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New Mars Rover Rolls For the First Time

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the keep-them-doggies-rollin dept.

Mars 100

wooferhound writes "Like proud parents savoring their baby's very first steps, mission team members gathered in a gallery above a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to watch the Mars Curiosity rover roll for the first time. Engineers and technicians wore bunny suits while guiding Curiosity through its first steps, or more precisely, its first roll on the clean room floor. The rover moved forward and backward about 1 meter (3.3 feet). Mars Science Laboratory (aka Curiosity) is scheduled to launch in fall 2011 and land on the Red Planet in August 2012. Curiosity is the largest rover ever sent to Mars. It will carry 10 instruments that will help search an intriguing region of the Red Planet for two things: environments where life might have existed, and the capacity of those environments to preserve evidence of past life."

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Overweaning care (0, Offtopic)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#33087052)

You know, being in a similar biz, I understand some of the economics of the process, but really, if we're building something to go a hundred million kilometers and land on another planet, you'd think we'd make it robust enough out of the box that it doesn't take 14 engineers and an act of congress to see it roll a few feet the first time. Let's send a robotic humm-vee. Yeah it weighs more. Big deal. Put it on a bigger rocket. That'd be cheaper than treating it like it's made of isinglas from day 0 to EOL.

Re:Overweaning care (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33087392)

I think you don't quite understand the utter, sheer enormity of a project like sending a probe to another planet, let alone an autonomous rover to land on the surface. As you yourself admit, this thing is going to travel hundreds of millions of kilometres through space, burn through an atmosphere, land on the surface of a planet and -hopefully- roll away into the sunset. NASA can't test it enough IMHO. This machine needs to have triple redundancies built in - it will need them. Watch the video: this thing is going to explore the surface of another planet. Who is going to fix it, if it breaks?

There's no thing like overweaning care when it comes to real, actual space exploration. If you don't take care, you can see a rover worth a few hundred million dollars burn up in an atmosphere or worse: just sitting there like a lame duck because someone thought it'd be a waste of time to take the appropriate care.

Re:Overweaning care (0, Troll)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091560)

I understand it fine. Which is why I don't understand why the thing isn't made so bulletproof that you could test the wheels with the entire crew jumping up and down on top of the rover. It's not so much a matter of not testing it as of having to treat it like it's going to break because you're testing it. One of the Mars landers crapped out this year because too much frost (albeit a layer of dry ice a couple of feet thick) snapped its solar panels. Prissy design is passe. Let's send up some gear that can do donuts. We'll find a use for the extra capability when we get there. We always do. Otherwise, we're going to spend $300 million and get only $301 million worth of work out of it, if we predicted every unpredictable input.

Re:Overweaning care (2, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33092132)

I understand it fine. Which is why I don't understand why the thing isn't made so bulletproof that you could test the wheels with the entire crew jumping up and down on top of the rover.

Because then it'd be far too heavy.

There are more consequences of weight than just having to have a (super-linearly) larger rocket, though that is a significant issue given NASA's budget and not something that can be ignored even if it were the only issue.

The MSL is already so heavy that they can't use the simple airbag landing method they used for Spirit and Opportunity. Instead, they're having to use a pretty crazy method of dangling the rover by a cable from a rocket-propelled landing platform.

Increase the weight significantly, and that method becomes much harder if not impossible. It's a square-cube problem. The strength of the rover's structure goes up as the cross-sectional area, but the mass -- and thus the force experienced on landing for a given velocity -- goes up as the volume. In a very real sense, your heavier rover is actually weaker when it comes to this aspect of the mission. Which means you need much larger rockets that are simultaneously much more precise in absolute terms, and thus vastly more precise in percentage terms.

I don't know what related industry you work in, but if weight isn't a dominant issue then it's really not that closely related to space travel.

Re:Overweaning care (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#33097518)

But your example of survivability of the touchdown is begging the question. It can't survive the touchdown because they didn't make it strong enough. It's one of the reasons HMMV's are as strong as they are. You can dump them out of aircraft on a pallet.

The rocket thing is a good idea, except that the mass of rocket you need goes up super-linearly with the mass of payload you're trying to decelerate. I bet an auto-gyro would be even better, even in a thin CO2 atmosphere.

Your statement about where I work is tautological. That's two classical fallacies you've resorted to in attempting to question my reasoning.

