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Mars Rover Reaches Victoria Crater 187

gevmage writes, "CNN reports that the 'Opportunity' rover on Mars has reached the Victoria crater. The rovers Spirit and Opportunity arrived on Mars three years ago with planned mission lifetime of 90 days. The rover Spirit is wounded, having only 5 of 6 wheels functioning, and so it's moving quite slowly. However, Opportunity is still going strong and has been trucking towards the massive crater Victoria for almost the past year. Scientists have been hoping that Opportunity would get there so they can have a look at geologically older areas — and it's finally made it!" See the NASA press release for links to photos of the Victoria crater.
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Mars Rover Reaches Victoria Crater

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  • by arcite ( 661011 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @05:49PM (#16237619)
    Space really is the final frontier. News stories like this never cease to brighten up my day, and give me hope for the future. Not to sound too corny, but do others find this is true?
    • by exley ( 221867 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @06:15PM (#16237969) Homepage
      Honestly not trying to troll, but no, sorry, this does not restore my faith in humanity at all. Unfortunately, there are far too many things happening every day (take the recent school shooting in Colorado, for instance) to continually keep my faith in humanity pretty much nonexistant.

      And while our exploration of space at this point does have practical applications for current-day life, a lot of it is also just a "cool, let's see what we can learn" sort of thing. Which, again, is of use both today as well as in the future. But with the way things are going here on Earth right now (The environment, anyone? Wars? Etc.), who knows if we'll ever really be able to put a lot of our knowledge from space exploration to full use and truly reach the final frontier.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Please keep your particular brand of emo out of the voting booths, thanks.
        • by exley ( 221867 )
          How very democratic of you. At least you were only modded "funny" and not "insightful." Ever stop to think that so-called "pessimists" might actually be motivated to seek change in things that they feel are fucked up? Viewing things in a negative light is not equivalent to giving up.
      • Despite out ability to do 'Really Bad Things' we still move on.
        We create stone, and bend metal to our desires. We can talk nearly instantly accross the globe.
        We have been to the moon and have sent a machine to the edge of the solar system. Everyday people go out off there way to help others in some way.

        Yeah, they're are asses, and bad people, but MOST people are good most of the time.
        So overall humanity is a great, and can do amazing things every day.
      • > Unfortunately, there are far too many things happening every day [...] to continually keep my faith in humanity pretty much nonexistant.

        You would really rate our society on the basis of the worst we have to offer? What a pessimistic view of the world! I, for one, will look at mankind's heroes when evaluating. I suggest not letting the actions of outcast individuals craft your view of humanity, especially when those actions are legally and morally opposite to society at large. Instead, celebrate wit
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by exley ( 221867 )
          The actions of a few "outcast individuals" do not erase great accomplishments that we achieve. At the same time, great accomplishments don't erase all of the truly vile shit that's going on out there. I'm not just talking about one single shooting, or even our destruction of the environment, or global violence. Those are all just microcosms of the bigger picture. It's fun and easy to always look at and celebrate the good stuff, but some of us don't want to do that at the expense of ignoring things that
      • Well, perhaps we will need precisely some of the knowledge we gain from space exploration in order to overcome problems we are facing here on earth. Perhaps if we had never had NASA or some equivalent somewhere in the world, we would have no chance of surviving the problems we might have with the environment, for instance.
    • It's positive to see we won't grow bored quickly once humanity gets tired of playing war. But if you compare the budget spent on war and compare that to space exploration, it's more of a depressing thought.

      It does send out a great message saying "look what we can do with today's technology", but most people seem to lack a sense of imagination to see the possibilites if we really were determined to go out there. In fact, we should have been a lot further if you simply look at people were doing 40 years ago.
    • Absolutely. What amazes me is we can construct equipment that can fly millions of miles through close to absolute zero temparature, land on a planet with minimal human supervision, ride all over the place for *three* years with a design life of six months, and continues to beam back pictures. If you had suggested this to someone in 1965, they'd have thought you were a loony.

