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Mars NASA Space

Opportunity Rover Sets Off-World Driving Record 46

Posted by Soulskill
from the rollin'-rollin'-rollin' dept.
schwit1 writes: "With a drive of 157 feet on Sunday, the Mars rover Opportunity broke the Soviet record, set by Lunokhod 2 in 1973, for the longest distance traveled by a vehicle on another planet. "If the rover can continue to operate the distance of a marathon — 26.2 miles (about 42.2 kilometers) — it will approach the next major investigation site mission scientists have dubbed "Marathon Valley." Observations from spacecraft orbiting Mars suggest several clay minerals are exposed close together at this valley site, surrounded by steep slopes where the relationships among different layers may be evident. The Russian Lunokhod 2 rover, a successor to the first Lunokhod mission in 1970, landed on Earth's moon on Jan. 15, 1973, where it drove about 24.2 miles (39 kilometers) in less than five months, according to calculations recently made using images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) cameras that reveal Lunokhod 2's tracks."
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Opportunity Rover Sets Off-World Driving Record

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  • Poor pluto (Score:5, Funny)

    by lakeland (218447) <lakeland@acm.org> on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @10:22PM (#47563151) Homepage

    First it lost its planetary status, and now the moon is classed as a planet for this competition.

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      They probably used "heavenly body" at first, but editors realized that would generate too many tasteless jokes, and changed it to "planet".

    • by IrquiM (471313)
      Well... The diametre of the moon is almost 50% larger than the diametre of Pluto...
    • Also, Rover's twin brother/si(ster/bbling). It never got far. :(

  • and we broke one record... that was set by the soviets.. maybe we should be backing the north korean space program instead?
    • Lunakhod was only on the moon, and was driven at relatively high speeds using live drivers looking at TV to see where to go. This is patently impossibly on Mars due to the light travel time. Semi-autononomous navigation is far more sophisticated.

      It eventually died because of what might be characterized as a driving mistake, they came to close to the edge of a crater, scooped some dust on the solar array, then closed the lid, dumped the dust on the radiators, then overheated when the lid was

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Did the wheels fall off like they do when you drive into a crater in Moon Patrol?

      • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @11:47PM (#47563499)

        Lunakhod was only on the moon, and was driven at relatively high speeds using live drivers looking at TV to see where to go.

        Interesting trivia: At first the Soviets tried to use experienced drivers. But even to the moon and back is several light seconds, and this lag confused people experienced in driving cars. So they had to find people that had never driven before, with no expectations that the vehicle would respond instantly.

    • by Ken_g6 (775014)

      The moon is much closer to Earth than Mars. It's so close that we can pilot vehicles on the moon manually, like an RC car, with just a two-second delay. Vehicles on Mars need to be a lot smarter.

      That said, Opportunity is really slow. Its top speed is 50 mm/s, or .1 MPH. [arstechnica.com] I think Curiosity is actually slower. Maybe one of these private space ventures like Elon Musk's SpaceX can send up a fast (minimum 5 MPH or 2,200 mm/s) rover that just drives and takes pretty pictures.

  • by unrtst (777550) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @10:56PM (#47563313)

    I realize it's done much more than it was designed for, and we got more bang for our buck, but when I first read TFS, I thought this:

    "If the rover can continue to operate the distance of a marathon — 26.2 miles (about 42.2 kilometers) — it will approach the next major investigation site mission

    ...meant, "If the rover can travel just 26.2 MORE miles THAN IT ALREADY HAS TRAVELED, then..."

    It's been on Mars for over 10 years. It's not a very fast little bugger, is it?

    They had their own goals and all that, but my first goal, if I was sending something millions of miles away (I don't know how far it traveled when it went to Mars, but the closest approach between earth and mars has been 34.8 million miles), I'd certainly want the ability to move it more than XXX feet per day. 25 miles is REALLY short compared to it's 35 million+ mile trip to get there!

    • by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @12:06AM (#47563569) Homepage

      They had their own goals and all that, but my first goal, if I was sending something millions of miles away (I don't know how far it traveled when it went to Mars, but the closest approach between earth and mars has been 34.8 million miles), I'd certainly want the ability to move it more than XXX feet per day.