Re:Overweaning care (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33097784)

But your example of survivability of the touchdown is begging the question. It can't survive the touchdown because they didn't make it strong enough. It's one of the reasons HMMV's are as strong as they are. You can dump them out of aircraft on a pallet.

Um, the MSL can (in theory, the new mechanism is unproven) survive touchdown. If they made it significantly heavier, it wouldn't be able to because mass scales faster than strength. If you meant the airbag landing, that's just ludicrous, it can't survive that because its mass is too high for airbags to protect it, and heavier would just make that even more impossible. It'd just be crashing into the planet.

You can't drop a HMMWV very far. A lighter vehicle of equal material strength would actually be able to survive a farther drop. That's basic physics, not begging the question. Try to drop a HMMWV in an airbag-protected lander onto Mars and it'd be scrap. While Spirit and Opportunity were fine because they're so much lighter. Get it?

The rocket thing is a good idea, except that the mass of rocket you need goes up super-linearly with the mass of payload you're trying to decelerate.

Yes, another reason why they can't afford to increase the mass of the rover as much as you'd like. Those much bigger (yet more precise to keep landing velocity down) rockets would feed right back into the initial launch equation.

Your statement about where I work is tautological. That's two classical fallacies you've resorted to in attempting to question my reasoning.

Look, it wasn't intended as an insult, I'm sure you're good at your job. But if keeping mass down isn't a primary consideration, then no your job is not closely related to what NASA is doing. Mass is a primary consideration of NASA, it's not apparently on your radar, ergo your jobs are not closely related.

Claiming logical fallacies because you didn't follow the logic means nothing.

Re:Overweaning care (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33092176)

One of the Mars landers crapped out this year because too much frost (albeit a layer of dry ice a couple of feet thick) snapped its solar panels. Prissy design is passe.

Oh yeah, and denigrating the previous rover designs because one of them finally crapped out is just silly. You think they could have designed it to withstand a couple feet of ice accumulation and not had to sacrifice a ton of other things? If so, you're wrong.

Re:Overweaning care (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#33097572)

could have designed it to withstand a couple feet of ice accumulation and not had to sacrifice a ton of other things? If so, you're wrong.

No, I'm right, and for exactly that reason.

They sacrificed a ton of fuel they could have put into a bigger rocket to get a sturdier rover there, and still had it today to do another year of science.

Yes, the current rovers do impressively vs. their minimum mission requirements.

But their minimum mission requirements are kind of pathetic compared to what they could be if you set out to use more robust systems. And you wouldn't need to spend weeks planning which pebble to run the left front bogie over when moving to the next bit of interestingly colored sand.

So you should counter with "but we could put another instrument on the payload for that weight." Yes. Good. Do that, too. Let's stop screwing around here. Pack half a dozen rockets with all the equipment we can think of, and get it on-site. Let the rover go around and assemble the gear onto itself when it gets there. And make it tough enough to survive the environment and give us room to implement tasks we couldn't dream of until we've seen what there is to be tried.

Re:Overweaning care (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33097850)

They sacrificed a ton of fuel they could have put into a bigger rocket to get a sturdier rover there, and still had it today to do another year of science.

Assuming you meant "If they sacrificed a ton of fuel",

Pack half a dozen rockets with all the equipment we can think of, and get it on-site. Let the rover go around and assemble the gear onto itself when it gets there.

That's a great idea -- for the future. In fact it's in the future if NASA's technology development plans don't get too damaged by Congress demanding a shuttle successor. Robotic assembly from separately launched components (specifically targeting automated resource harvesters/processors, but obviously this could include exploration craft) is one of the technology developments supposed to occur in the next 10 years.

See, NASA engineers understand that you can't just blow up the size of what your launching, and it makes more sense to launch and land smaller components for a lot of the reasons, including the difficulty of landing larger components without them being damaged. It's nice to see you acknowledging that reality at least somewhat.

Anyway, point is -- that technology is in development. When Spirit and Opportunity were launched neither the rocket-sky-hook nor robotic-self-assembly techniques existed. Airbags were the only known method to work. So your dream rover would either still be in development, or it'd be a fucking crater on the Martian surface. Either way, what we got, when we got it, was better.

Re:Overweaning care (1)

brasselv (1471265) | more than 4 years ago | (#33097878)

One of the Mars landers crapped out this year because too much frost (albeit a layer of dry ice a couple of feet thick) snapped its solar panels. Prissy design is passe. Let's send up some gear that can do donuts.

