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Mars Robotics Space Science

Mars Rover Opportunity Surpasses 30km Driving 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-hasn't-found-a-white-castle dept.
Phoghat sends this quote from Universe Today: "With her most recent drive of 482 feet on June 1, 2011 (Sol 2614), NASA's Opportunity Mars Rover has zoomed past the unimaginable 30 kilometer mark in total odometry since safely landing on Mars nearly seven and one half years ago on Jan 24, 2004. That's 50 times beyond the roughly quarter-mile of roving distance initially foreseen. And Opportunity is still going strong, in good health and has abundant solar power as she continues driving on her ambitious overland trek across the martian plains of Meridiani Planum. She is heading to the giant Endeavour crater, some 22 km in diameter."
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Mars Rover Opportunity Surpasses 30km Driving

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  • by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @10:43AM (#36337010)

    That would be 0.000001668 of a light minute

  • by hey (83763)

    Arg, feet and kilometers in the same paragraph equals a mess.

    • Feet->Kilometers->Miles->Kilometers to be precise.
    • by multisync (218450)

      Agreed. Opportunity drove 146.9 meters to reach the 30 Kilometer mark.

  • Great job slashdot editors at making the summary (sarcasm). Why do you use both kilometers and miles in the summary for making the comparison? Spend 4 seconds to at least be consistent so the reader can quickly understand the scale in constant units. Here let me help:

    30km is the distrance traveled, and they expected the rover to go only 0.4km
    or
    48.28 miles is the distance traveled, and they expected the rover to go only 0.25 miles

  • by Anonymous Coward

    her ambitious overland trek... She is heading to the giant Endeavour crater...

    I had no idea the Opportunity Mars Rover was female.

    • by jd (1658)

      It is conventional for all vehicles and containers to be considered female. Not sure if the convention comes from the Latium family of languages, but that's certainly what I was taught. It seems a little odd, since most older languages have a neuter gender. English has become so degenerate over the years that it lost the capability to represent anything other than male or female. You'd therefore expect English to be the language that used such forms, but no. French and German both have neuter but don't use

      • by Plunky (929104)

        English has become so degenerate over the years that it lost the capability to represent anything other than male or female.

        Whats funny is that I have a cup on my desk, and it is neither male nor female..

        It is conventional for all vehicles and containers to be considered female.

        AFAIK in german, ships are generally considered to be male.. (German speakers feel free to contradict, but I have a boat built by a german speaker and it has a male name)

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      Well, it has no dick. However, the grinding tool is rather phallic.

  • ""With her most recent drive of 482 feet on June 1, 2011 (Sol 2614), NASA's Opportunity Mars Rover has zoomed past the unimaginable 30 kilometer mark in total odometry since safely landing on Mars nearly seven and one half years ago on Jan 24, 2004. That's 50 times beyond the roughly quarter-mile of roving distance initially foreseen"

    Dear Universe Today source article,
    For the future, can we NOT mix our systems of measurement, please? Seriously, I don't know if I should be thinking in feet, kilometers, mi

  • I feel old now...

  • Gee, I wish Slashdot could say the same for its servers

    Error 503 Service Unavailable

    • by Megahard (1053072)
      Apparently it was busy varnishing its cache. Then it had to take time out from its stressful life for guru meditation.
    • by zill (1690130)

      That's because NASA employees are much more competent.

      Try imagining slashdot editors launching space shuttles.

  • by vlueboy (1799360) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @11:24AM (#36337140)

    Ugh, 30 minutes and everyone's still caught up in the unit conversion issues.

    OK, let's stop and ponder other things, like why these rocket scientists were 50 times off their mark on durability estimates. The are not the same people in charge of our cheap unshielded, non-harsh-weather resistant, poorly dust-proofed, China-made electronics where variable parts WILL fail every few years and stop your booting. Aerospace scientists design beyond "our" problems, and make complex computers with probably zero dust-exposed PSU heatsinks to live in dust-bunny/lightning storm environments 5+ times harsher than the Earth, wind-speed and static-electricity-storm-wise (courtesy of a Science channel doc).

