back to article NASA ponders Spirit's erratic behaviour

The team controlling NASA's Mars rover Spirit is planning to carry out some diagnostic tests on the venerable vehicle after it earlier this week indulged in some "unexplained behavior", as the agency puts it. On Sunday, Spirit reported that it had "received its driving commands for the day but had not moved" - a correct …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    "transitory effects from cosmic rays hitting electronics"

    Wow, that's a BOFH excuse if I ever heard one!

  2. crypt

    Cosmic Rays or Little green Script Kids

    hmm - small green script kiddies have flashed the rovers firmware using a vunrability in the underlying os via an exposed fireware port and are now dicking around using it to deliver spam-like flyers to their neighbour?

    or "cosmic rays"

    i know which answer is more amusing

  3. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    OMG! It's full of stars!

    After finally losing hopes of ever getting a chance to speak to a live human the Martians decided they will at least try to converse with the robot.

  4. Mr Lodestone

    I've seen this somewhere before

    The Onion foretells the future?

    Aliens: 'cause it's not them behind it.

  5. TeeCee Gold badge

    Scientific analysis.

    There are two conclusions we can draw from this. First, there are pubs on Mars.

    My reasoning here is that it's quite obvious that the thing went out after its work day ended, got completely trolleyed and then woke up with absofuckinglutely no idea where it was (refusing commands on the grounds of lack of orientation) or what time of day it was (sun in the wrong place) and with only a hazy recollection of the previous day's events (non-volatile storage empty).

    I think that's fairly conclusive and is the only explanation that truly fits with the facts provided.

    Secondly: "transitory effects from cosmic rays hitting electronics". NASA have bought a copy of the BOFH Excuse Calendar.

  6. Admiral Grace Hopper Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Your link-through whitepaper

    Remote access: Three Steps To Getting Connected - what an apposite suggestion, outstanding work!

  7. Yorkshirepudding


    its part of a lizard alliance colonisation plan? or maybe it just needs a factory reset

    mines the one in white

  8. Winkypop Silver badge

    Simple explanation


    They spent the day re-programming the rover into an uber all-terrain killing machine!

    It's now going to attack the other rover "robot wars" style!

  9. Adrian Challinor

    Common on guys

    I know the comments are in jest, but lets give credit where its due. This is a computer system in what can best be described as a hostile environment. It has been kept running continuously for 5 years. And it has a hiccup which is debugged and recovered from earth.

    The fact that is has kept going so long is the suprising issue, not that it has had a glitch now.

    Mine's the one with "Defensive Coding" in the pocket

  10. Graham Marsden

    Where is...

    ... that cartoon of an alien joy-riding on the Rover...?

  11. Edwin


    You know, it sounds very much like Spirit decided to take a few days off and not tell the boss where it was going.

    And finding your orientation unexpected is quite normal when vacation and spirits mix...

  12. Psymon


    I watched the national geographic documentary on Spirit and Opportunity the other week, and must say, I've developed a fondness for the the plucky little robots.

    Only designed to last 90 days, these persistant little blighters have been going 5 years, and Spirit has overcome incredable odds.

    I suppose what endeared me to them most is the fact that in the martian envoronment they could potentially last for millions of years in pristine condition. Long after earths environment has weathered down any evidence of our exsistence.

    There are only 2 adverse conditions on Mars that will degrade the rovers. The first is the dramatic swing in temperature 0c in the day to -100c at night.

    The second is the ultra-fine dust. This will gum up moving parts eventually, and covers the solar panels, but the seasonal winds have a tendancy to blow the panels clean again.

    I don't expect locomotive functions to last for very much longer, but bless em, they could potentially be phoning home for thousands of years to come.

    They have no off switch, so will continue to radio back to earth whether anyones listening or not for as long as they possibly can.

    call me sentimental, but to me it's reminiscent of the final task given to HAL in 2010 "I want you to transmit this message, and continue to do so for as long as you possibly can" and kind of comforting that possibly, long after we are gone, a lonely signal will continue to wend its way across our solar system back to earth.

    A fitting epitath for when aliens stumble across our lifeless planet, long after we have become extinct, or hopefully, moved on to pastures new.

    Mine's the one with the copy of WALL-E in the pocket!