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your donuts-driven space exploration program *g*

Re:Overweaning care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33097560)

triple redundancies you say?

Re:Overweaning care (2, Interesting)

al0ha (1262684) | more than 4 years ago | (#33087796)

I know it costs roughly $80,000 to land an object on the moon, Mars must be a bit more.

Lets say a Hum-V was built that runs perfectly on 100% solar power and weighs about the same as a standard Hum-V, we know it would cost roughly $480,000,000 to lift that Hum-V to the moon. Hard to see how that would be any cheaper...

Re:Overweaning care (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091622)

Break one of yours. Mine won't. Getting more done on Mission 1 is better than having to plan and fly Mission 2 to get less done.

The only caveat to this is how much rocket you got? If necessary, build that bigger, too.

Re:Overweaning care (2, Interesting)

al0ha (1262684) | more than 4 years ago | (#33087836)

Ah sorry, amend my previous figure of $80,000 above to $80,000/pound..

Re:Overweaning care (3, Funny)

by (1706743) (1706744) | more than 4 years ago | (#33088094)

Ah sorry, amend my previous figure...to $80,000/pound.

Dang, I knew the dollar was down against the pound, but that's just ridiculous.

Re:Overweaning care (1)

brasselv (1471265) | more than 4 years ago | (#33097762)

source?

Re:Overweaning care (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33087920)

Mars gravity is about 1/3 Earth's. If the structure is 3x stronger than it needs to be to support itself on Mars, it's just barely strong enough to support itself on Earth.

Re:Overweaning care (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 4 years ago | (#33089724)

The common internal cumbustion engine is not exactly rocket science. If I sent my CRX engine over to the wiz kids ahd had it rebuilt I would EXPECT them to re-check the oil, timing, etc, crank it over a few times without fire to make sure nothing clanks inside, and have the oil pressure gauge hooked up when it is fired off for the first time just to make sure nothng was forgotten or missed. Some shops even do compression tests just to spot obvious problems.

So I'm entirely pleased that JPL gave this new Rover a cautious and careful initial drive. Why destroy a motor or break something else just because you 'know what you're doing'?

Now, sadly, we have to deal with the fear that this Rover will get to Mars, drive off the landing pad, and lurch to a halt 12 meters away just because of something no one thought of. I'd rather we make a dozen copies of Opportunity [nasa.gov] . that rover design seems to have stood the test. Make a few and land them as a MIRV'd mission. Or maybe update the power system with the nuclear option. We'll be pretty disappointed if this fancy new Rover grinds to a halt for something either stupid or unknown.

Re:Overweaning care (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091592)

So I'm entirely pleased that JPL gave this new Rover a cautious and careful initial drive. Why destroy a motor or break something else just because you 'know what you're doing'?

I'm not saying don't test it. But the reason you do prissy tests like this is because you expect that you don't know what you're doing, and you want to make sure the wheels go all the way around. Shows a lack of confidence in your processes and in the robustness of your gear. Which means both were designed by people who didn't have confidence in their own design abilities.

Someone mentioned $80k/lb (probably more for Mars). So adding a few lbs to make the thing much tougher and more robust is a good idea, since a fat screw-jack is insurance against losing the other several hundred lbs worth of cost because you saved weight using a prissy tin-foil deployment spring on the solar collector.

Re:Overweaning care (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 4 years ago | (#33097022)

the real problem isn't getting it to mars. It's getting to land safely on mars. There is very little atmosphere, not enough to use parachute, but enough to cause heat when plowing though it. Add to that enough gravity to make things like retro rockets unpractical

obligatory (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#33087082)

August 2012: Mars rover discovers proof of complicated life forms on mars
December 2012: We get WTFPWNBBQed

Re:obligatory (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#33089098)

Nah, I'm more worried about 2068. Better get started on Cloudbase.

all we have to do is brake there glass domes as th (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091100)

all we have to do is brake there glass domes as they can't live on the air hear.

Re:all we have to do is brake there glass domes as (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33095686)

All we have to do is send you, then, considering how good you are at fracturing the language.

Wheels (3, Interesting)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 4 years ago | (#33087112)

I've always wondered why the rovers aren't designed with bigger wheels and bubble-ish tires (not saying they have to be inflated) like on a truck outfitted for work in a swamp. Every time we read that one of the existing rovers got stuck and the folks at JPL were working on getting it unstuck, I'd think the same thing.