      And a free pony, but the problem is the power budget. Going faster -> more power required -> bigger solar panels -> more weight -> going slower. If you got a solution for that, I'm sure NASA would like to have a talk with you. Also consider that it might be very hard to travel a significant distance, it's easier to drop two rovers on opposite sides of the planet than design a rover that can drive 5000+ km.

      Mars has areas with really sharp rocks and Curiosity has already taken more wheel damage than expected. Soft soil is almost just as bad, potentially trapping the rover as it happened with Opportunity. And there's no tow truck coming, so if you screw it up the mission is over. Personally I imagine it's the scientific equipment that mostly limits the rover, if we haven't got the tools or sensors getting there faster won't do us any good.

      • by unrtst (777550)

        ...but the problem is the power budget. Going faster -> more power required -> bigger solar panels -> more weight -> going slower.

        Or the problem is the financial budget (more money -> send more stuff -> include more features/stuff -> going faster and doing more).

        FWIW, I totally understand that certain design decisions were made for various, and well justified, reasons. Personally, I'd favor the ability to travel long distances over some of the other features (ex. have it nuke powered, and ignore the issue of contamination of Mars). I'd also love to see more stuff sent there, and to other celestial bodies, like maybe a deep d

  • "using images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) cameras that reveal Lunokhod 2's tracks." -------------------- So they can photograph wheel tracks on the moons surface? It should then be a snap (pun intended) to take a pic of the Apollo 11 landing site and put that conspiracy to rest once and for all.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, it's been done. Several of the Apollo landing sites have been recently photographed from lunar orbit.
      See here for Apollo 11: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_11#mediaviewer/File:Apollo11-LRO-March2012.jpg

    • Re:Apollo 11 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Brett Buck (811747) on Wednesday July 30, 2014 @12:29AM (#47563639)

      You are kidding, right?

      http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pa... [nasa.gov]

      And of course the "moon landing hoax" nitwits have already convinced themselves that NASA, every involved contractor, all the astronauts, and our bitter rivals the USSR are part of the conspiracy. It would be a small matter to assume that the LRO pictures are also faked. That the fundamental nature of stupidity.

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        Of course they're not faked. NASA just went to the trouble of sending up an empty, autonomous LM and a remote-controlled moon rover. Checkmate, astronauts.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      And here the most recent images of Apollo 12 [nasa.gov] and Apollo 17 [nasa.gov].

    • So they can photograph wheel tracks on the moons surface? It should then be a snap (pun intended) to take a pic of the Apollo 11 landing site and put that conspiracy to rest once and for all.

      Uh, you think that people will believe that the entire moon landing program was faked, a hoax going on from 1968 (Apollo 8) through 1972 (Apollo 17), with tens of thousands of photographs, live television, and movies; with hundreds of thousands of people involved, and watched in minute detail by a hostile superpower (the USSR) that was ready to devote its entire resources to discrediting America... but you think these same people would instantly believe a photograph from Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, because

  • I would expect that the Curiosity with the nuclear power source would blow out of the water all other rovers.

    Is it wheels' design that slows Curiosity?
    • by smaddox (928261)

      I'm not an expert in this field, but my understanding is that radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG) don't provide a whole lot of power. They do, however provide just as much at night, and after the rover is coated in sand. The wikipedia article says that they typically provide a few hundred Watts (or less).

      Solar cells don't have great power density compared to other sources on Earth, but they aren't all that bad. For a Mars mission, they likely use ~30% efficient GaAs-based solar cells (at the worst)

  • I am no scientist but since we want to send more rovers to Mars as well possibly have people there; setting up a network of GPS satellites might be the real next step.
  • How about that? Breaking the same record on two worlds simultaneously. Now that's what I call "breaking two world records".

    (Never mind that one of them is a actually moon. Close enough.)

There is no opinion so absurd that some philosopher will not express it. -- Marcus Tullius Cicero, "Ad familiares"

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