  13. Max

    @Mr Lodestone

    You beat me to it!

    The Onion truly is America's finest news source.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    sun's position

    So it didn't know where it was or what direction it was facing, then the sun wasn't where it expected it to be... how did it work out where the sun should be in? surely if it had enough data to say the sun is over there, it would know which way it was facing etc.

    I think they just needed to try turning it off and on again. If that didn't work, try turning it off for ten minutes. Repeat until it works again. (unless it's not running windows).

  15. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Paris Hilton

    It lost a day? Simple!

    Alien abduction. No other explanation could possibly exist. The probe got probed.

    Paris, no other explanation.

  16. IR

    How long

    Can't be long before some dumbass suggests that it runs on Windows.

  17. Stevie Silver badge

    Nobody Expects...

    @ psymon

    "There are only 2 adverse conditions on Mars that will degrade the rovers. The first is the dramatic swing in temperature 0c in the day to -100c at night.

    The second is the ultra-fine dust. "

    And solar radiation (not diverted to Van Allen belts like on Earth). Three adverse conditions. And the soil being approximately the same as powdered bleach. Even solid phase chemistry works given long enough. Four. Four advrse conditi...

    Aaaamongst the conditions on Mars are such adverse elements as a dramatic swing I'll come in again.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    transitory effects from cosmic rays hitting electronics

    Nothing new here. This has been known about for a long time, but seemed to affect earlier versions of electonics more than newer ones. I have to agree with Pysmon. I have much admiration for the operation and design of these remote robots and the folks who work to keep them running and giving us new information about our space neighbour.

    @Psymon - "call me sentimental"

    Ok, you're sentimental. That makes two of us.

  19. David Wilkinson

    NASA is clearly capable of some amazing engineering.

    I am impressed. Very impressed.

  20. Paul Uszak

    Even more sentimentality...

    "call me sentimental, but to me it's reminiscent of the final task given to HAL in 2010..."

    I think I've got that beat. Last scene, Silent Running with little Dewey drifting alone through space to Joan Baez's soundtrack. Sniff...

  21. Herby

    Call to customer support?

    User: I have a problem with my Robot

    Tech: Can you switch the power on then off (supposedly the first question asked)

    User: It is a little difficult, but I'll try.

    Tech: Ok, What version of Windows are you using?

    User: Ahhh, it isn't using windows, it runs Zxcvb.

    Tech: Then you're going to restore the operating system from the backup partition, and get the updated drivers. Do you have a high speed internet connection?

    User: No, my internet connection isn't high speed, and I don't think I've got a backup partition.

    Tech: Then you will need to ship it to us at Customer support. Can you do this via UPS, or FedEx?

    User: It is a bit difficult to ship, can't you just tell me what to do?

    Tech: I'm sorry we aren't allowed to give hardware troubleshooting information over the phone. Goodbye.


  22. Storm Cloud

    @nobody expects

    Nice one on the Pythonesque prose, a genuine laugh out loud post!

  23. Cosmin Roman


    it's VxWorks, not Zxcvb :)

    ... and I might be wrong, but JPL's supposed to have considered radiation when designing the rovers, and they must've shielded the electronics (CPU, memory, flash memory etc). Not to mention error correction.

    So BOFH excuse after all.

    The alien angle reminds of the now very old Userfriendly cartoon

    (has it really been 4 years now? incredible)

    Throw me the one with the radiation hardened pockets ... no, the other one ... thanks.

  24. Richard Thomas

    An unavoidable consequence of it lasting much longer than planned

    "received its driving commands for the day but had not moved"

    It's become a teenager.

  25. Secretgeek


    That is all.

  26. Neoc

    @Cosmin Roman

    "(has it really been 4 years now? incredible)"

    3rd Jan 2004 -> 30th Jan 2009. Just over 5 years. Not bad for a meccano set expected to last 3 months.

  27. Adam

    'Cosmic Rays'

    That's a bit Jules Verne isn't it? Haven't they got a better name nowadays!?

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Ah, that reminds me . . .

    "call me sentimental, but to me it's reminiscent of the final task given to HAL in 2010..."

    Dark Star. The captain in the absolute zero cryogenic freeze gets to visit the solar system once every 100 years (or something) as one of the (can't remember the name) comets

    Trying to find my name tag

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