Re:Wheels (2, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#33087238)

I've always wondered why the rovers aren't designed with bigger wheels and bubble-ish tires (not saying they have to be inflated) like on a truck outfitted for work in a swamp.

Because, among other reasons, there's only so much available to work with. Bigger tires means less room available for something else - or you have to accept complex (and potentially failure prone) inflating/unfolding mechanisms. (Which are going to up the cost.)
 
Designing a spacecraft is a complex trade off between hundreds of factors.

Re:Wheels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33087358)

yea but really most of the rovers we have sent have wheels smaller than most children's training wheels, then act surprised when we send it to a hostile surface and it gets stuck

maybe NASA should take the nerds out muddin every once in a while, then maybe they would know that sending a machine with 3inch casters on it probably wont climb the side of a crater

Re:Wheels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33087912)

Most of the lightweight alloys, plastics, and whatnot that you go "muddin" with were developed at NASA.

Re:Wheels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33088586)

funny cause I though it was a old 1970's v8 jeep with tractor tires on it

Re:Wheels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33088744)

Just because you know how to mold the material used doesn't mean you know how to drive in certain conditions.

Like saying "I know how wings work therefore I can fly a plane through a tornado."

Re:Wheels (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#33087266)

"bubble-ish tires (not saying they have to be inflated)"

Then how do you make them "bubble-ish"? This thing has to operate on MARS, not in your back yard. The temperatures are extremely different, the conditions are different, etc. It's not a simple matter of "well, just use technology XYZ that we use here on earth".

Re:Wheels (0, Troll)

Hylandr (813770) | more than 4 years ago | (#33087992)

Solid Rubber Wheels. They sell them for Bicycles too.

- Dan.

Re:Wheels (3, Informative)

ThatMegathronDude (1189203) | more than 4 years ago | (#33088214)

rubber is a complex polymer that degrades on exposure to UV. the radiation background in transit and on the surface of Mars spells certain doom for the kind of rubber you see in tires.

Re:Wheels (2, Interesting)

barzok (26681) | more than 4 years ago | (#33088826)

Take a look at the wheels designed for the lunar rover [wikipedia.org] . They seemed to work out pretty well.

Re:Wheels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33089694)

According to NASA if someone put some new batteries in the lunar rovers they would run fine. And probably just a good cleaning, replacement of the KOH, and a charge would work as they are NiFe.

The Mars rovers are indeed beautiful technology but I would rather depend on the 1960 tech in the lunar rover if my life depended on it. Besides, it drives ALOT faster! Probably the most successful electric vehicle of all time.

Re:Wheels (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#33092250)

Except they ran on batteries, and they wouldn't last very long, and would be very very inefficient to be operated on solar power.

Remember, the rover is supposed to work unattended for a very long time on nothing but solar power.

Nuclear Power (1)

wooferhound (546132) | more than 4 years ago | (#33096440)

This rover does not have solar panels, it runs on Nuclear Power . . .
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/mission/technology/technologiesofbroadbenefit/power/ [nasa.gov]

Re:Nuclear Power (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#33097426)

Thank you for pointing that out, I didn't knew. Interesting stuff in the PDF linked on that page.

Re:Nuclear Power (1)

brasselv (1471265) | more than 4 years ago | (#33097956)

So the trade-off that is being sacrificed here appears to be life-span, right?

Theoretically, given the right conditions and luck, I reckon a solar-powered rover could last for an indefinite time.
Nuclear batteries seem to put a hard end-date to the mission timeline - in this case about two years.

Beat me to it (1)

Traf-O-Data-Hater (858971) | more than 4 years ago | (#33089974)

Exactly. Seeing the GPs query, the mesh tires were the first thing I thought of too. They worked on the low gravity and soft surface of the moon, can't see why they wouldn't work on Mars.

Re:Wheels (2, Funny)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 4 years ago | (#33090650)

The Lunar Rover had a person there to kick it if the mechanism jammed.

Re:Wheels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33090792)

but it didn't need to, it was dead simple and worked fine

Re:Wheels (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 4 years ago | (#33096898)

It unloaded, landed and drove around by itself? Amazing!

Re:Wheels (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091142)

Also operated only within the gravity of the MOON. Mars has a lot more gravity.

