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Mars Space NASA

Mars Rover Opportunity Turns 8 151

Posted by Soulskill
from the its-doing-science-and-its-still-alive dept.
New submitter el borak writes "Never mind all the talk about the revival of the American auto industry. What may be the greatest car the U.S. has ever built is currently a tidy 78 million miles (125m km) away from this world — resting on the edge of Endeavour crater in the southern hemisphere of Mars. It was on January 25, 2004 that the rover Opportunity bounced down on Mars for a mission designed to last a minimum of three months and a maximum of just a year or two."
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Mars Rover Opportunity Turns 8

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  • Great engineering! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ackthpt (218170) on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:04PM (#38843173) Homepage Journal

    Can you remember the last piece of technology hardware you had which outlived its warranty? For me, most of that was stuff made in the 80's.

    Considerable accomplishment, designing, accumulating all the bits, assembling it, putting it in a rocket, flying it to Mars, landing it and having it muck about in a place without AAA Roadside Service. Well done.

    • by twotacocombo (1529393) on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:10PM (#38843279)

      Can you remember the last piece of technology hardware you had which outlived its warranty?.

      Pretty much everything I own, seeing as how most warranty terms are a year at best. No company in its right mind would design a product that would NOT make it past its warranty expiration.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ackthpt (218170)

        Can you remember the last piece of technology hardware you had which outlived its warranty?.

        Pretty much everything I own, seeing as how most warranty terms are a year at best. No company in its right mind would design a product that would NOT make it past its warranty expiration.

        You don't read the same reviews I do, on Amazon ... "This thing was DOA out of the box ..." "This lasted 30 days and then died ..." etc.

        Some stuff holds up well (which I theorize is inversely proportional to how much I use/depend upon) While I experience the same as these unhappy reviewers.

        After the learning experiences of Hubble and the failed ("inches? I thought you mean't Centimetres!") Mars Climate Orbiter, you can expect things are held to a very high standard - because failure is so very, very expens

        • by edremy (36408) on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:36PM (#38843721) Journal

          Still, we had a visitor to our local Astronomy club explain the one oversight which may ultimately doom Opportunity - dust build up on the Solar Panels. Next probe will probably have a little robotic arm and brush to sweep itself off now and then.

          This wasn't an oversight, it was well understood that this would happen. They've gotten lucky that dust devils have cleaned the panels a few times.

          The next Mars rover is nuclear powered. There are no attempts at any kind of dust cleaning device- it would be far too heavy and fragile to be worth bothering with.

          • Coolest Mars Probe Ever is now enroute: Mars Space Laboratory

            It has, like, lasers and neutron beams, dude!!!

            http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ [nasa.gov]

          • by Chris Burke (6130)

            This wasn't an oversight, it was well understood that this would happen. They've gotten lucky that dust devils have cleaned the panels a few times.

            Hell, they originally thought the wind would be completely negligible, and the dust build-up that would result had in that case was the whole reason for the 90 day mission plan. So, yeah, they kinda anticipated the whole dust thing.

            Isn't it nice when being wrong is a pleasant surprise? And hey, learning that kind of thing about the planet is part of why we're sending robots there. It all fits together nicely.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          You base that on Amazon review? Are you stupid, or just mildly retarded?

          Let me see.. the last consumer grade electronic that didn't live past it's warranty was. hmm. Nothing, actually.
          wait, there was a monitor, but I broke it, so not their fault.

          and I have been a consumer for WELL over 30 years.

          I'm sure if I tried to save more and buy cheaper things my experience may not be true.

          • by tverbeek (457094)

            One does have to be a bit brain-damaged to confuse the statistically small number of devices which fail upon first use with the overall population in which the vast majority last the full warranty period, and a smaller majority last twice that period or longer.

            While I don't own anything manufactured since 2000 which has more than a dozen years of use behind it, that's due to temporal mathematics, not engineering shortcuts.