    The scientists have been revising data from all the mars rover landings since '97, and from the very first rover had a chance to up-correct their estimates when even *that* rover outlasted the projections. So... why are they erring on the side of caution? Politics, maybe washing their hands in the distrust of contractors' abilities to build good enugh to meet their 10-year-program adjustments spec? Something doesn't add up, and it makes you wonder:

    * just how much better is "rocket science," really?
    * just how much worse are all the others who more-readily miss estimates, causing daily problems on our Blue Marble?
    * just how prepared is NASA to run tests beyond the driving reach of the landing site while they obviously didn't carefully plan to be running 'em?
    * just how many extra tax dollars will need to be allocated to budget for this whole not-so-well planned "lucky break?" ;)

    BEGIN!

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's not that they are wrong on their predictions of how long a device should last. Look at it this way: When you send something out into space (like a rover to mars) you won't have the possibility of fixing it if it breaks. When the rovers where designed and constructed NASA said they wanted them to last six months so they had to have a probability of failing at six months that was extremely tiny (1% or whatever the number came out of my ass). Also the way that warrenties are designed (and I'm assuming the

      • by NNKK (218503)

        It's not that they are wrong on their predictions of how long a device should last. Look at it this way: When you send something out into space (like a rover to mars) you won't have the possibility of fixing it if it breaks. When the rovers where designed and constructed NASA said they wanted them to last six months so they had to have a probability of failing at six months that was extremely tiny (1% or whatever the number came out of my ass). Also the way that warrenties are designed (and I'm assuming they did math like this before) is that the probability of failure is assigned for different times. The designers didn't say the rovers would break at six months. They merely made (almost) absolutely certain that they would last at least six months.

        Except they never said six months. They said three months, insisted the solar panels would be too covered by dust to get enough power after that, and refused to consider any sort of cleaning system. Even when NASA gets something right, they get it completely wrong.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          They said three months, insisted the solar panels would be too covered by dust to get enough power after that, and refused to consider any sort of cleaning system.

          Except they *did* consider cleaning systems - they just decided they weren't worth the cost/benefit tradeoff.

          When you send anything up in a rocket, weight is money. Adding any sort of cleaning device to the rovers would have increased the weight. Aside from the extra cost involved just in launching it (tens of thousands of dollars per pound for low earth orbit, even more for the delta-v to get to mars), you're probably working up against the design limit of the rocket in the first place. Anything you add to

          • by NNKK (218503)

            You either completely missed the point, or didn't pay much attention to the ridiculous statements that came out of NASA when the rovers were being prepped (and thus missed the point anyway, oh well).

            It was quite clear at the time that NASA was creating a very expensive self-fulfilling prophecy (panels will last three months without cleaning system, so we'll make the mission three months long, oh hey, the panels will last for the duration of the mission, so we don't need a cleaning system! yay! oh, and we're

        • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @03:16PM (#36337588) Homepage

          Except they never said six months. They said three months, insisted the solar panels would be too covered by dust to get enough power after that, and refused to consider any sort of cleaning system. Even when NASA gets something right, they get it completely wrong.

          I see that you've been to Mars and understand the physics of dust in an alien atmosphere .... Oh, right. Anyhow, that isn't the issue at all. It's funding. Every NASA project is money constrained, so managers and boosters have all manner of strategems to make the most out of the system. Funding ground operations for 90 days is easier than funding ground observations for several years. Having a scientific package that meets it's goals in 90 days (and then goes ever onward) is much better than coming up with a 5 year plan and have some critical widget fail in three.

          I really don't understand why everyone here is making such an issue of this. It's rocket science - it's an experiment. Sometimes experiments work, sometime they don't. Yes the lay press is all gaga about it but that's because the lay press has all of the intellect and introspective capabilities of a paramecium. It's working. It's making incredible scientific progress on the cheap. We should really be harping this aspect of the mission, not the warranty.

          Slightly off topic. The Atlantic has a slide show on 11 things that Americans bizarrely get wrong about America [theatlantic.com]. It doesn't mention NASA but does mention that a significant number of Americans think that PBS funding and foreign aid constitute a significant amount of the US budget (actual values are less than 1% in both cases). There is this meme that the American government does nothing good and spends too much doing it. While there is some truth to that, a more important lesson is that the US government does lots of good things for not very much money. And this is one of those times.

          • by NNKK (218503)

            Every NASA project is money constrained, so managers and boosters have all manner of strategems to make the most out of the system. Funding ground operations for 90 days is easier than funding ground observations for several years. Having a scientific package that meets it's goals in 90 days (and then goes ever onward) is much better than coming up with a 5 year plan and have some critical widget fail in three.