Re:Wheels (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#33095844)

The moon has no atmosphere. Any dust kicked up from the tires (and there was a lot) immediately fell back to the lunar surface. On Mars, there is an atmosphere, and any dust that gets kicked up would float around and get on all the instruments. This is not a good thing.

Re:Wheels (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#33087268)

Well I imagine a swampy environment is different than that of the environment on Mars. Perhaps its just Hollywood that's lead me to believe its much more dustier than it is wet, and that most if any water was closer to frozen. And that it's not so much an issue that they get into a pit of sand, or anything like a swamp, but that a dust storm comes up, buries the thing half way deep, and then they have trouble getting it out.

Re:Wheels (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 4 years ago | (#33088732)

Um, aren't the Martian swamps where the dinosaurs and hot cave women chicks live?

Re:Wheels (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33087488)

Me thinks there is something wrong with that picture. *ALL* of them are wearing dust suits and walking around on static mats. Im sorry it is going to be sitting outside in a rather harsh environment. If you need to take that amount of care now perhaps there is something wrong? I can understand taking care building it but that makes me think it will fail later on when put in a mars dust storm.

Re:Wheels (3, Informative)

Digicrat (973598) | more than 4 years ago | (#33087744)

Me thinks there is something wrong with that picture. *ALL* of them are wearing dust suits and walking around on static mats. Im sorry it is going to be sitting outside in a rather harsh environment. If you need to take that amount of care now perhaps there is something wrong? I can understand taking care building it but that makes me think it will fail later on when put in a mars dust storm.

The reason for the bunny suits at this stage is NOT to protect it against damage from dust, but to prevent contamination. If we're sending a probe to another planet to search for traces of life, the last thing we want is to "discover" life that we brought with us in the first place. Hence all spacecraft (or rover) components are handled in the most sterile of environments.

The mats in those photos are probably to ensure it doesn't roll over any lingering dust on the floor and to mark where people (in bunny suits) shouldn't work, I doubt those are actually anti-static mats, or if they are if that's the main purpose in there.

Re:Wheels (1)

clintonmonk (1411953) | more than 4 years ago | (#33087820)

Oh, see I thought that they were actually dressed up as rabbits.

Re:Wheels (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#33089008)

I was sorely disappointed by the lack of floppy ears and cotton tails.

Re:Wheels (2, Informative)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 4 years ago | (#33087732)

The cost of the mission is largely related to the cost of making and launching the rover. The reason why probes are made of exotic materials and fold up so compactly is that every kilogram costs tens of thousands of dollars to launch into space, and increased physical size means a larger & heavier shell. The increased cost of materials is more than made up by the reduced cost of fuel. The bigger and heavier the rover, the more it costs to send it to Mars. They can only get so much budget for a project, so they make the project fit the budget as well as they can. The successes appear to have made it easier to get more money for larger successive missions.

Sojourner did pretty darn well against expectations and it had smaller wheels . Spirit and Opportunity were considerably larger and it greatly exceeded expectations in terms of what it discovered and how long they lasted.

Re:Wheels (1)

viper34j (1401493) | more than 4 years ago | (#33088138)

Bigger wheels = more wheel weight = bigger engine needed to rotate = more power. Power is the #1 concern of the rovers while on Mars.

Re:Wheels (2, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#33089186)

NASA meets Pimp My Ride.

JPL: "We're not sure what happened. We powered down the rover ovenight and this morning its up on cement blocks and missing its wheels."

On the other hand, putting hydraulics on it might help getting it unstuck.

Hydraulics and Mars surface temperature (1)

Traf-O-Data-Hater (858971) | more than 4 years ago | (#33090132)

Whilst hydraulics might sound like a good idea, remember the operating conditions it's working in - the mean surface temperature is -63C which could severely affect a hydraulic system

Re:Wheels (1)

orient (535927) | more than 4 years ago | (#33089428)

A metal wheel has better grip and is easier to free than a rubber wheel.

European ExoMars rover has skinny wheels (1)

Traf-O-Data-Hater (858971) | more than 4 years ago | (#33090092)

...and for the life of me, I don't know why, considering Spirit has shown how easy it is to get bogged even with autonomous ground-plotting software. The Lunar Rover mesh wheels worked perfectly, were lightweight and durable, why not do the same? Alternately, if I were in charge of wheel design I would perhaps consider a more spherical wheel cross-section. I recall something I saw whilst browsing Google Patents which was a 1930's swamp buggy machine that had spherical wheels. The softer the terrain the further it sank down, which in turn increased the ground contact area. Seemed like a good idea to me.

