Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Mars NASA Space Science

Mars Rover Spirit Still Alive 185

Posted by timothy
from the brief-flower's-bloom dept.
Toren Altair writes with this excerpt from a story at The Space Fellowship: "NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit communicated via the Mars Odyssey orbiter today right at the time when ground controllers had told it to, prompting shouts of 'She's talking!' among the rover team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. 'This means Spirit has not gone into a fault condition and is still being controlled by sequences we send from the ground,' said John Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., project manager for Spirit and its twin, Opportunity."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Mars Rover Spirit Still Alive

Comments Filter:
  • by White Flame (1074973) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:02AM (#25757113)

    I'm making a note here:
    HUGE SUCCESS.

    • by Sasayaki (1096761) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:16AM (#25757195)

      It's hard to overstate my satisfaction.

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:32AM (#25757287) Homepage

        "the baby is crying"

        (from someone at JPL)

        At least you're not completely emotionally invested in this thing. Seriously, when it 'dies', somebody is going to need some serious counseling.

        • Damn right, when the news came that it was over for Phoenix I got all depressed. The poor lander all alone out there, a million miles away from home. And I don't even work at NASA.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by JosKarith (757063)
          We're all going to need some counselling. Seriously - this little "lander that can" has outperformed expectations to such a massive degree. Spirit/Opportunity models might well end up taking a place next to the Darth Spuds on geek desks across the world...
        • Seriously, when it 'dies', somebody is going to need some serious counseling.

          Cake and grief counselling will be available at the conclusion of the test. Thank you for helping us help you help us all.

        • by confused one (671304) on Friday November 14, 2008 @07:43AM (#25758959)

          Of course people are emotionally invested. Think about it for a minute...

          *waits*

          It is not unusual for someone to put in 10 years of their life planning and building one of these things. They you have to wait for the launch, wait for it to reach Mars, and hope you get some good science out of it.

          This rover was supposed to last at least 90 days. It's still going 5 years later. They're still getting good science out of it.

          Now, with some of the people on the project having 15+ years of their lives invested in this, you expect them to NOT be emotionally invested?

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            It's like having and raising a child. Except this one, at 15, doesn't live in your house and does what he's told.

            • It's like having and raising a child. Except this one, at 15, doesn't live in your house and does what he's told.

              It's like having and raising a child on Mars... Which is a real problem. Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids - in fact, it's cold as hell, and there's no-one there to raise 'em, if you did!

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by danieltdp (1287734)
            What actually amuses me is how emotionally invested *we* got. Not the NASA scientists, but the audience, the geeks out there (including me).
        • "the baby is crying"

          (from someone at JPL)

          At least you're not completely emotionally invested in this thing. Seriously, when it 'dies', somebody is going to need some serious counseling.

          True, perhaps more true than you expect. These babies do not have an "off switch", and while I'm not 100% sure what it will do in a "fault-condition" I imagine it could still try to communicate at random times. To those emotionally invested and who can't help being anthropomorphic about it, I imagine these random "fault-condition" communications would be worse than "death".

        • At least you're not completely emotionally invested in this thing. Seriously, when it 'dies', somebody is going to need some serious counseling.

          Cake and grief counseling will be available at the conclusion of the test.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Ralith (1011801)
        Aperture Science
        We do what we must, because: we can.
      • by vivin (671928)

        K'Breel, speaker for the Most Illustrious Council of Elders calmed down an indignant population:

        My fellow citizens, my gelsacs quiver with rage at the knowledge that the metal invader from the evil blue planet still stirs! It was not too long ago [slashdot.org] that we thought we had rid ourselves of this metal wretch sent by the ugly waterbags from the evil blue planet! It was only today that I was interrupted during my morning blorting to be told that we had intercepted a communication from the metal monster to its masters on the evil blue planet. But fear not! The monster is still near death and as the bitter cold approaches, I have no doubt that we will triumph against these invaders!

        When a member of the Press Corps reminded the Speaker that he had placed a "Mission Accomplished" banner above the podium during the last conference regarding the supposed death of the invader, and proceeded to ask whether in retrospect, the placement of the banner was premature, the Speaker withdrew his ceremonial spear and repeatedly pierced the gelsac of the member before the question was fully heard.

    • NASA Science Military Android contingency plan activated. Please observe mandatory test protocol safety procedure as you proceed. Remember the NASA Science Military Androids are unable to distinguish between friend, foe and even common household items such as cake flour, office chairs and ... bzzzzt ... other nuclear devices.