            Funding my ass, they spent $820 million on the hardware, launch/transit, and 90-day operations (this during their era of chanting "smaller better cheaper"), and less than $125 million on continued operations since. On a budget that was already almost a billion dollars, you're going to tell me their primary motivation for pulling 90 days out of their ass was to save a few million on ground operations? No. Just no.

            • by tlhIngan (30335)

              Funding my ass, they spent $820 million on the hardware, launch/transit, and 90-day operations (this during their era of chanting "smaller better cheaper"), and less than $125 million on continued operations since. On a budget that was already almost a billion dollars, you're going to tell me their primary motivation for pulling 90 days out of their ass was to save a few million on ground operations? No. Just no.

              A shuttle launch, just one, is over a billion dollars. Designing hardware to last longer than 90

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            Slightly off topic. The Atlantic has a slide show on 11 things that Americans bizarrely get wrong about America.

            And speaking of bizarrely wrong, why does Cracked put its top n lists into a simple list article format which you can read, while the Atlantic puts lists into a slideshow format so you can click click click like a fucking idiot? Is this a sign of the capabilities of their relative audiences? Welcome to the idiocracy!

        • and refused to consider any sort of cleaning system

          That's partly because nobody knew at the time how to design an effective cleaning system which would: a) operate without water b) in a near vacuum c) on electrically charged dust, that d) was had enough reach to cover the large surface area of the cells, but e) fit within the rovers size and weight limits without f) jeopardizing the mission with its own added complexity and power requirements.

          Maybe with years and years of operational experience, NOW they could design such a system. But as it turns out, they

      • I think this shows that the Earth is one of the worst places to operate machinery. Rats get in and eat your wires. Rain gets in and corrodes everything. On Mars, or better yet, in space, a well built machine can keep operating for much longer than on Earth.

    • by ctmurray (1475885)
      Politics of NASA and congress, I suspect led to the 3 month window. NASA could get funding for the launch and then 3 months of operation (where they were very sure these would last 3 months). Once you are on Mars AND the equipment is still running, then you can ask for and probably get more funding from Congress. In the same vein, if they die around 3 months or slightly after (for whatever reason) NASA can still declare the mission a success (and thus get future funding from Congress). Recall we had a strin
      • by jd (1658) <imipak@yaCOLAhoo.com minus caffeine> on Saturday June 04, 2011 @04:08PM (#36337824) Homepage Journal

        Well, yeah. Can you imagine the response they'd have got if they'd asked for 7 years of funding? We'd still be waiting for the Rovers to be launched. They gamed the system because that's the only way you can make it work. Which is stupid because it's now impossible to truly evaluate a damn thing in high-end science, which means projects are not being funded according to their potential scientific value but according to how good the top brass are at out-politicking the politicians.

        In order to get a proper, rational perspective on big-ticket science projects, Congress (and all other governments) have to recognize the value of risk and the importance of investing. It has to be possible for NASA to create a project - be it to go to the moon, launch robots to Mars, or sent probes to Pluto - that will take two or even three decades to run to completion AND be 100% guaranteed that it will be 100% funded from day one to completion.

        At present, the only way that this works is by setting the original project so short that "completion" is damn-near inevitable and there's enough PR involved to make the actual work (via a follow-up) equally damn-near inevitable. That is NOT competent management, that's fraud by Congress (who deceive the public into thinking they're funding science) and fraud by NASA (who deceive Congress into thinking they're funding a PR stunt not science).

        Congress HAS to fund NASA properly. A 5x-10x increase in budget would be a good start. Congress ALSO has to partially devolve NASA into a quango - neither the President nor Congress should have any power to hire or fire anyone at NASA, nor should they have any say over what projects NASA is involved in. There should be a charter (ie: a contract with the President) that states what the overall objectives should be over the lifetime of the charter, to which NASA can be held legally liable if they don't fulfull their side, and which states Congress' obligations in return, to which they also can be held legally liable.

        One of the benefits of a quango type setup is that NASA currently can't own anything, it is currently obliged to choose a COTS solution even if they already have a solution (which would be GOTS) that's both cheaper and better, and it's required to opt for what is cheaper even if it is inferior, all because of government spending rules. If it were semi-private, government spending rules don't apply and government ownership rules don't apply. The problem with a fully private NASA is that it couldn't be government-funded at all, it has to be answerable to shareholders rather than independently-monitored objectives, and space research is expensive with little return on any predictable timeframe (if, indeed, there's any return at all). If it were semi-public, none of these limitations of private corporations would apply.

