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Mars Space Science

Mars Rover Stuck in a Dune 497

Bamfarooni writes "The NASA Mars rover Opportunity has gotten stuck in a dune, buried up to the hubs of the wheels. While they haven't given up yet, it doesn't look good for the little guy who's now 359 days into the extended mission." From the article: "The Mars machinery had been cruising southward across the open parking lot-like landscape of Meridiani Planum, full of larger and larger ripples of soil. Opportunity has been en route to its next stopover, Erebus crater, nestled inside an even larger crater known as Terra Nova."
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Mars Rover Stuck in a Dune

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  • Figures. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:38AM (#12383972)
    It was probably attacked by a giant sandworm.
    • Re:Figures. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CodeBuster ( 516420 )
      bless the maker and his water, bless the coming and going of him, may his passing cleanse the world...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:38AM (#12383979)
    Clearly the Martian Highways Dept. need to get a crew up there right away and fix these potholes before someone gets hurt.
  • muu (Score:5, Funny)

    by ondjultomte ( 878544 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:38AM (#12383984)
    They need bigger wheels! Knew they shoulda opt for those shiny 18" !
  • If they had a caddie they would know that they could use a sand wedge to get it out. But nasa is far too cheap and doesn't like to tip.
  • Hold on! (Score:4, Funny)

    by rlthomps-1 ( 545290 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:39AM (#12383991) Homepage
    This is going to take a whole lot of floorin'! /obligatory simpsons quote
  • Solution (Score:3, Funny)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <> on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:39AM (#12383992) Homepage Journal
    Poor little rover. We should send someone up to push it out. I volunteer!
    • Yeah nothing like a 4 month voyage to get there... only to nudge it and fly 4 months home...

      The inflight movies better be good otherwise you'll be hella bored!

    • Re:Solution (Score:3, Funny)

      by Striikerr ( 798526 )
      No need to worry! The DID install OnStar didn't they?? Just have the robotic arm press the button... What do you mean they didn't design the arm so it could press the OnStar button?!? Well, there goes THAT idea!
      • Re:Solution (Score:3, Funny)

        by Jorkapp ( 684095 )
        Onstar: Onstar, how may I help you?
        Rover: Yea, I seem to be stuck in a sand dune on another planet.
        Onstar: Alright, I'll send a rescue crew to meet you. They should be there in about 4 months.
        Rover: About that, could you hurry it up? I think this sand dune is collaps...

  • Dear NASA (Score:5, Funny)

    by Letter ( 634816 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:39AM (#12383998)
    Dear NASA,

    If you had let Xzibit and West Coast Customs pimp out the Rover with 20 inch rims you would have avoided this problem.


    • Re:Dear NASA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by east coast ( 590680 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:43AM (#12384071)
      If you had let Xzibit and West Coast Customs pimp out the Rover with 20 inch rims you would have avoided this problem.

      Yeah, but the only thing they would have done to the drive train was put another quart of motor oil in a 25 year old Ford engine with 320,000 miles...

      We'z gonna fix yo bucket!
    • by Moby Cock ( 771358 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @12:35PM (#12384745) Homepage
      NASA Engineer: Sir, we need bigger tires to get out of the dune.
      Project Learder: Holla at'cha boyyee
      NASA Engineer: Uh, sir, what do you want us to do?
      Project Leader: Awww, Snap! Dat rover be da bomb!
      NASA Engineer: I'm going home.
      Project Leader: H to the O to the M to the E.
  • Job well done (Score:5, Insightful)

    by witchman ( 214735 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:40AM (#12384008)
    Too bad if it's permanently stuck, but what an amazing success for this mission, which has gone on far longer that it was planned for. I hope the NASA engineers get the recognition they deserver for this job well done.
  • Dear NASA & JPL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by computerme ( 655703 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:40AM (#12384009)
    If any NASA or JPL people are reading this thread I have one thing to say:

    Mission _very_ accomplished.

    The human race knows infinitely more of our red neighbor thanks to your hard work.

  • by mrseigen ( 518390 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:40AM (#12384011) Homepage Journal
    They have two rovers. The solution is obvious.
    • You're right... the rovers could have sex and in time hope to breed a mighty race of rovers which could then pull out the one that's stuck.