  • by compro01 (777531) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:04AM (#25757127)

    And we're stayin' alive, stayin' alive.
    Ah, ha, ha, ha,
    Stayin' alive.
    Stayin' alive.
    Ah, ha, ha, ha,
    Stayin' alive.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'm picturing a youtube video with rover edits, if only I was so inclined...
  • by fortapocalypse (1231686) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:10AM (#25757159)

    But I wish they did!

  • by Bananatree3 (872975) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:10AM (#25757165)
    Abe Vigoda has one [abevigoda.com],why not the mars rovers?
  • by supun (613105) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:13AM (#25757171)

    It rains and my stupid car won't start. Their little rover can travel to a different planet, survive the cold, survive dust storms, etc and keep going. Maybe instead of bailing out the "big three", we should dump all that money into NASA to make cars.

    I'm willing to risk my safety on a metric to standard conversion problem for a car that will run.

    • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:34AM (#25757301) Homepage Journal

      I agree, I think your car would run pretty darn well if you had a dozen scientists and engineers continually operating and maintaining it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        By maintaining it do you mean traveling to mars every 20 miles for an oil change?

        • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:58AM (#25757429) Homepage

          clearly he means that auto mechanics will be able to fix your car remotely from 35~250 million miles away regardless of where it breaks down. they can even get your car unstuck remotely [npr.org] if you ever get stuck in a ditch.

          suck on that OnStar! all they can do is unlock your car.

          • by Belial6 (794905) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:30AM (#25757595)
            That's not fair. OnStar can also route all audio from your car to any law enforcement group that wants to keep an eye on you!
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Walpurgiss (723989)
              I could have sworn they got in trouble for doing that because while they are tapping, the onstar system is unable to alert authorities to an emergency by its regular, intended, means.

              Meaning it can't dial out 911 or whatever if you have a normal emergency, not that the cops listening in couldn't respond.
        • Re:NASA Automotives (Score:5, Informative)

          by Tubal-Cain (1289912) * on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:08AM (#25757479) Journal
          Spirit has gone 4.8 miles [wikipedia.org] so far, and Opportunity has gone 7.68 [wikipedia.org] miles.
          • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:10AM (#25757793)

            Spirit has gone 4.8 miles [wikipedia.org] so far, and Opportunity has gone 7.68 [wikipedia.org] miles.

            +36 Million miles each if you count the commute to work.

            • Re:NASA Automotives (Score:5, Interesting)

              by silarulz (1056046) on Friday November 14, 2008 @05:23AM (#25758429) Homepage
              During the Lunokhod Programme in the late 60's and early 70's, the two rovers traveled a combined distance of 47kms on the moon! Actually I think one of the rovers still holds the record for the longest traveled distance on any extra-terrestrial planet. And that's in the 70s!
              • Re:NASA Automotives (Score:4, Informative)

                by jschen (1249578) on Friday November 14, 2008 @05:40AM (#25758475)
                Never knew about Lunokhod. That's pretty amazing. Of course, the orders of magnitude shorter communications time probably helped a lot.
                • I believe the wheel designs of the Mars rovers are similar, when we got help from the Russians that designed Lunokhod back in the 90's.

              • by necro81 (917438) on Friday November 14, 2008 @10:40AM (#25760081) Journal

                Compared to roving on Mars, the Lunokhod program had lots of things going for it.

                * The much shorter communications time, which someone else mentioned, allows near real-time operator control, so a rover can move faster and not so gingerly creep your way around. Being so much closer allows you to also use a less-powerful transmitter, or transmit more data at the same power level.

                * Being so much closer to the Earth means that it is feasible to send a much larger and heavier rover using the same rocket.

                * Being so much closer to the Sun means that there is vastly more energy available, even considering the state of photovoltaics in the 1970s. The Moon has no dust storms to obscure the panels, either. Because of its slow rotation, one has about two weeks of continuous sunlight to work with. (On the other hand, it also means that you need to build a rover that can survive for two weeks with no sunlight).

                On the whole, I'd say that the success of Lunokhod 30-40 years ago shouldn't make the Mars rovers' accomplishments seem puny today. The environments and challenges of the two locations are distinct, so the comparison isn't appropriate. Perhaps it would be better to compare the progress that has been made for each location over that time.