      On the other hand, you look at this accomplishment, and then you wonder why the world's most popular operating system is successfull

      • If you had suggested this to someone in 1965, they'd have thought you were a loony.
        The robotic rovers are cool, but from what I can tell people in the 60's were expecting something more like permanent human settlement on Mars by now. Aerospace progressed incredibly from WWI into the early 1970s and then... not so much.
  • Spirit and Opportunity are some seriously tough robots. My hat is off to the engineering teams that built them. How much longer will they go?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Neuropol ( 665537 ) *
      According to the many articles I've read about Spirit and Opportunity, they'll continue to run as long as the dust that's collecting on the solar panels doesn't get too thick, resulting in blockage of the essential part of it's charging system.

      I wonder, if in the future, NASA will develop a type of self cleaning aparatus to aide in "dusting" them.
      • by gevmage ( 213603 ) * on Thursday September 28, 2006 @06:37PM (#16238261) Homepage
        That's an good question. When the PI for the project spoke at University of Illinois, someone asked that.

        He said that basically having yet another moving part just wouldn't end up being worth the expense of engineering it and adding the weight to the rover and the launch vehicle.

        The next rover that will be launched in a few years will have a plutonium oxide power source, so that the power won't be a factor.

        Actually, dust on the panels isn't the only issue. Eventually the mechanical parts wear out, get dirt in them, so they don't work. Spirit is running on 5 of 6 wheels now. The PI said that if it loses another one, then it probably won't ever be able to move again. That is, the solar panels are fine, the computers and instruments are fine, but if one more motor goes out, then it's limited to what it can do in a stationary position.

      • by barakn ( 641218 )
        Various mechanisms involving dust, wind, steep slopes, etc. have been proposed, see this article [newscientist.com].
    • They are amazing. The rover architecture is obviously a great success. It makes me wonder why we are not sending many more identical or slightly upgraded craft. There is a single larger rover planned for 2009, but it seems to me that it is unlikely to out perform a larger number of cheaper craft and that a replan was in order. But for sheer exploration it is hard to beat these things.

      • by jandrese ( 485 )
        Because there are only certain launch windows where you can reach Mars in a reasonable amount of time. There are sweet spots where the distance between the Earth and Mars is minimized. Obviously NASA and the JPL time their launches to occur during those sweet spots.
        • My point is the 2006 and 2008 opportunities could have been used to launch 4-6 Spirit class rovers for the price of the Phoenix Lander and Mars Science Laboratory.

      • by gevmage ( 213603 ) *
        Probably because of cost. Each consumes a cost in terms of:

        cost to build robot

        cost to build advanced instrumentation

        cost to condition and launch

        continued cost of personnel on the ground to monitor and control when they're on the surface of mars

        They probably dont' want to get into the situation where their limiting factor is number of people to man shifts. Instead of several more solar-powered units, they're gearing up to send a bigger one with a nuclear power source, so that it never has to worry

      • Sending more MER-class rovers after MSL is indeed one of the options that are being considered. They're calling them "Mid Rovers", though.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SirBruce ( 679714 )
        Your instinct is incorrect. The "single larger rover" is going to last FAR longer than the MERs, unless something breaks. But it won't be due to the power source; it's RTG powered. It will also be able to drive faster and farther than the MERs. And do a lot more science.

        The MER-sized rover is obviously a good design, but they have many drawbacks. For one thing, they really were TOO heavy -- the airbag landing system nearly failed, and the small chute really is vulnerable to high horizontal winds. More
  • What units? (Score:3, Funny)

    by lucabrasi999 ( 585141 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @05:56PM (#16237717) Journal
    The rover Spirit is wounded, having only 5 of 6 wheels functioning

    Are those English Wheels or Metric Wheels?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, 2006 @06:02PM (#16237797)
    Once the rover reaches the Victoria Crater, that will an end to Victoria's Secret!
  • Score one for NASA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by edwardpickman ( 965122 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @06:05PM (#16237825)
    The shuttle program may have been a mess but the rovers are one of the greatest accomplishments in space exploration to date and they just keep going. I'm guessing at least one of the rovers will still be going two years from now. There may have been failures along the way but in Mars research NASA has done a stunning job. Most other countries haven't had much luck getting probes to orbit Mars but NASA has had many successes. I'd love to see the shuttle program scrapped but I'm still a massive NASA fan. I would love to see probe go to some of the more interesting sites on Mars though. The poles and such. They would need a self contained power source though. Nowhere near enough light for solar.
    • by nairnr ( 314138 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @06:18PM (#16238011)
      I had to laugh when I went to the Mission [nasa.gov] page. They have the Mission days listed in Sols, as well as the Sols Past Warranty!