      I'm imagining that the other rover is pretty far away and wouldn't get there for a year or so.

      But hey, what's everyone all pesimistic about... as you point out, you do have two rovers, why not use the other one? The MISSION CONTINUES!
    • by saskboy ( 600063 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @12:40PM (#12384817) Homepage Journal
      Now Disney can get in on the NASA act, and make a children's movie about the Two Rovers that Left Home.

      One got stuck, and the other one thousands of kilometers away, goes on a desperate mission to cross the planet to rescue Opportunity before his battery runs out. All this with help from his sidekick Marvin the Martian, NASA JPL Jake, and Duney the Dune.
    • Re:Demolition derby (Score:5, Informative)

      by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @12:51PM (#12384959) Journal
      I know the parent poster is kidding, but for those who are wondering...

      Under near-ideal conditions, the rovers could crawl a hundred meters (three hundred or so feet) per day.

      The two rovers are on roughly opposite sides of the planet, which has a diameter of nearly seven thousand kilometers. To bring the other rover around--assuming you could drive in a straight line and there were no obstacles or technical problems--would take two or three hundred years.

  • by east coast ( 590680 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:40AM (#12384014)
    They'll get there in less than 30 minutes or the next tow is free!
  • ...looks like it's time to call 1-800-AAA-HELP.

    Hope NASA has AAA emergency roadside assistance membership.

  • by zr-rifle ( 677585 ) <> on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:41AM (#12384030) Homepage
    BEAGLE to the RESCUE!!!

    ...or maybe not...
  • by bigtallmofo ( 695287 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:41AM (#12384036)
    "We are very optimistic that we'll be able to get out of here, but we're really going to take our time doing it."

    It sounds like NASA is going to use a technique I discovered playing video games as a child. If you're stuck somewhere, just wiggle the joystick back and forth for a few hours to see if you can work your way out of it. Too bad they can't reload a saved game. I found that technique helpful too.

    • by nharmon ( 97591 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:49AM (#12384158)
      Actually you may be more right than you realize. Those with four-wheel-drive vehicles (that actually leave the pavement) know that sometimes after getting stuck, you can move the steering wheel from side to side as a way of trying to gain traction from the sides of the rut you're in.

      Perhaps NASA could learn a thing or two from rednecks in 4x4 pickup trucks? *smile*
    • As somebody who's been stuck in sand a few times, it's actually not such a bad idea.

      If you get the momentum right, rocking back and forth will often "jump" you out of it as long as you haven't been a complete dummy and run full throttle digging yourself as deep as you an go...

      Dunno why they don't just pull it out with the tractor beam from the other Rover, though.

      Oh, wait... wrong reality...

  • by gowen ( 141411 )
    My bet is that its grounded on the wreckage of Beagle II. :)
    • Re:Dune, my ass (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TCQuad ( 537187 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:48AM (#12384137)
      My bet is that its grounded on the wreckage of Beagle II. :)

      I was going to dismiss this out of hand, but FTA, Opportunity did find two small craters right before running aground. The cause?
      They could have been created by an object from space that was large enough to make it through the martian atmosphere without burning up.

      And, let's not forget:
      "Given that these two craters haven't been covered by sand even though they are surrounded by sand ripples on a flat plain lends support to the idea that they're fairly recent."
  • by calibanDNS ( 32250 ) <> on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:42AM (#12384040)
    From TFA: Rover operators are optimistic they can extricate the robot from its jam, having gotten dug in before. and said Steve Squyres, lead scientist on the Mars Exploration Rover effort at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. "We are very optimistic that we'll be able to get out of here, but we're really going to take our time doing it."

    I'd hardly interpret that as "it doesn't look good for the little guy".
    • Translation:

      Rover operators are optimistic they can extricate the robot from its jam

      sure thing boss, no problem, get it right out of there (oh crap, we're screwed)

      having gotten dug in before

      Yes boss, we've done it before, no problem(I can't believe we got stuck dune hopping again, this never happens with my r/c cars at home...)

      but we're really going to take our time doing it

      It'll only take a little while... (OH @#$& I just dug it in deeper, whats on
    • Yeah, but even still I'd hate to be the guy who got it stuck right now. Talk about awkward.
    • Tell me why you RTFA, please. It doesn't make sense. The submitter didn't read it, the editors didn't read it, and nobody else here is going to read it. Why did you? At least post a comment or two before reading it, and then come back.
    • by ediron2 ( 246908 ) * on Friday April 29, 2005 @12:37PM (#12384773) Journal
      I saw this gaffe before the article left 'the mysterious future', and sent an email to the editor, just like they request:
      subject: Mars/Opportunity Story innacurate

      Bamfarooni wrote: it doesn't look good for the little guy who's now 359 days into the extended

      Compare this to the linked article: Rover operators are optimistic they can extricate the robot from its jam, having gotten dug in before.