Re:European ExoMars rover has skinny wheels (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 4 years ago | (#33098886)

they are huge, see the comment about the costs for lifting a kG of material.

Re:European ExoMars rover has skinny wheels (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 4 years ago | (#33098892)

sry, that should be "kg" not a "kilo-gravity constant"

Re:Wheels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33090798)

I say we equip them with stilts.

Re:Wheels (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091112)

I've always wondered why the rovers aren't designed with bigger wheels and bubble-ish tires

Have you seen the pictures of this rover [wikipedia.org] ? The wheels are about knee high [planetary.org] and about the same wide. They are on a rocker-bogey system that can scale objects twice the wheel height [planetary.org] .

Every time we read that one of the existing rovers got stuck and the folks at JPL were working on getting it unstuck, I'd think the same thing.

The rover is not stuck because of the wheels. It is stuck because the body is hung up on a rock. They could try lifting the body off of the rock using the sensor/sampling arm, but that might damage the arm. Also, the arm might not give them enough clearance to get off the rock. Add to that the fact that it's winter there, so the available power is low, and you've got a rover that's stuck until Martian summer. (Actually, the rover has been incommunicado since March. It has likely gone into hibernation until there is enough solar power to wake it.)

The other rover has wheels that won't turn because its motor has seized. Again, nothing to do with the wheel size/shape. If you want m

Re:Wheels (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091202)

Oops, premature submit. Sorry folks.

If you want my opinion, they should be using something like the ATHLETE [nasa.gov] as a base instead of the rocker-bogey system. That way, they could just walk [nxtbot.com] the rover out of trouble.

Re:Wheels (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 4 years ago | (#33109266)

Just curious... is it hung up on the rock because it sank into the sand while going over it?

Re:Wheels (1)

7-Vodka (195504) | more than 4 years ago | (#33092952)

What?? why not make it a tracked vehicle. Tracked vehicles are so much better in off-road situation than wheels it's not even funny. Here is a home-made tracked vehicle from 7 years ago [youtube.com]

Re:Wheels (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#33096148)

Being tracked doesn't help if you're hung up on something. Spirit is stuck on a rock, not bogged down in the sand.

A probe that won't launch for a year... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33087224)

...will still reach mars 3 years before New Horizons reaches Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.

Still in the neighborhood and still so far away.

Best wishes on both projects.

Badass rover! (1)

Script Cat (832717) | more than 4 years ago | (#33087252)

Those tires are at least as big as my garden tractor and it has six of them.
That and its body looks like a cross between a battle ship and a Dalek.
But what matters most though, is if it works well and has new science capability.

Hope they fix.. (0, Offtopic)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 4 years ago | (#33087304)

Hope they fix the dust collecting on the solar panels issue.
Something as simple as compressed air blowing on the panels would do the trick.
Since there is a thin atmosphere on Mars, they could just have a little compressor pump the Martian air instead of an air or CO2 canister.

Not even an issue. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33087564)

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/mission/rover/energy/

"The Mars Science Laboratory rover will carry a radioisotope power system that generates electricity from the heat of plutonium's radioactive decay. This power source gives the mission an operating lifespan on Mars' surface of at least a full Martian year (687 Earth days) or more while also providing significantly greater mobility and operational flexibility, enhanced science payload capability, and exploration of a much larger range of latitudes and altitudes than was possible on previous missions to Mars."

Re:Hope they fix.. (2, Informative)

blahbooboo (839709) | more than 4 years ago | (#33087652)

Hope they fix the dust collecting on the solar panels issue. Something as simple as compressed air blowing on the panels would do the trick. Since there is a thin atmosphere on Mars, they could just have a little compressor pump the Martian air instead of an air or CO2 canister.

Yes, it's nuclear powered... problem solved :)

Re:Hope they fix.. (1)

Neil Watson (60859) | more than 4 years ago | (#33088292)

Sssh, the torch and pitchfork carrying mob will here you use the other 'n' word and start to panic.

red planet (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33087322)

scheduled to launch in fall 2011 and land on the Red Planet in August 2012

I've read that the planet isnt actually red, there's just a lot of dust in the atmosphere that can make it look like that from a long way off and NASA are into the very bad habit of photoshopping their Mars pictures to make it look more 'Martian'.

