Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?

Mars Rover Upgraded 132

MrShaggy writes "According to a BBC article, NASA is upgrading their MARS rovers. The upgrade will allow the rovers to sift through the pictures of dust-devils, decide which is the most appropriate, send it back. 'Clouds typically occur in 8-20% of the data collected right now,' Castano said. 'If we could look for a much more extended time and select only those images with clouds then we could increase our understanding of how and when these phenomena form. Similarly with the dust devils.' The article also discusses upgrades to the Mars Odyssey. They plan to make it self-reacting to events on the planet as they are happening."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Mars Rover Upgraded

Comments Filter:
  • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @11:55AM (#15420618)
    I think it gets repeated because NASA's failures and stupidity get repeated just as often. It is a counter balance to help point out that NASA isn't always doing crap.

    While I agree with you that NASA has made/is making some mistakes, the success of the Mars rovers is highlighted because of how enormously difficult Mars missions are. Something like only 25% of all spacecraft sent to Mars make it. And we're not just talking about NASA failing. The former Soviet Union lost a few spacecraft. The ESA lost a few.

  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @12:01PM (#15420642)
    . . .for a multi-million (billion?) piece of machinery, I'd expect it to work past my death . . .

    Argument Ad Crumenam.

    Price is not function. A $20 million Formula One car, for instance, has a functional halflife of about 4 hours, because it is designed that way, much of that $20 million being spent to effectively shorten it's halflife compared to a street car. In fact the perfect racing car has been defined as one that falls apart one foot after crossing the finish line, since anything else implies it has been overengineered at the sacrifice of its intended performance.

    If such a car went a full season competively without an engine rebuild every mechanical engineer in the world would wish to study it. It would be a true marvel.

  • by Darth_brooks ( 180756 ) <> on Sunday May 28, 2006 @12:26PM (#15420755) Homepage
    I am constantly astounded at just how well built and designed the rover must have been. AFAIR, it was only intended to run for a couple of months, yet it has now clocked up a couple of years, and now they are upgrading it's software to make it perform even better - that entire team is doing a fantastic job, and easily deserve whatever the US equivalent of an OBE is.

    Here's the rub. Spirit and Opportunity were only expected to run a couple months. Intended is a whole other word. They were built with the idea that they could conceivably last this long but the mission profile (and all the press releases) were put together with the expectation that they'd last a couple months. It was the closest thing to a gaurenteed win NASA could do.

    Think of it this way, if GM marketed the H2 as getting an "amazing 2 miles per gallon!" customers would brag about how their H2 actually gets five times that number, instead of complaining about only getting 10.

    Don't get me wrong, the mars rovers are an amazing accomplishment and a feather in the cap of the "new" NASA. But somewhere along the line there was a choice that needed to be made; Either completly revamp the way NASA does business and eliminate the top-heavy "Office Space" culture of twenty managers for every one engineer OR build small & cheap to minimize failure while lowering the expectations for the missions being planned, ensuring an "artificially" high sucess rate. One of these choices is good for NASA long term. The other can be good in the short term if it help eliminate the problems that need to be addressed by the first solution. It can be a bad thing if NASA decides to stay the course and be happy with writing missions that have a lowered standard of success.
  • The current generation of rovers have shown themselves to be reliable and very flexible. They've brought back a view of Mars that far surpasses anything we've seen before. It's really disappointing, therefore, that NASA is throwing away all of the knowledge used to make these missions a success. Delivery of a robot to Mars requires a successful launch, accurate navigation, and, of course, a good landing. To say nothing of the design of the rovers themselves. All of this must be carefully worked out in advance.

    But NASA has decided instead to throw away all of that and spend money to develop a new, bigger probe, the Mars Science Labratory.

    The current Rover's can only reach about 2% of the Martian surface, and are extremely lucky to last more than a few months - so we should stick with them? That's insane.

    Here in the real world, the Mars Science Laboratory builds on the experience gained from the two MER rovers, in the same way that the MER rovers built on Pathfinder, which built on decades of research and development. Nothing is 'thrown away'.

    It's a shame that the limited science money NASA gets isn't being spent in the most efficient way possible on stuff that we know to will give excellent scientific data, but instead is used for these kinds of big budget employment makers.
    Sure, they've given us excellent data - but there's more questions and more data needed. Questions the MER rovers can't answer and data they can't provide.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. -- Thomas Alva Edison