      This mission has been such a great success. I think it has fallen off the radar of most people who don't realize that they are still out there. NASA needs some better PR to capitalize on great science. NASA needs credit where credit is due, not for the ISS, but for true exploration.

    • Actually, NASA has failed as much as everyone else. Mars has defied so many attempts to examine it that people actually started referring to a "Mars Curse" [wikipedia.org].
      • Wrong. (Score:3, Informative)

        by BTWR ( 540147 )
        Actually, NASA has failed as much as everyone else.

        The USA is 5-for-6 in successfully landing it's landers (only failure was the Mars Polar Lander). Viking 1, 2, Pathfinder, Spirit and Opportunity all were successes (and wonderful successes at that).


        USSR had zero landers successfully make it.


        The ESA is 0-for-1 in landers.

  • by coldtone ( 98189 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @06:07PM (#16237853)
    "We don't have major discoveries every week. But we do expect some major new discoveries when we get inside Victoria,"
  • Seeing projects like this really gives me hope about the space program. I mean, look at the ROI on this project: for a project that was only supposed to last 90 days, we've gotten over 1000 days of use out of it. Kinda makes up for the other "crater" project... =)
  • by mhokie ( 988228 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @06:15PM (#16237973) Homepage
    Add an 's to get "Mars Rover Reaches Victoria's Crater" and you get the title of a well worn "video" I used to own.
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )
      Add an 's to get "Mars Rover Reaches Victoria's Crater" and you get the title of a well worn "video" I used to own.

      Does Opportunity smoke a cigarette when it's done drilling?
             
  • by DaveM753 ( 844913 )
    FTA: The rovers Spirit and Opportunity arrived on Mars three years ago with planned mission lifetime of 90 days.

    Are you sure these rovers were made in America??
    ;-)

  • Spirit is conducting studies that benefit from staying in one place, such as monitoring effects of wind on dust.
    Awww. Poor Spirit.
  • by NoMaster ( 142776 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @06:34PM (#16238209) Homepage Journal
    The rover Spirit is wounded, having only 5 of 6 wheels functioning, and so it's moving quite slowly.
    So the Spirit is willing, but it's flesh is weak?

    There's a lot of good info [bible.org] and advice [bible.org] in the Bible...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 )
      So the Spirit is willing, but it's flesh is weak?

      When Spirit had a show-stopping glitch with its flash memory card in 2004, one headline read, "The Spirit is willing, but the flash is weak".
           
  • by SpaceLifeForm ( 228190 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @07:06PM (#16238645)
    Will Vista be released before even one of the rovers dies?
  • I just got two monitors in my office... looks like I have a new wallpaper for them! Sweet!
  • Steven Squires, the science director for the Mars rovers has stated that Opportunity will likely spend a lot of time at the crater, which is a scientific gold mine. They want to analyze the exposed subterranean material on the crater walls. I get the impression that the rover may ultimately be asked to go cautiously into the crater and likely spend the rest of its life there. It could go for a while, or it could die any minute. Should it fail while in the crater, it will leave a rich scientific treasure
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @10:33PM (#16240439) Journal
    The rover Spirit is wounded, having only 5 of 6 wheels functioning, and so it's moving quite slowly.

    Actually, spirit has stopped because it does not have enough power to move very far during Martian winter, and they would rather camp it on a small slope facing the sun than risk getting stuck without sunlight and freezing its parts to death. Spirit camped last Martian winter also for several weeks for a similar reason.

    When Winter is finished (soon), it will rove again. However, it will not be near as nimble as it was with all 6 wheels.

    Opportunity is at a slightly better lattitude for sunlight, and has been on flat areas this winter, so it does not need such winter camping.
     
  • by Rxke ( 644923 ) on Friday September 29, 2006 @02:50AM (#16241959) Homepage
    For people that like the rovers and hadn't stumbled upon it before:

    http://midnightmarsbrowser.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]

    "the Midnight Mars Browser software, which allows home users to download images and view slideshows and "virtual reality" panoramas from the Mars Exploration Rovers "Spirit" and "Opportunity"."

    it is really awesome, try it out, you get the latest pics from Mars virtually real time (before they're up @ jpl's site.)

    Pannable and zoomable panorama's, false colour and true colour movies etc etc.

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