Re:red planet (2, Interesting)

Script Cat (832717) | more than 4 years ago | (#33087536)

No you're thinking of an incident from the viking mission where the opposite happened.
Viking video images were miscalibrated to display the sky as blue.
But there is always a calibration target on the lander with known colors that is used for proper calibration.
Disappointment ensued when it was corrected as per the know target and the sky was pink.

Mars defense grid (1)

random coward (527722) | more than 4 years ago | (#33087334)

So do we have a better idea of the mars defense grid locations, or is this one going to be "lost" on landing?

Re:Mars defense grid (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#33088970)

"There's an interesting rock outcropping over there to investigate. It's shaped just like a Martian plasma cannon."

Re:Mars defense grid (1)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | more than 4 years ago | (#33090434)

I'm sure that K'breel, Speaker for the Council, will deny allegations that Mars possesses plasma cannon technology.

You guys have replaced me already? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33087446)

That stings, people. It really stings.

Greetings from Mars,

--
Spirit

EpZ?!. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33087466)

much Corgani&sation,

I've been told (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33087826)

9 of the 10 instruments are to be used when the other one gets stuck.

All your eggs in one basket (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 4 years ago | (#33088122)

I've always wondered why NASA makes such huge and complicated probes when they could just make many, many tiny and expendable ones. I recall seeing a project under consideration where a fairly large number of probes would roll around looking for signs of water. Since there would be so many of them, we wouldn't suffer a total loss if a probe took a somewhat risky maneuver down a steep ravine, for example. I always hold my breath when a robot deploys or is transported for the first time, so I can only imagine how the scientists feel about this.

Why not go the cheaper, multiple probes route?

modern probes started with that philosophy (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#33088288)

The first modern probe, pathfinder was a cute little thing that mostly just took pictures. Then came the robo-geologists Spirt and Opportunity about the size of golf carts. Now its Curiosity the size of an SUV. It need retro rockets to land instead of airbags. And has more reliable nuclear power instead of solar.

Re:All your eggs in one basket (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33088488)

Because it would still cost about as much to get each one to Mars- probably a lot more, as you'd need multiple launch vehicles unless you make them really tiny and not very capable. Also, the smaller and cheaper you make 'em, the less science each can do. The multi-probe way might be the way to go if you're just rolling around looking for sites that may have had water present in the past, but what do you do when you discover an interesting spot? With the big probe, you crank up the arm with rock grinder, scintilation spectrometer and microsope to go check it out; things I doubt you'd find in "little" probes.

Re:All your eggs in one basket (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091036)

Exactly, you explained it much better than I could have.

But we've done the big probe, can't reach interesting areas thing - why not try many small single/dual purpose probes? And yeah, I'm talking very tiny with just enough transmission power to get their signals back to the orbiter above. I see both angles, I'm just raising a general talking point.

Re:All your eggs in one basket (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#33094102)

Because rovers are PR stunts. Real work gets done from orbit. We already have a map of the underground water reserves of Mars [nasa.gov] , we even have a clear picture of water snow [futurehi.net] (we know it is not CO2 snow). All of these results brought from ESA orbiters. Sadly, ESA lacks the public relation office that NASA has...

1 meter (3.3 feet) (0, Flamebait)

Mojo66 (1131579) | more than 4 years ago | (#33088124)

Every time I see that kind of conversion in parentheses I have to think of Mars Climate Orbiter's fate. When will a nation that still calculates pressure in pound per square feet (hahaha that sounds so funny) make the step into the 21st century?

Greetings from Europe.

Re:1 meter (3.3 feet) (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33088636)

How many kilograms was the baguette that shut down your LHC?

Ribbit.

Re:1 meter (3.3 feet) (2, Informative)

mandark1967 (630856) | more than 4 years ago | (#33088890)

And everytime I see a post like this I think of The Ariane 5 Flight 501 failure (integer overflow error, LOL!) and ask myself will they step into the 20th century and ever put someone on the moon?

Greetings from the United States.

Re:1 meter (3.3 feet) (1)

Yunzil (181064) | more than 4 years ago | (#33089448)

When will a nation that still calculates pressure in pound per square feet (hahaha that sounds so funny) make the step into the 21st century?
We made that step decaeds ago. It was 18 inches (45.72 cm) long.

Re:1 meter (3.3 feet) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33091380)

Let me know when you get someone on the moon. Also exactly how long is a decaed? Is that the metric decade?