            • by dgatwood (11270)

              It may be statistically small, but folks like me are also statistically unlucky (five dead hard drives in one year, zero laptops that made it out of warranty before their first failure, a Roomba whose motor gears broke the third time I used it—out of warranty, but only because I didn't use it enough—and a car at 110k that has a rebuilt transmission, a new starter gear on the front of the transmission, a rebuilt power steering pump, a rebuilt steering rack, new seals throughout the top half of th

        • You don't read the same reviews I do, on Amazon ... "This thing was DOA out of the box ..." "This lasted 30 days and then died ..." etc.

          Oh, I read those all the time, and they're typically on cheap made-in-china shit that give everlasting life to the term "you get what you pay for". Once you come to terms with the fact that cheapest is rarely best, and start making small investments instead of purchases, your experience will be much better. I can honestly say I have not received anything that has been DOA in longer than I can remember, and the only thing I've had to file a warranty claim on in the past decade has been my Xbox 360. Not to sa

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          You don't read the same reviews I do, on Amazon ... "This thing was DOA out of the box ..." "This lasted 30 days and then died ..." etc.

          To be honest, most of those are probably lies. While it's true some are damaged during shipping, it's far more likely that:

          * The user bought it, disliked it, and wanted a refund but couldn't get one (remember, you can leave an Amazon review without buying it from Amazon). The only recourse is to break it and claim DOA or "it broke".

          * The user bought it, but it had a defect

        • I would guess that customers receiving faulty goods are more likely to post feedback than the customers who were happy with their purchase.

          From my own experience, if I'm not happy with a purchase, I generally want to have a good moan about the supplier / manufacturer and let everyone else know about it too. On the flip side, when I am perfectly happy with my purchase, I sometimes leave good feedback but generally am too engrossed playing with my new toy to bother doing so. :)
      • by Belial6 (794905)
        I'm with you. Pretty much everything I own. If it doesn't arrive broken brand new, it pretty much runs for many times it's warranty period.
    • Can you remember the last piece of technology hardware you had which outlived its warranty?

      Sure, my camera (Canon T2i) just passed it's warranty date a few weeks and it's still going strong. So is my 2005 era Kodak point-and-shoot. Heck, the computer I'm typing this on (an off-the-shelf at Best Buy HP Pavilion) is still going strong on it's original OS installation after nearly six years. (It's companion is a year younger and has only required the mouse to be replaced, unsurprising on a machine primarily

      • by iggymanz (596061)

        My Kodak DC4800 with 3.1 Mpixels is soon to be 12 years old and works fine. I wish my 2003 32" Sony CRT television would die so I can justify a modern set but it will probably last 20 years. I also have a Sony digital clock radio (with analog AM/FM tuner) that we're still using that is 22 years old.

        • Yeah, we kept waiting for our eight year old CRT TV to die so we could replace it with a flatscreen/HDTV. This last Black Friday there was such a good deal at Costco that we finally just bit the bullet and upgraded.

      • by weszz (710261)

        Six years and still on original OS install?

        You're on /. and you didn't try Vista or Win 7 on it?

        I loaded Vista on a crappy old dell c600... didn't look pretty, but it did run...

    • by Krishnoid (984597) *

      having it muck about in a place without AAA Roadside Service.

      I don't know if roadside service [youtube.com] would help in this case.

      Well done.

      A solar-powered car running for 8 years without any maintenance in a fairly hostile environment -- just astounding.

      • by ackthpt (218170)

        having it muck about in a place without AAA Roadside Service.

        I don't know if roadside service [youtube.com] would help in this case.

        Well done.

        A solar-powered car running for 8 years without any maintenance in a fairly hostile environment -- just astounding.

        Makes you wonder, when people say we can't do that for consumer vehicles, eh? Where's the Can-do spirit?!?

        • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:53PM (#38843939) Homepage

          Makes you wonder, when people say we can't do that for consumer vehicles, eh? Where's the Can-do spirit?!?

          You could, it just costs more. That said, most US made vehicles will run 100K miles with minimal supervision. My 12 year old GMC truck has really been quite reliable and could well run another 10 years. I'm part owner of a 40 year old plane that could fly for another 40 years.

          Not everything is an iPad.