                How good were Mars rovers of that time compared to now? Answer: terrible. There weren't any Mars rovers until Sojourner in 1996.

                How good are the lunar rovers of today? Answer: who knows!? There haven't been any since Lunokhod. There are a few in development, from governments and private groups, but none have launched or landed yet, and won't for years still.

              • It's a bit like apples and oranges, though. Both are fruits, but one is so far away that it may take 40 minutes between a command issued from earth, and a feedback, while the other works with a 2 second delay at most.

                • by mopower70 (250015)

                  It's a bit like apples and oranges, though. Both are fruits, but one is so far away that it may take 40 minutes between a command issued from earth, and a feedback, while the other works with a 2 second delay at most.

                  I've yet to be bothered by my apples OR oranges not responding to remote commands.

        • Please, remain calm and seated behind a computer. An expect team will be along shortly to remove these dangerous notions that NASA has long since perfected stellar and interstellar travel and has been keeping the united states public in the dark because the seats are to small for the average american behind.

    • by Dzimas (547818) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:38AM (#25757319)
      Sure! But be aware that your car will cost $243 million and travel at a maximum speed of 3 mph, while taking up three lanes with its enormous solar wings. Oh, and its only under warranty for three months because of concerns about the unpredictable Terran atmosphere.
    • by theheadlessrabbit (1022587) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:12AM (#25757809) Homepage Journal

      I'm willing to risk my safety on a metric to standard conversion problem for a car that will run.

      um...metric is the standard.

      • Fail (Score:4, Informative)

        by dreamchaser (49529) on Friday November 14, 2008 @05:11AM (#25758413) Homepage Journal

        Except standard units is another term for US or 'English' [wikipedia.org] units. Your attempt at pedantry fails.

        Yes, metric is the accepted international standard. No, what GP referred to was not 'the standard' but what is known as 'standard units'.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by heson (915298)
          I realy like the word Imperial better. Including the hillarious "Imperial Metric" where the nuts and bolts are the usual old fractions of inch but are marked in mm.
          • Re:Fail (Score:5, Informative)

            by meringuoid (568297) on Friday November 14, 2008 @07:36AM (#25758929)
            I realy like the word Imperial better.

            Imperial units, which are used in England, aren't the same as English units, which are used in America. All pints in America are 95ml short, although given what's in them that's probably a mercy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by zbharucha (1331473)
      If you're satisfied with travelling a few meters everyday, go get your NASA car!
    • by Muad'Dave (255648)
      The solution to that problem used to be replace your distributor cap and plug wires. Nowadays, there are coils per plug and all sorts of other nonsense.
    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      >Maybe instead of bailing out the "big three", we should dump all that money into NASA to make cars.

      Or you could just replace your spark plug wires.

    • by GweeDo (127172)

      I think you might have discovered how to fund Project Constellation!

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:13AM (#25757177)
    "I'm getting more charged...I think I'll go for a drive..."
  • by TWX (665546)
    Wouldn't sixteenth century technology like a simple bellows with a directable nozzle fix this problem? It doesn't have to be a very powerful or strong bellows, just something good enough to help displace the worst of the dust and fines buildup...
    • by compro01 (777531) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:23AM (#25757249)

      It would have to be quite powerful, as as far as I understand, that dust (or the rover, I forget which at the moment) has a fantastic static charge to it, so it requires a potent wind to remove it, which they've been getting on a fortunately regular basis for the past few years.

    • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:31AM (#25757283) Homepage Journal

      My understanding: The thing that the designers had decided was that the weight of a dust removal system was not worth removing a scientific instrument to do so, because they had a weight and size budget to deal with. They didn't think there was an effective means to clean the dust to extend the lifetime of the rover vs. less data recovered.

      • by TWX (665546)
        Okay, a windshield wiper? Sure, it might start scratching, and it might eventually wear out or get brittle, but if it parked where the wiper blade wasn't under pressure it might last long enough for emergency use like this...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by paganizer (566360)

        I came up with two, and submitted them. several layers of very fine film on the panels, when the panels get to 20% efficiency it would automatically fire up the tiny electric motor that would s-l-o-w-l-y peel off the top layer, halting the peeling process whenever efficiency reached whatever is considered adequate.
        The other was a little weirder, and I'm not sure i could explain it without several diagrams.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by windsurfer619 (958212)

          Why can't they just flip the panels over?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Jerry Smith (806480)

            Why can't they just flip the panels over?