        Many of the fiascos within the US government are as a result of trying NOT to use quangos but to have a hard division between the public and private sectors, with incredibly unhealthy ties and obligations between them, deception run rampant (as noted earlier), massive uncertainty and no coherent strategy. This might be highly desirable to those who hate the idea of "big government", but it is highly undesirable to anyone who likes "big science".

        • by aembleton (324527)
          I like this.

          This could be modelled in a similar way to the BBC where every 10 years it's charter has to go for review by politicians so that its plan for the next 10 years can be accepted. This could then include the funding that would be required for NASA to operate and then the politicians would have to keep their hands off it.
        • by cthulhu11 (842924)
          Thank you for seeing what I've long thought was obvious -- basically the ol' "under-promise, over-deliver".
    • The first thought I had was infomercials. This is a 200 dollar value but you get it for 19.99; a more than 180 dollar savings. OK, so who said it was worth 200 dollars to begin with. Sounds like NASA hedged their bets in case it fucked up right away. Which lead to thoughts of software project management. Kind of like how software project estimates should work. Give management an estimate that is more expensive and too long and then brag when you come in under time and budget. Of course now-a-days pointy hai
    • Well, it was a lucky break, without the quotes. Sojourner lasted 3 months, so they set up to reach this target, and maybe even surpass it a little, which they did. As far as target setting goes (from the project managing perspective, not the engineering perspective), it was done quite by the book. From the engineering perspective, the initial estimate was that in three months time the martian dust would have covered the rovers' solar panels so that they would run out of juice, freeze up and die a little bit

    • by Kjella (173770)

      The question is really what estimate you want, "best guess" or "worst case". If you say best guess half the missions would run shorter and half the missions would run longer, the problem is half would be considered a "failure" even if they did new and wonderful science. You'll never have the statistical basis to say if any probability is right, if scientists say this rover has a 80% chance of surviving 5 years we don't know if it's actually 20% or 2% or it's completely doomed, we'll never send enough copies

    • ... this is 0.84 times the highway distance from Ptghunk to Bazmaghbyur , Armenia.

    • It's kinda funny. People complain when the project exceeds the estimates. People complain when the project crashes into the ground and doesn't complete any objectives. Conclusion: You just can't please some people.

  • by Tackhead (54550) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @11:41AM (#36337152)
    The most Illustrious Council of Elders reports that last remaining mechanized invader from the blue world inexplicably refuses to yield as its brother did, and that our campaign against the invaders must therefore continue onwards.

    K'Breel, Speaker for the Council, spake thus:

    "Our red planet still basks in the warm afterglow of its recent V-S Day [slashdot.org] celebrations. V-S day marked the most recent victory in our campaign, but there still remains work to be done. Despite its wounds, the last remaining mechanized invader from the blue world continues to mark our red soils with tracks left by its foul wheels of terror."

    When a junior tech guru for the Sacdot news service meditated on the fact that the campaign against the second invader has taken 29 times longer than the initial campaign estimates, and that during this time, the invader had 1.2 times the distance from the plains to the peak of our world's tallest and most sacred volcanic peak, K'Breel, in his mercy, had the guru's gelsacs - as well as the gelsacs of 503 of the tech guru's podmates - rendered unavailable for service.

    (Speaking ex-councillo, K'breel was heard to have murmured "Connection reset? Meditate on THIS!" while applying varnish to the freshly-pierced gelsac of a junior cache server administrator.)

    • by Titoxd (1116095)

      Heh, I was wondering what K'Breel was going to say about this. You seriously should put all of these in an eBook or something similar... if nothing else to ensure that all the gelsacs that have been sacrificed during the Blue Planet's invasion are memorialized properly.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Heh, I was wondering what K'Breel was going to say about this. You seriously should put all of these in an eBook or something similar... if nothing else to ensure that all the gelsacs that have been sacrificed during the Blue Planet's invasion are memorialized properly.

        I'm just filling in for the late great TripMaster Monkey [slashdot.org], who started it [slashdot.org] in 2005, when, after a string of failed attempts by both NASA and Russia, Slashdot presupposed the existence of a Martian air force as a reminder that this really is ro

  • by zill (1690130) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @02:08PM (#36337246)

    That's 50 times beyond the roughly quarter-mile of roving distance initially foreseen.

    I am deeply saddened by the decline of quality of recent American automobiles. Back in my days they built cars that lasted a lot more a quarter-mile.

    There's not even a service center within 55 million kilometers for crying out loud!

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