          • Makes you wonder, when people say we can't do that for consumer vehicles, eh? Where's the Can-do spirit?!?

            You could, it just costs more. That said, most US made vehicles will run 100K miles with minimal supervision. My 12 year old GMC truck has really been quite reliable and could well run another 10 years. I'm part owner of a 40 year old plane that could fly for another 40 years.

            Not everything is an iPad.

            To be fair, with airplanes, hours the engine has run and takeoff/landing cycles are more important than age. Of course, being an aircraft owner, you probably already know this.

            • by dbIII (701233)
              Some can handle a lot of both. There's a couple of DC3 aircraft that still fly out of South Africa to Antarctica every year that look a lot like the ski-equipt DC3 in the 1953 movie "The Thing From Outer Space". They have different engines and a portion in front of the wing removed and replaced to make them a bit longer, but they are still very old aircraft being used like trucks.
        • Sure we can. Are you prepared to spend $100M on your next car?

        • Where's the Can-do spirit?!?

          Presumably still playing in the sand on the other side of the planet. No one's heard from Spirit in almost two years.

    • by Rational (1990)
      Typing this on a 2006 Mac.
    • by sdguero (1112795)
      My 1993 Honda Nighthawk 750 is doing pretty well. And still a lot of fun to ride... :)
      • by Pope (17780)

        High five, old Honda buddy! 1980 CB400T, still truckin' along, albeit in need of some engine gasket replacements.

    • by Pope (17780) on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:35PM (#38843711)

      Can you remember the last piece of technology hardware you had which outlived its warranty?

      Practically all of it, since I don't buy horribly-made cheap crap.

      Pay for quality, get quality. Simple.

    • by wiredog (43288)

      My 24" iMac is doing pretty well and it's 5 years old.

    • Can you remember the last piece of technology hardware you had which outlived its warranty?

      Every ThinkPad I've ever owned (currently on #5).

    • by giorgist (1208992)
      Are you nuts ... things made in the 80s where a lot more unreliable. You have natural selection bias. Everything you still have from the 80s still alive is the sample you draw your conclusion. Objects have become a lot more reliable and cost less money.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Can you remember the last piece of technology hardware you had which outlived its warranty?

      I'm not senile YET. I'm working on an old PC for a friend who was given an old Dell with a 500 mz chip, 256 meg memory and Windows XP. The only thing wrong with it is whoever owned it before was dumb enough to load it down with crap, including 5 different AVs. The hardware is working fine (just reinstalled Windows for him, it still had the disks).

      I bought my TV in 2002. My car was five years old when I bought it in 20

  • Images from Opportunity show a life form consisting of a scorpion-shaped body, a disc and a 'black flap".

    • Sheesh, not again! Next you'll be telling me they've uncovered a giant black obelisk on the moon...

    • Images from Opportunity show a life form consisting of a scorpion-shaped body, a disc and a 'black flap".

      Opportunity was on Venus? Does JPL know about this?

  • 1) IT did not actually put those 78 Million miles on its own hardware, its like if I ship a toyota from japan to virgina, I did not DRIVE it from A to B and I shure as hell would not add the shipping mileage to its odometer

    2) Are we really that proud that something we built lasted 8 years? that's like the breaking in period for a diesel Mercedes with far more (actual, not shipping) miles on it

    • by ae1294 (1547521)

      2) Are we really that proud that something we built lasted 8 years? that's like the breaking in period for a diesel Mercedes with far more (actual, not shipping) miles on it

      Mars is a harsh mistress...

      • by BBF_BBF (812493)

        2) Are we really that proud that something we built lasted 8 years? that's like the breaking in period for a diesel Mercedes with far more (actual, not shipping) miles on it

        Mars is a harsh mistress...

        +1 Some details to back you up, ae1294: Temperature in summer days/nights range from: 20 C to -90 C

        Let's see a Mercedes work in that type of environment (even at earth normal atmospheric pressures)

        Also there's been NO MAINTENANCE done on the rover for 8 years.

        Yes, we should be proud, very proud.

