back to article Opportunity celebrates nine years on Mars

Mean time between failure wonks take note: The Opportunity rover launched in 2003 and expected to survive 90 days on Mars today racks up nine years of continuous operations on the red planet. That's 3195 days longer than first planned. Opportunity was hauled into orbit by a Delta II rocket on July 7th, 2003. A little over six …

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  1. Steve Foster
    Terminator

    Cleaning Crew

    'Tis a pity that NASA couldn't have equipped Curiosity to be able to perform maintenance on Opportunity (and perhaps Spirit as well) to prolong its mission.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Cleaning Crew

      As I have been lead to understand, the solar panels on Opportunity were subject to 'unexpected cleaning events' (wind) and provided more power over time than NASA expected. However, it is its li-ion batteries that limit its life.

    2. Martin Budden Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Cleaning Crew

      All future solar-powered rovers should be equipped with windscreen-wipers on the solar panels.

    3. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Cleaning Crew

      Not sure if this was meant in jest, but:

      * Spirit and Opportunity are on opposite sides of Mars so are thousands of miles apart - you couldn't do both

      * Why send a new probe to the same place as an old one to clean it up? That would be a bit redundant surely?

      * Even if you did, the odds of landing sufficiently near an existing probe would be fairly low, since they would want to ensure that any new probe did not have a risk of landing on the old one (and breaking both) or damaging it with the rocket blast/debris on landing so would choose an expected landing radius far away anyway

    4. Katie Saucey
      Terminator

      Re: Cleaning Crew

      Yes indeed, but what happens when our Mars based Von Neumann machines become sentient and form some sort of robo-society (most likely a cult based around a laser wielding Curiosity descendent)? Probably the story will start something like this...

      "No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenthtwenty-first century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his not mortal like his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise...... "

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Cleaning Crew

        "The Janitor on Mars" by Martin Amis... it has nothing to do with cleaning rovers.

        (it's concerned with a Mars-based AI left behind by the planets long-dead inhabitants, whose only purpose is to heap scorn and insult on humanity, for shits and giggles- juxtaposed against the observations of a non-functioning paedophile in a boys home. )

        Makes a refreshing contrast to enigmatic and decidedly silent black monoliths.

    5. Muhammad Imran/mi1400
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Cleaning Crew

      I am feeling emotional just like those house wives who just abruptly extends her arm to clean with their duster... come on for Christ sake (proof Muslims resprect christ) .... you have 3 rovers roaming up there... no matter how far apart.. cant u just plan an intercepting route at any point in future !?! couldnt 3rd rover bring few Li batteries with it !?! isnt battery replacement mechanism on those rovers slideable !?! cant any instrument on any of three can clean other's pannels !?! couldnt skycrane be made more useful instead of using it for stupid apple iMovie like aerobatics upon releasing lowering cables. couldnt this skycrane but used to utilize last remaining thrust to reach as close as possible to older rovers !?! cant you ferry supplies with super small capsules to save cost no matter for university competitions sake!?! The Mars orbitor circling over them as holy spirit ... cant it parachute supplies reaching through and docking with small capsules slingshot from earth !?! cant Beagle2 be dragged out in sunshine, i know it wll hummiliate brits...

  2. Martin Budden Silver badge

    The Little Rover that Could

    obligatory xkcd

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Little Rover that Could

      That made me sad. I must be losing it.

      1. Martin Huizing
        Thumb Up

        Re: The Little Rover that Could

        My wife showed me a similar one but written in Chinese. It actually made her cry... Keep burning, little Rover. You are not forgotten!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Little Rover that Could

        No...

        Something in which so much human skill and effort is invested ought to elicit an emotional response. That "little Rover" took more effort than building a cathedral. It is what it represents that matters.

        It would be nice to think that one day, long after I'm dead, it will be in a museum somewhere. On Earth, even on Mars.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The Little Rover that Could

          "It would be nice to think that one day, long after I'm dead, it will be in a museum somewhere. On Earth, even on Mars."

          I had a similar thought a while back. Once we get silly speed space travel like warp drives and such, I bet one of the first things we do is recover the Voyager probes in an hour long round trip and put them in a museum. At least, I hope we do.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Little Rover that Could

        Made me sad, I know I'm not losing it but I'm a parent now and lot older and softer ;-)

        (I had a twang of regret leaving a snowman I built for my 3yr old in a park, next time it'll be built on my garden)

        Anon, so you don't poke too much fun at me and so that my work colleagues don't find out I'm not that mean or strict in reality.

    2. Neil Barnes Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: The Little Rover that Could

      @Martin - you beat me to it. Have a pint, little Rover!

    3. Martin Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: The Little Rover that Could - happy version!

      Who could be hard-hearted enough to downvote that particular xkcd ?

      Perhaps you'll prefer this one.

