back to article NASA celebrates Perseverance Rover's 1000th Martian day with lakebed history lesson

NASA has celebrated the Perseverance Rover's 1000th Martian day of operations, and prepared the longest ever flight for the helicopter that accompanied it to the home of Marvin. Perseverance reached the surface of Mars on February 18, 2021 – 1,028 days ago. Martian days, however, are 37 minutes longer than terrestrial days. As …

  1. SVD_NL Bronze badge
    Pint

    Impressive engineering

    NASA has perfected the art of underpromising and overdelivering. Here's to many more successful missions!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Impressive engineering

      Should be interesting to see how space exploration is impacted by planned obsolescence.

    2. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Impressive engineering

      Beers owed indeed!

      The thing about the uncrewed space program is that it's rapidly chipping away at the justifications for a crewed space program. No need to send actors into space to deflect an asteroid away from earth anymore, NASA has demoed that mission with an uncrewed robot probe. At some point the crewed space program has simply got to be accepted as a "because it's cool" thing, not because there is a fundamental mission benefit from having a person there in a space suit. Back in the days of the moon landings having astronauts on the moon certainly did pay off, but the performance of robot probes like Perseverence now is far more cost effective.

      So far as I can tell, the only absolute reason left to imrove crewed space flight is to ensure that, when this solar system is on the point of going nova, we can go somewhere else in the galaxy. But even then we might find robotised seeding craft more easily successful. Admittedly that's a very Arthur C Clarkeian view of things, but that does feel like the only solid "we must fly in space" reason left.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Impressive engineering

        While I really agree that robot probes are an excellent value for money, if we had astropalentologist boots on the ground, they could look for actual fossils.

        A couple hours of astronauts on the Moon did more science than all the Surveyor, Ranger, Zond, or Luna probes ever did, even discounting the sample returns. For example, "what? look! it's ORANGE soil!!"

        1. bazza Silver badge

          Re: Impressive engineering

          They did do more than Surveyor, Ranger, Zond or Luna, but they wouldn't match the years and years of poking around that a fleet of modern robot probes can do. Astronauts staying there for just a few hours can do little more than scratch around on the surface. To do any more than that requires machinery, and if we can get the machinery there it's far easier to robotise it than it is to get a human operator there on union rates.

  2. Tom Paine
    Flame

    Top banana

    I have to admit I've always been sceptical about the sample return part*. Not that it can't be done, but with,what - eight successful landers, 4 being rovers, JPL (not NASA ;) ) has a lot of experience getting there, and none at all with coming back. It's a hard problem, and it would be pretty extraordinary if the whole architecture for MSR worked all the way through, first time.

    Fortunately, Mars isn't going anywhere...

    *Not as much as the insane idea of landing Starship on the moon (after 16 full-stack launches, no less, before leaving LEO. It'll never work, I tell you!)

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Top banana

      As there will be a laboratory within the first long term Martian base* it seems far more economical to just wait until the samples can be processed locally. The recovery round trip budget would allow sending a lot more equipment up to the base.

      Now that helicopters are proven to work it'll be interesting to see the design for one with a decent load capacity though I'd expect reusable rocket powered flying cranes will still be needed to lug rovers about to other areas of interest once the base is settled in place.

      *probably as part of the first expansion beyond 'keeping the crew alive modules'

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Top banana

        The rovers already have labs on board, but they only contain so much equipment. Though a human settlement is likely to have a lab with more, there's always going to be more available on Earth. There are also tests that haven't been invented yet. Bringing samples back is the only way to be sure all current and future lab tests can be performed on them.

      2. NickHolland

        Re: Top banana

        no, if we can't return tiny little samples, we can't return humans. And the "far more economical" is not at all true -- if you want to return 100kg of rock, you need the equipment for 100kg of rock. If you want to return a 100kg human, you need to send and return the human, the atmosphere, the food, the water...etc. The "the tyranny of the rocket equation" will get you bad here.

        Also, a lab shipped to Mars would have only the abilities that were put in it at launch day; a sample returned to earth can be examined with new technology long into the future, just as we are still learning new things from moon rocks returned in the early 1970s.

        Further -- I would argue no humans should go to Mars until we decide we know what we need to know about past or current life on Mars, as humans would almost certainly contaminate the biosphere there -- if there is one. Such a contamination (or creation) would be an unrecoverable event, so we had better be sure we (and our children, grandchildren, etc.) know what we want to know about what is there *now* before we do that.

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: Top banana

          I agree bringing rocks back is far easier than humans, but only in the short term, humans will be going to Mars just as soon as the return trip technology has been proven to work and while they're up there it'll be simpler to just keep sending up more equipment on a one way trip. Once that stage is reached only people will will be coming back unless there's a really good reason to spend the weigh/fuel budget.

          Basically, manned Martian exploration will quite quickly resemble early polar exploration including ending up dead if things go badly wrong because help can't arrive in any useful time frame.

          There doesn’t need to be a space station style ready-to-go* lab module, labs are basically just somewhere with bench space for equipment so all that is needed is a generic habitation module with some bench space (unpressurised storage sheds to keep the dust off are easy.)

          * Even if one was sent up, JPL are quite good at making things replace other things that fit into a space of fixed dimensions.

        2. TVU Silver badge

          Re: Top banana

          "I would argue no humans should go to Mars until we decide we know what we need to know about past or current life on Mars, as humans would almost certainly contaminate the biosphere there -- if there is one"

          Here's the thing though - Mars' protective magnetosphere pretty much died at the end of the early Noachian era on Mars so allowing solar winds to directly strip away the planet's atmosphere so ending any potential for life to develop on Mars. Today, Mars' atmosphere is in stable equilibrium and that in itself is a strong indication that there are no native life forms on Mars, not even microbial ones.

          That said, there's a distinct possibility that there are quite a few dormant Earth bacteria on Mars now such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Cutibacterium and Escherichia species from incomplete lander and rover disinfection.

    2. Patrician

      Re: Top banana

      It does seem to me to be over complicated.

  3. HuBo
    Alien

    A quick hello from afar

    Our little green kids here on Mars love the toy rovers and helicopters you keep sending us ... please send more! And don't forget to include some detergent to help with the cleaning of this Jezero Crater ring-around the bathtub issue we've been struggling with for the last couple billion years. Thanks in advance!

    1. trevorde Silver badge

      Re: A quick hello from afar

      PS please do not send Elon Musk

  4. Geoff Campbell Silver badge
    Alien

    Obxkcd

    There is, as ever, an xkcd for that:

    https://xkcd.com/695/

    GJC

    1. Patrician

      Re: Obxkcd

      Of course, neither of the rovers that are the subject of that xkcd are still running now; sadly.

      1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

        Re: Obxkcd

        Sadly not, but they did supremely well in their time.

        GJC

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like