      No reply to me, yet. But the story shifted from:
      ... It doesn't look good...

      ... While they haven't given up yet, it doesn't look good...

      Draw your own conclusions.

  • I'm sure someone riding a buggalo will fly by soon and rescue it.

  • With all of the rediculous trucks [] on the road in the US, you'd think NASA would have been inspired to build a montster truck version of the rover. Couldn't we just send a Hummer next time?
  • BattleBots (Score:5, Funny)

    by RealityMogul ( 663835 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:44AM (#12384081)
    If only NASA engineers watched more BattleBots they'd have realized that they needed a flipper arm underneath.
  • More info (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cyclotron_Boy ( 708254 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:44AM (#12384085) Homepage
    There's discussion on the Mars Rover Discussion Board [] and again []. It seems careful Rover Watchers noticed that it hadn't moved in a few days, and started to wonder why. Apparently NASA had to say something, because people were asking questions.
  • Yes you, solar panel washer martian dude [].

    How about a little help over here.
  • Dust devil? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by avalys ( 221114 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:46AM (#12384104)
    I wonder if a passing dust devil, of the same sort that periodically clear the dust off the rover's solar panels, might be able to blow some of the sand away from the wheels?

    It might take a while, but hey...
  • Now they need somebody from upper midwest, or upper New York to show them how to get out. I have been in worse than that, and they are 6 wheel drive.
  • by stlhawkeye ( 868951 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:46AM (#12384106) Homepage Journal
    NASA has definitely gotten their money's worth out of these two golf carts. These missions have exceded their design specifications by like 500% or something. Weren't they meant for a 90-day mission? We're going on over a year. That's nuts.

    As much as my Nerd Gene wants a manned mission to Mars, it's hard to argue with the scientific value of (relatively) cheap missions like this. NASA shifted in the late 90's to a series of relatively inexpensive probes with a narrow purpose (as opposed to the Voyager-class missions). These probes make sense. For one, there's less financial damage if one fails or is destroyed. And two, they can be put together, tested, and launched more cheaply and more quickly.

    And we're getting some excellent science from them. The Mars rovers were an hour-by-hour news story, then a day-by-day news story, there was a lot of public interest in them during those first few days. These kinds of missions are, I think, more crucial to human space exploration than launching a dude to Mars.

    There's some things you must have people in space to accomplish, but we've got a lot to learn yet through frugal unmanned space exploration and I hate to see so much of NASA's focus being shifted towards manned operations. Honestly, I hate to see NASA continuing to be involved in the production and operational side of space exploration. I think NASA should be reformulated as a primarily science and research-oriented organization and launch operations should be almost entirely privatized. NASA does too many things and most of it not that well, and none of it efficiently.

  • Images (Score:5, Informative)

    by Maddog Batty ( 112434 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:46AM (#12384111) Homepage
    The rover is driving backwards so there is more to see in the front view [] than there is in the back view []

    I hope they get it out...
  • Rover: Could uh... could someone give me a push?...
  • ....and that's probably how it got stuck, but they could possibly rock it out like a car.

    I've always wondered why they built it with wheels and not tracks though. Guess some of them are wondering the same thing now.

    This sucks. Really.
  • by QuantumFTL ( 197300 ) * <justin.wick@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:54AM (#12384227)
    I wouldn't worry too much about this one - the engineers are already using the engineering test rovers to test possible means of escape here on earth. The test rovers have proven invaluable in the past for modelling such complex situations (where computer models would be unlikely to be of much help).

    The rover had made it many kilometers, I don't a little sand dune is going to stop it. All the scientists I've spoken to about this seemed optimistic (which was not how they felt about the spirit anomoly back in January 2004) so... I'm not worried just yet.