    4. teebie

      Re: The Little Rover that Could

      Obligatory voyager

      (From Cracked, so every so slightly nsfw)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    This is cool

    Something that lasts more than a week after the warranty expires.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: This is cool

      It's almost like spending 1000X as much as seems sensible on massive redundancy and over-design is justified!

      1. Crisp

        Re: This is cool

        It is when you are flinging an SUV sized robot 225 million miles to be dropped on a dusty desert planet by a flying sky crane.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is cool

        Where is the massive redundancy and overdesign?

        Given the limitations of rocketry, anything that makes it to Mars is likely to suffer from neither of those things.

        Good design is expensive for a one off, true, but I have a picture of Curiosity on my desktop and I can't see any obvious redundancy. Unless you would have gone with three wheels and hoped there weren't any adverse inclines.

  4. Chris007
    Joke

    Easy to keep it going

    when you can send a repair man out to fix it in the Arizona desert

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Easy to keep it going

      With those downvotes I think somebody missed your Joke icon chris

  5. P.Nutt
    Thumb Up

    They got a bargain.

    Can you imagine the cost of the rover if the engineers were told it had to survive 9 years on Mars and only use solar power so they got a major bargain out of the rovers.

  6. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge
    FAIL

    MTBF

    "Mean time between failure wonks take note" - of what? A sample size of how much from a probably appropriately over engineered device with a pessimistic life span estimate (again very understandable).

  7. Chris G Silver badge
    Alien

    What bashed the rock

    In the nighttime photo?

    At the lower left, the rock has impact damage that has caused some flaking, also some of the circular marks above the impact mark look a lot like old lichen scars.....maybe Opportunity's longevity is down to the lichen!

  8. David 39
    Coat

    B@ll@cks

    9 years to do 35 km? It's on the M25 not Mars, but I see how we were fooled ever so slightly

  9. Dom 3

    "Expected to survive"?

    No. Designed and built to last a *minimum* of 90 days. Let's say you want the system as a whole to have a 95% chance of still working as designed at the end of that time. That means that each component has to have more like a 99% chance of still working at the end of 90 days. Which gives a *mean* lifetime (for an individual component) measured in years. Which is what we are seeing.

    1. Robert Helpmann??
      Childcatcher

      Re: "Expected to survive"?

      That means that each component has to have more like a 99% chance of still working at the end of 90 days.

      This is an interesting outlook. On the other hand, I dated an aerospace engineering major in college. She was not required to take the statistics course that the other engineering majors were. When I asked her about it, she replied that they were discouraged from designing systems that would lead to a certain percentage of aircraft from falling out of the sky.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Go

        Re: "Expected to survive"?

        For any space mission, you have to design your components to survive between 2-5 times the minimum required lifetime (depends on the component and the degree of confidence, etc.). So even if you took the Rovers design life as 5 x 90 days, your still looking at the design having survived more than 7 times the maximum life it was tested to. If that isnt something to be impressed by, I dont know what is!

        1. TheRealRoland
          Unhappy

          Re: "Expected to survive"?

          >If that isnt something to be impressed by, I dont know what is!

          Well, not to be snarky (not at iglethal either) - in my opinion, it has to do with generations, i guess.

          A lot of the replies to similar stories is along the lines of 'my smartphone has more processing power than this, and is waaay cheaper'.

          With everything being dumbed down so much (national news on ABC a couple days back - "incredulity that an urang-utan was able to use an iPad to play a game and watch a video" - so goes both for the iPad and the fact that this is news...) - there's not a lot of thinking happening as to the 'how was it possible it lasted this long?'.

          grumble, grumble...

  10. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

    Headline: October 2027

    Earth Spaceport - a joint NASA/ESA crew returned from Mars today to a hero's welcome - but not so much for their own exploits as for what they brought back. NASA probe Opportunity, "the little rover that could" which operated for approximately 40x its intended lifespan before finally succumbing to the harsh Martian environment, was found during surface preparation for an expansion of Mars Colony I. The team of scientists and engineers were so overjoyed that they voluntarily left some of their personal cargo behind on Mars so that they would have the space and weight capacity to bring back the intrepid robot explorer of yesteryear. At a news conference shortly after the discovery, US President <name> announced a new wing of the Smithsonian Institute's Air and Space Museum to be built specifically Opportunity and similar robotic probes throughout history.

    You may recall that Opportunity's twin, Spirit, was discovered eleven months ago by the previous Martian expeditionary team. NASA is currently designing a monument to mark the spot where Spirit became stuck and eventually "died." Spirit itself now sits in a place of honor in the center of the Martian colony.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Headline: October 2027

      That gave me a funny feeling inside.

  11. Ben Avison

    Can't believe nobody's picked up on...

    NASA releases first pictures of Mars Dark (or Mars Midnight, or Mars Dark and Light, depending on what they were called in your locality). Mmmm...

  12. C. P. Cosgrove
    Joke

    It was the M25

    Has anybody else noticed the toe prints at the bottom centre of the photo, or the shoe print at the left hand edge centre ?

    Chris Cosgrove

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