Re:1 meter (3.3 feet) (1)

brasselv (1471265) | more than 4 years ago | (#33098222)

This whole trans-ocean flame-thread is silly - especially in the context of a space exploration discussion.

Greetings from Planet Earth.

Sturdy construction (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 4 years ago | (#33089148)

ISTR that the Apollo LM was constructed for the Moon's gravity and would collapse under its own weight on Earth. It's interesting that a vehicle that's made for a 0.38G environment works on Earth.

Re:Sturdy construction (2, Interesting)

Larson2042 (1640785) | more than 4 years ago | (#33089816)

Though a vehicle may be designed to work in 0.38 earth gravity, that doesn't mean it will collapse or otherwise not work in standard earth conditions. Most often the structural driver for spacecraft, rovers, etc is the launch vehicle environment. Curiosity will be going up on an Atlas V, which will subject the rover to 5-6 G and a strenuous acoustic, shock, and vibration environment. In addition to the launch loads, it also has to survive the sky-crane landing on the surface of Mars. So it really isn't too surprising that it can support its own weight on earth.

Bunny Suits (1)

ChrisK87 (901429) | more than 4 years ago | (#33090614)

Engineers and technicians wore bunny suits while guiding Curiosity through its first steps

Sometimes I really wish "bunny suits" actually meant costumes of bunnies... Space exploration could use a little more whimsy.

The rover (1)

PhasmatisApparatus (1086395) | more than 4 years ago | (#33093050)

The rover will be equipped with weaponry for use against cats.

Simple HTML confounds NASA rocket scientists (1)

Fish (David Trout) (923462) | more than 3 years ago | (#33099652)

NASA may understand things related to aeronautics and space, but, sadly, they sure as heck don't understand HTML very well:

    (a href="../../images/20100723_D2010_0723_D298_50.jpg" target="_blank" class="captionText")
    (img src="../../images/20100723_D2010_0723_D298_50.jpg" width="120" height="90" ...
    (a href="../../images/20100723_D2010_0723_D298_50.jpg")Full Size Image(/font)(/a) ...

and:

    (a href="../../images/20100723_D2010_0723_D853_50.jpg" target="_blank" class="captionText")
    (img src="../../images/20100723_D2010_0723_D853_50.jpg" width="120" height="90" ...
    (a href="../../images/20100723_D2010_0723_D853_50.jpg")Full Size Image(/font)(/a) ...

and:

    (a href="../../images/20100723_D2010_0723_D867_50.jpg" target="_blank" class="captionText")
    (img src="../../images/20100723_D2010_0723_D867_50.jpg" width="120" height="90" ...
    (a href="../../images/20100723_D2010_0723_D867_50.jpg")Full Size Image(/font)(/a) ...

Ummm... Houston? We have a problem here!

The "width" and "height" attributes of the HTML "img" tag *DOES NOT CHANGE THE SIZE OF THE IMAGE FILE*. It only changes the how that (image) FILE is /rendered/ on the screen.

The entire 2.31 MB (9.4 x 6.3 inches (23.8 x 15.9 cm) 2250 x 1500 Pixel), 1.57 MB (5.8 x 8.1 inches (14.8 x 20.6 cm) 1400 x 1942 Pixel), and 2.01 MB (8.8 x 5.8 inches (22.3 x 14.8 cm) 2104 x 1400 Pixel) files will /still/ be downloaded whenever the page is displayed.

They'll just get squeezed into a tiny 120 x 90 pixel area on the page, which sort of renders moot the whole point of providing thumbnails, doesn't it?

What /should/ be, at most, a several kilobyte web page is, thanks to the rocket scientist that wrote your page's HTML code, is now a 5.9+ MEGABYTE web page, that even with high speed DSL /does/ take a while to load.

I've seen this mistake made far too many times by amateur web authors. You'd think the folks at NASA would be smart enough to get it right.

I mean this isn't exactly rocket science we're talking about here!

But then maybe that's the problem? They only understand rocket science, so anything that /isn't/ rocket science completely baffles them??

Makes you wonder sometimes....

Rolls Royce is building Mars rovers? (1)

hacksoncode (239847) | more than 4 years ago | (#33115300)

Am I the only one that misread the headline and expected to see an announcement that Rolls Royce had won a bid to build a Mars rover for the first time?
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