    Does make for some very cool pictures though!
    -- Justin
  • by johnjay ( 230559 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:55AM (#12384241)
    Now if only one of those dustdevils that's been cleaning the solar panels would be kind enough to wedge a 2"x12" behind the drive wheel...
  • by FerretFrottage ( 714136 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:56AM (#12384251)
    Sure it would have only gotten a few km down away from the lander before needing to gas up, but no little dune would stop it unless the engineers were afraid of getting it dirty since they only want to use the H2 to drive to the local Mars mini-mart and back.

  • by bobsalt ( 575905 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:57AM (#12384270)
    looks like worm sign to me...
  • by kenneytechnologies ( 868924 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @11:59AM (#12384286) Homepage
    We need to get those volvo driving NASA geeks out of the drivers seat and call in Cousin Clyde. Sure, he's used to driving a F350 with 10" lift and 32" mudboggers, but hell, just tell him it's eight wheel drive and there's a case of PBR in it for him. He'll have it unstuck in no time.
  • by RealProgrammer ( 723725 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @12:12PM (#12384426) Homepage Journal
    Why can't they just
    • Back up? ("What do you mean, 'there's no reverse'? Budget cuts my ass!")
    • Activate the built-in turbo jacks? []
    • Ask Google? When I get in a jam, that's what I do.
    • Reverse the polarity?

    I guess that's why I'm not in charge of NASA.

  • IRTA (Score:3, Funny)

    by Orlando ( 12257 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @12:16PM (#12384470) Homepage
    The Mars machinery had been cruising southward across the open parking lot-like landscape of Meridiani Planum full of lager

    Just let him sleep it off, apart from a headache he'll be alright in the morning.
  • by hqm ( 49964 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @12:20PM (#12384513)
    If they would just have coughed up the $50 for their AAA membership, this wouldn't be a problem.
    As it stands, the towing charges are going to be astronomical.
  • by brer_rabbit ( 195413 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @12:39PM (#12384802) Journal
    if the rover stays in one place too long, it may be eaten by a sandworm. I hate it when sandworms eat my harvesters.
  • by theendlessnow ( 516149 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @12:42PM (#12384849)
    The rover is dead. Somebody has already stripped the hub caps and key'd the side of the vehicle. Left rear axle is up on blocks. Birds have covered the front and rear windows with poop. It doesn't look good for the little guy who's now 359 days into the extended mission. It is unlikely that a tow truck will reach it anytime soon.
  • Being an avid 4x4'er and no stranger to getting stuck, the best suggestions are this:

    1. Do *not* make things worse by spinning the wheels and digging yourself *in* further.
    (You're not rushing so you know this already, but certainly don't spin the wheels)
    2. Try to wiggle/dig *out* some clearance between your undercarriage and the sand. The more contact points you have the more friction you need to overcome. (After exhausting all options you may want to use the arms to remove as much sand from around the wheels and undercarriage as is possible. This may ruin the scientific instruments on those arms, but at least you'll better your chances of getting out.)
    3. Straighten your wheels as much as possible, but also try to match the entrance route.
    (noticed in the picture that one of the wheels is perpendicular to the track line, not a great way to get out.)
    4. Use your highest gear and slowly without tire spin, REVERSE!
    (It's usually best to go the route you came from, *not* visa versa because you've compacted the sand and you don't want to "plow" anymore)
    5. If that is difficult, ROCK the house! Rocking back and forth to create a space to give momentum on the way out is a great way of "punching" through the hard spot. Again, the reverse route is usually the best choice to rock out of. Give one last good pendulum type run at it when you're ready to try to bust out. Rocking forward then at the pinnacle, rock with all you have backwards.
    5. Use time to your advantage; keep working at it with the above. You don't want the sand to settle like cement though, so don't just sit there. Further those pesky dust devils may fill your tracks.
    6. Perhaps you can use gravity to your advantage on a slope.

    I'd wish you good luck, but there is no such thing as luck.
    There's only statistically calculated coincidence.

    So good "statistical calculating"!
  • Hello (Score:3, Funny)

    by rodney dill ( 631059 ) on Friday April 29, 2005 @04:09PM (#12387234) Journal

Your good nature will bring unbounded happiness.