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Space Science

Mars Odyssey Begins Overtime 122

thhamm writes "NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter begins working overtime today after completing a prime mission that discovered vast supplies of frozen water, ran a safety check for future astronauts, and mapped surface textures and minerals all over Mars, among other feats. An extended Mission until 2006 has been approved, and I hope it will last that long, maybe doing more safety checks for astronauts :)"
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Mars Odyssey Begins Overtime

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  • Working Overtime? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by strook ( 634807 ) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @05:49AM (#10076369)
    Wow, the orbiter lasted even longer than the estimated lifetime. Is anyone else noticing the inevitable pattern? NASA launches some sort of mission, gets some positive press, then a few months later more great news! Turns out the mission is lasting even longer than the estimates!

    Like the Mars rovers for example: []

    Mission engineers have analysed power data for both Spirit and Opportunity which shows the vehicles are performing much better than they had expected....

    But the mission team adds that its original estimates of Mars' environment and the rovers' performance were very conservative.

    If I was smart enough to be a NASA engineer I think I'd figure out that people are much happier with your performance when you exceed expectations. It's not like anyone knows what to expect from a Mars orbiter anyways. Nobody looks at the mission statement before launch and says "400 days? Gee, for 3.3 billion I expected more in the range of 550-580 days."

    Not anyone I know anyways. Maybe other people have more astrophysicist friends.

  • by dragonp12 ( 798787 ) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @06:05AM (#10076405)
    Surely, though, the radiation that hits Mars, even at 2 or 3 times what Earth's surface gets, would be far less than what hits the moon...
  • by rherbert ( 565206 ) < ... .us minus author> on Thursday August 26, 2004 @06:38AM (#10076488) Homepage
    With things like satellites and rovers, whoever is paying for it says, "We want it to last 90 days / 2 years / 10 years." Then the company actually building the device charges them for it. If it's going to last 10 years, you'd better have a lot of backup in case of failure, which adds complexity to the software controlling the device... all of which rapidly escalate the price. So, when NASA says they want the rovers to last 90 days, they're built to last 90 days. Not less than 90 days, because then NASA will be mad. So inevitably, if you've done your job right, it's going to last a little bit longer. You don't just use the Mean Time to Failure, because that means that 50% of the time, you're going to fail before the mission end. So, things last longer than "expected." Then eventually things break, and because the device is so expensive, they pay people a bunch of money to sit around a table and try to figure out how to work around the thing that broke. You can't do this ahead of time because then you'd be spending a LOT of time trying to figure out how to work around EVERY possible failure, and you can't always do that. I wouldn't be surprised if the company that built the rover lost some sort of bonus because of the failure before mission end, but probably not the complete bonus because they were able to work around the problem.

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant