back to article Mars Lander shows rock who's boss

In case you've been living under a rock on some distant planet, NASA apologizes for the intrusion. Image courtesy of NASA The Phoenix Mars Lander has completed the tricky task of nudging aside a Martian rock roughly the size and shape of a VHS tape so that curious Earthling scientists could peer underneath. The lander's …


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  1. Franklin
    Thumb Up

    I for one...

    ...welcome our new rock-moving overlords.

  2. Moss Icely Spaceport


    If only I could retrieve that rock and put in on eBay.

    It must be worth millions after all the effort and $ that has gone into shifting it.

    Alien icon, they probably work cheaper.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Automated remote rock shifting

    Somehow it doesn't quite capture the imagination as much as the paradigm shifting "One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind" speech made many moons ago.

  4. Trevor

    Sure it can move rocks...

    ...but will it blend?

    Seriously though, when you think about it, the remote robitcs teams at NASA are pretty amazing. Not only do they deisgn rovers that keep going...and going...and going...(how far past the design life?)...but they also keep finding new and interesting ways to take thier toys and make them do something unforseen, but, (to them, and geeks of their ken,) pretty damn cool too.

    You may not think moving a rock around is a big feat, but pre-programming it into a robot as "mission specific" as the Lander, and then having it accomplish the task with a minimum of soil disturbance using a tool on the bot not designed for moving rocks is pretty cool. It takes me a few days to change my robot arm's path to manipulate a slightly larger piece of paper, and I can try, re-try, and do it all over again. These folks coded it up in no time and sent it out with the Lander's morning dailies.

    Somewhere at NASA, there is a coder who actually deserves his salary.

    Mines the one with the "robots for utter idiots" in the pocket.

  5. Chris G Silver badge

    Lies, all lies.

    We are not being told the truth! This is clearly the footprint of a lager swilling alien, if you look carefully , you can see where there are one or two drip marks in the sand where he has spilt some special brew. I have looked under a lot of stones and this is not what it normally looks like.

    We should be told the truth.

  6. Joe

    We built this Mars colony....

    ...on Rock 'n' Roll!

    Mine's the one with the airguitar over the shoulder

  7. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Headless robotic exploration

    Waste a day to move a pebble by 40cm. That cost how much? A hundred k, a million?

    The so-called "robotic exploration" is so frustratingly useless and inefficient it just defies belief. A clear case of false economy - spending a lot of money in bite-size bits over many years for no return instead of spending it all at once for a manned mission and getting the necessary answers.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Faith can move mountains,

    science can only move small rocks.

    But referential humorists can move coats.

  9. James Anderson
    Thumb Down

    VHS tape?

    Surly the Imperial Betamax is the standard El Reg unit for measuring martian rocks

  10. Jeff Rowse

    Just a thought...

    ...but now NASA are getting into (rock) gardening, can we send Alan Titmarsh and the rest of the TV gardeners to show them how it *should* be done? And since they will all need somewhere to live, we can send Linda Barker and the rest of the interior design crowd too...

    Just make sure they leave Kim and Aggi behind to clean the telephones...

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Billions of Dollars and ....

    What command did they execute "DRAG_AND_MAKE_PENIS_SHAPE"!

  12. DZ-Jay


    We moved a rock!!! Yay!


  13. Colin

    wow, arent robots wonderful

    I cant help but be serioulsy underwhelmed by this amazing feat. This is why it might be nice to have a person there ... just pick the rock up and throw the bloody thing away - job done. Chose Paris for the VHS angle ... and comparable manual labour ability.

  14. Gav

    Yet another job outsourced

    A Martian could have done that job in a fraction of the time, yet here's NASA remotely outsourcing it to some bloke on a phone line on the other side of the solar-system!

    When you want a rock moving, you want a local person with local knowledge, not some alien who can barely speak the language in some cost-cutting, sweat-shop call-centre on Earth.

  15. Paul

    I love Nasa

    Cash starved government bureaucracy. How many years of work and they still can't make a good margareta.

    Mines the one with the igloo on the back

  16. Bruce

    *blinks in the light*

    Where'd my roof go?

    Is there anything these rovers can't do? :-D

    Nice hole you have there.

  17. C
    IT Angle

    uummm .. wha?

    huh? moving a small rock is now news?

    Maybe thats where MS left the source code that explains how the Office file formats work?

    That would make it darker.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Headless robotic exploration

    "The so-called "robotic exploration" is so frustratingly useless and inefficient it just defies belief."

    And sending up a shedload of life-support equipment just so people can float around in space is more efficient, is it? And to sustain explorers on Mars you'd need a "shedload squared" of that equipment unless you were thinking of running a suicide (or flag/dick-waving) mission.

    "A clear case of false economy - spending a lot of money in bite-size bits over many years for no return instead of spending it all at once for a manned mission and getting the necessary answers."

    Well, you have to prioritise your funding somehow, and I think that the various probes to different planets and their satellites have done a pretty decent job, often doing stuff that you wouldn't send humans to do, anyway.

    In any case, the biggest bite of them all has nothing to do with the robotic missions. The blame lies with everyone who funded stuff like the ISS and the space shuttle in preference to stuff which maximises the scientific payload.

  19. Dave The Cardboard Box

    Pease explain...

    just what we get from showing that universe is the huge and sub-atomic space is tiny. SHOW ME THE PATENTS. show me the benefit to anyone who isn't on a grant. Make me a better (off) person. you PhDtards. I'm paying for this crap.

    Woah, I've calmed down now. No I haven't. SHOW ME THE BENEFITS NOW!

  20. bothwell

    "mars lander shows rock who's boss"

    This has got to be one of the best headlines I've read about the Mars lander.

  21. Mike

    @Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    So spending money now to get soil/ice/CO2 samples, surveys and environmental tests using expendable, hardware is "frustratingly useless"? y'idiot, the US can't even launch the space shuttle without having another one on standby 'just in case', they can't even go back to the moon, do you have any idea of the scale involved sending a person to Mars? Even if it was possible, let alone affordable, anything went wrong, and all your eggs, being in one basket would be a omlettey mush, doing stuff now in space much cheaper, giving results now is far more sensible than some pie (biodome) in the sky (space) idea that wouldn't get of the ground (launch) for decades. Crawl back under your rock and stay there until my robot arm comes and gets you......

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