            If it's staticly charged, flipping won't have the expected result. Plus flipping requires quite some energy (it has to flip back as well), plus we wouldn't want it to get stuck while it's upside-down, would we?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dgatwood (11270)

          How about the overhead projector roll system. On one edge of the panel, you put a a roll of clear plastic cellophane (or thicker plastic in all likelihood, but you get the idea). On the opposite edge, you attach the cellophane to a take-up roll. You place a track along the other two edges to hold the film against the panel's surface. When things get too dusty, you run the motors and expose a new section of the film.

          Better yet, just include a couple of capacitors and a fine wire mesh on the surface of th

          • by ledow (319597)

            So you're adding a motor, including cabling and control, plus rolls of film which would have to be designed properly to not block out too much light to the solar panel in the first place (UV-translucent etc.), you would have gears, etc. possibly in an exposed martian dusty atmosphere but they only get used, say, once a month. And you expect this motor/gearing to start up and work first time every time when it's caked in dust, or provide some sort of shielding that is "dust-proof" but also allows the film t

            • by dgatwood (11270)

              Spraying most liquids would be a problem because it would freeze instantly on contact with the rarified martian atmosphere. Even pure ethanol would freeze at the coldest point in Martian winter. The liquid would need to survive a minimum temperature of -140C without freezing and must remain liquid without evaporating up to at least -5C or so even at 6 millibars of atmospheric pressure. That's really hard to achieve. Compressed air might be practical if the particles are not sufficiently charged that the

          • by PetriBORG (518266)
            Thats brilliant - truly. Now we just need someone at NASA to put that feature on the next rover :-)
    • It doesn't matter it has survived 20times longer then it was meant to have...

    • by ledow (319597)

      I just gave this whole thing ten minutes thought because of this thread - damn you and your ridiculous suggestions.

      My suggestion would have been to have a non-flat solar panel in the first place - one made up of 3D "pyramids" of mini triangular solar panels joined together, a bit like the shape of that reflector that they put on the moon, so that you catch light coming in from virtually any angle but have a non-flat sheet-like panel. I don't know if you'd get "more" power because of the greater surface are

    • by ledow (319597) on Friday November 14, 2008 @06:36AM (#25758673) Homepage

      Just to give some sense of the scale of the problem:

      http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA03272 [nasa.gov] http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA10128 - dirty solar panels.

    • Your post advocates a

      (X) technical ( ) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante

      approach to Rover problems. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal law was passed.)

      ( ) It requires too much power
      ( ) It may make situation worse
      (X) It doesn't solve the problem
      (X) It works here on Earth but not on Mars
      (X) It will work for two weeks and th

    • Well, first you need some actual air to blow around. The atmosphere on Mars is quite thin.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:18AM (#25757219)

    I'm not dead yet.....

  • Still Alive [youtube.com]
  • These little guys really cheer me up some days.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Dogun (7502)

      that was supposed to be a <3.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MichaelSmith (789609)

        that was supposed to be a <3.

        Sojourner might still be operating.

        • by Dogun (7502)

          Right, I get that. I just meant, you know. <3, as in an ascii heart.

          Maybe it wasn't such a bad slip-up.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by FireFury03 (653718)

            Right, I get that. I just meant, you know. <3, as in an ascii heart.

            Looks like a pair of testicles to me...

  • links... (Score:4, Informative)

    by sraviik (1375785) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:09AM (#25757481)
  • by kingramon0 (411815) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:39AM (#25757639) Homepage

    I guess it was just a flesh wound.

  • Next step? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LoudMusic (199347) on Friday November 14, 2008 @11:18AM (#25760457)

    Seems like the next step might be a charging / cleaning / maintenance station and a group of rovers. Maybe the station itself is a rolling rover. It would just creep along in a straight(ish) line and a series of rovers would scout the surrounding area, returning to the station for a dusting off and quick recharge periodically. Kind of like the Roomba vacuum that returns to a charging station automatically.

  • Am I the only one who gets a little misty-eyed when I think about these little guys?

    I grew up with the space program; we watched the Challenger explode live on television in the 3rd grade. Space, and space exploration, have always been (to me) man's greatest hope and frontier.

    I realize they're mechanical objects, just as I realize that Voyager is just a satellite and the ISS is basically a double-wide in space. These things still represent the future of our species and life as we know it. Every time I he

The trouble with the rat-race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. -- Lily Tomlin

Working...