        • by ae1294 (1547521)

          +1
          Some details to back you up, ae1294:
          Temperature in summer days/nights range from: 20 C to -90 C

          Just image your car battery trying to work at -90 C to get an idea of just how great this little guy is..

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      2) Are we really that proud that something we built lasted 8 years? that's like the breaking in period for a diesel Mercedes with far more (actual, not shipping) miles on it

      Eight years, in an extremely inhospitable environment (extreme dust, an average temperature of -60C), with absolutely zero maintenance. Yeah, let's see that Mercedes run for 8 years with no oil change.

    • Re:Yea ok (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PickyH3D (680158) on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:24PM (#38843507)

      A break-in period that consisted of being shipped slowly on a ship compared to a violent launch on the top of a rocket, as well as the re-entry into the atmosphere of a largely mysterious planet, and finally the potentially violent landing.

      Then, once in use and with the odometer actually ticking up, the Mercedes gets an oil change every few thousand miles, or every few months; it's also refueled probably every other week, at least. And it's probably not in a hostile environment the entirety of its driven life, at least without serious repair assistance.

      So, yes, we really should be proud of the Opportunity for lasting for eight years while 78 million miles from a repair shop.

      • and finally the potentially violent landing.

        You know, I might actually pay for a Mercedes, if the delivery method involved the successful deployment of rockets, parachutes and giant airbags ... that would be cool.

    • by sdguero (1112795)
      TROLL
    • by geekoid (135745)

      no. it's like Toyota building a car, all the packaging, the ship, the fuel. Sent the ship across a million mile ocean, and then flung the car 5 miles to land.

      After which it unpacked itself and started driving, and 100 years later it is still driving.

      And it was designed to last up to a year. You might want to understand what that means.

  • Kudos to the Design team.

    well done.

    • Kudos to the Design team.

      well done.

      The same could be said of the team that sent the probe into the Sun... even though it didn't last nearly so long, it was indeed 'well done'.

  • I don't know what you have over there but these engineers deserve to be knighted.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:24PM (#38843503)

    The impressive aspect is not that it has operated for 8 years, or that it is "beyond its warranty" (which is a misnomer - there was no warranty). What is impressive is that it has operated in a harsh environment for 8 years WITH ZERO MAINTENANCE! None. No one has touched the device in over 8 years now. And it has continued to operate, by radio, despite dust, vibration, heat, cold and radiation beyond what most Earth-bound devices ever experience.

    Sure, my car has well over 100K miles on it and is over 12 years old. But it is only operating because I am performing routine maintenance on the car. If I had not maintained the car, it would have stopped working ages ago. The impressive aspect of the Mars rover is that it has survived without anyone needs to tighten a nut, change oil, replace a battery or wheel or any of the routine operations that we have to use for our normal machines to keep them operational.

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      not true, maintenance procedures including re-flash of Spirit's memory and software patch, that patch also applied to other rover as precaution.

    • In fairness (and not to diminish your point -- it is astonishing) there are several things on the rover that have pretty much bit the dust. They keep tweaking things to work around the breaking down hardware. Were the rover your car you'd have replaced a lot of it a long time ago because it's barely hobbling along.

      That said, you're quite right it's an phenomenal achievement and the lessons learned will make/have made future missions even more amazing.

    • It's the constant thermal change that's effecting its life. 8 Years is nothing to scoff at. However, I am curious to know how many miles/kilometers this thing traveled in total. I doubt its as much as we think it is. This vehicle must rest in-between charge cycles I'm sure. Also, the #1 killer of any electro-mechanical device is moisture. Although the martian atmosphere is 100% saturated with water, it's so thin that its actually bone dry in comparisons with even the driest deserts here on Earth.

  • by PPH (736903)

    That must be in dog years.

    Bah-dah-bump. Be sure to tip your waitress. Thank you.

  • I keep hearing about this mission, and I'd like to start a movement that part of the MSR mission will be to retrieve the rover from Mars and bring it back to Earth for evaluation, because I believe that examination of the rover after surviving for so long beyond it's original design lifetime will be very educational.

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

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