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Mars NASA Space Science

NASA Mars Rover Spirit May Move Forward By Spinning Its Wheels 175

coondoggie writes "As NASA celebrates its Mars rover Spirit's sixth anniversary exploring the red planet, it is hunting for a way to keep the machine, which is mired in a sand trap, alive to see a seventh year. On its Web site, the space agency this week noted there may indeed be such an option. That option would be spinning the wheels on the north side of Spirit, letting it dig in deeper in the Martian sand but at the same time improving the tilt of the rover's solar panels toward the Sun."
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NASA Mars Rover Spirit May Move Forward By Spinning Its Wheels

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @04:53PM (#30616112)

    "Spinning its wheels" is technically what wheeled vehicles do while in motion, but idiomatically, it refers to wheelspin on sand/snow/etc. that doesn't result in forward/backward motion. It's commonly used as a metaphor for futile action, and so when the literal case turns out to be beneficial, the result is a mildly amusing headline. To use your example, it's more like "people kept alive by breathing water", in that it's the opposite of what you'd expect.

  • And one should add (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @05:14PM (#30616220)

    The rover was designed for a 90 day mission. If it made it to Mars operational, and was capable of operating for 90 (martian) days, the mission was a success. Here we are, years later and it is still working. It isn't as though this is a panic "Oh no we have to save the mission!" kind of thing. Rather, this is another step to see how long they can extend a tremendously successful mission. Even if the rover dies tomorrow, it will have far surpassed any expectations set for it.

    Also of note is that Opportunity, the other of the two rovers launched, is currently trucking along towards a crater they want to look at.

  • by carlhaagen ( 1021273 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @05:20PM (#30616250)
  • by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @05:27PM (#30616278)

    I agree, except you also have to realize that they're using "move forward" idiomatically, in that this idea may keep the rover functioning longer but will increase the chance that it is stationary for the remainder of its functional lifetime.

  • Re:Heh (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @05:33PM (#30616310)

    Yes, but getting them to mars intact is still a big problem.

    Although we seem to be doing rather well at it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @05:34PM (#30616318)

    This is a blantant example of reverse sandbagging, they give really low expectations so they can claim big success.
    On the other hand, this mission has gone on for six years so they can really pat themselves in the back since like 3 years ago.

  • by preaction ( 1526109 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @05:44PM (#30616378)
    7 years ago we put together a robot designed to survive a journey off of our own planet (secured to a fireball), through the vacuum of space (oxygen-breathing life need not apply), land on another planet (falling from miles above the surface) about which little is known (and nothing about the proper tire to use in a martian dust-pit). This tiny robot was hoped to survive for 90 days. It has survived for more than 2,500 days. This tiny moment of reflection brought to you by the You Really Are Alive In A Great Period of History Foundation.
  • Re:Heh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @05:48PM (#30616412)

    "You know what the solution to this problem is? Send more rovers. Lots more. If we had a spare rover near Spirit, we could probably have it roll over and give Spirit a tow..."

    We could afford to send MANY more unmanned missions (not to rescue other unmanned missions...yet) if we weren't spending a disproportionate amount of money on the romantic adventure of sending meat tourists into space. If the public want romance, let them fap to science fiction.

    We are wasting resources that could be advancing the vital robotic capabilities we REQUIRE ANYWAY to explore the universe.

  • by selven ( 1556643 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @06:10PM (#30616548)

    Was it really designed for 90 days? It could be that the only way they could sell it to Congress was if they told them that they only had to pay for technicians for 3 months.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @07:25PM (#30617070)

    And THIS got a 2? WTF mods, just seppuku!

  • Ok, people... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @10:26PM (#30618730) Homepage Journal

    Everyone who has a comment on how the Rovers should have been designed differenty;

    Everyone who has a comment on how the teams should have better ways to deal with this problem;

    Everyone who has a comment on how the mission could have gone better;

    Everyone who has a comment on how there must be a better way;

    Shup Up. Now.

    The 90-day mission is looing forward to its 8th YEAR. We have received data several orders of magnitude greater than hoped for. We've travelled much, much more than thought possible for thse Rovers. We've also learned a great deal about how to conduct robotic missions on other planets or moons in the solar system. We have gotten nothing short of a scientific miracle in the volume of information, learning opportunity, and pure information.

    The teams running this show have done stellar work, overcoming incredible obstacles. Amazing work.

    And your ideas about solving the current problem? As if it hasn't already been thought of, considered, even tried out in simulation.

    Read a bit of the blogs from the teams. They are pretty damned incredible.

    Me? I got no idea how to get it out of the sand. Tilting and waiting out the winter is a good plan, rather than taking chances when the Rovers are actually doing pretty well otherwise.

    Honestly. This mission is delivering value way beyond expectations. I got no complaint.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @10:45PM (#30618888)

    Can't they just rip some windshield wipers off a bus, install them, and have eternal rover barring sand traps and such?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 02, 2010 @05:05AM (#30620724)

    It was brought to you by hard working engineers at NASA and the American people, thank you tax dollars well spent.

If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error. -- John Kenneth Galbraith