing pod at a calculated latitude/longitude), this could get more of the surface of Mars studyable close up.

    It would be an excellent (and relatively inexpensive... emphasis on relatively) way to study Mars as well as other planet's moons in great detail.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Guysmiley777 (880063)
      The issue is payload weight. It takes a huge amount of delta-V for a trans-Martian insertion from an Earth orbit, and the required Isp goes up directly with mass. Since more Isp means larger rocket (without a magical increase in rocket technology) and larger rocket means even MORE weight, the actual thrust requirement goes up more than 1:1 with increased payload.

      So in short, no you cannot just strap 10-20 rovers onto a rocket and call it good.
  • These to hardy - well engineered - bots prove that we can do a lot of space exploration and basic science remotely via small and mid-sized bots. The trick here is to not over-engineer (cost over runs) or kitchen sink (mission creep) the poor little bots. The fact that these 2 bots have gone well beyond their life expectancy is a great thing --- from these base designs should come a new generation of "bot platforms" that can accept modular payloads for missions that should last at least a year long.

    Bots tha
  • Why didn't they take dust into account when building the things, and why couldn't they just incorporate a simple brush into the robot arm to clear dust from the solar panels? Doesn't really take a rocket scientist to comprehend the value of a good set of windshield wipers.
    • Hmmmm..... Let's see, because that would be another moving part that requires power maybe ??

      Just a guess, I am not a rocket scientist after all; but, my guess is that they considered the benefits of such a thing and decided that it would yield little.
    • by argent (18001)
      They designed the things to last 90 days, remember.
  • by niceone (992278) * on Monday September 03, 2007 @06:15AM (#20450071) Journal
    So they'll be spending the next couple of days catching up on their e-mail and a backlog of facebook stuff.
  • It would be interesting to imagine what you could do with those rovers if they had an RTG or two instead of solar panels as the power source ( ignoring the inevitable debate about sending RTG's onto other planets ). Each rover could potentially survive decades if the bot was designed for longevity, and could be running night and day.

    A high power budget enables plentiful science options...

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