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Mars Robotics Space Science

Mars Rover Opportunity Surpasses 30km Driving 86

Phoghat sends this quote from Universe Today: "With her most recent drive of 482 feet on June 1, 2011 (Sol 2614), NASA's Opportunity Mars Rover has zoomed past the unimaginable 30 kilometer mark in total odometry since safely landing on Mars nearly seven and one half years ago on Jan 24, 2004. That's 50 times beyond the roughly quarter-mile of roving distance initially foreseen. And Opportunity is still going strong, in good health and has abundant solar power as she continues driving on her ambitious overland trek across the martian plains of Meridiani Planum. She is heading to the giant Endeavour crater, some 22 km in diameter."
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Mars Rover Opportunity Surpasses 30km Driving

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  • by vlueboy ( 1799360 ) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @11:24AM (#36337140)

    Ugh, 30 minutes and everyone's still caught up in the unit conversion issues.

    OK, let's stop and ponder other things, like why these rocket scientists were 50 times off their mark on durability estimates. The are not the same people in charge of our cheap unshielded, non-harsh-weather resistant, poorly dust-proofed, China-made electronics where variable parts WILL fail every few years and stop your booting. Aerospace scientists design beyond "our" problems, and make complex computers with probably zero dust-exposed PSU heatsinks to live in dust-bunny/lightning storm environments 5+ times harsher than the Earth, wind-speed and static-electricity-storm-wise (courtesy of a Science channel doc).

    The scientists have been revising data from all the mars rover landings since '97, and from the very first rover had a chance to up-correct their estimates when even *that* rover outlasted the projections. So... why are they erring on the side of caution? Politics, maybe washing their hands in the distrust of contractors' abilities to build good enugh to meet their 10-year-program adjustments spec? Something doesn't add up, and it makes you wonder:

    * just how much better is "rocket science," really?
    * just how much worse are all the others who more-readily miss estimates, causing daily problems on our Blue Marble?
    * just how prepared is NASA to run tests beyond the driving reach of the landing site while they obviously didn't carefully plan to be running 'em?
    * just how many extra tax dollars will need to be allocated to budget for this whole not-so-well planned "lucky break?" ;)


  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 04, 2011 @02:03PM (#36337216)

    It's not that they are wrong on their predictions of how long a device should last. Look at it this way: When you send something out into space (like a rover to mars) you won't have the possibility of fixing it if it breaks. When the rovers where designed and constructed NASA said they wanted them to last six months so they had to have a probability of failing at six months that was extremely tiny (1% or whatever the number came out of my ass). Also the way that warrenties are designed (and I'm assuming they did math like this before) is that the probability of failure is assigned for different times. The designers didn't say the rovers would break at six months. They merely made (almost) absolutely certain that they would last at least six months.

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington