back to article NASA's Opportunity rover celebrates 10 years on Mars with a FILTHY selfie

While its flashy younger brother Curiosity is getting all the headlines these days, the Opportunity rover will shortly be celebrating its tenth anniversary on the Red Planet (not bad for a machine expected to last for 90 days) and NASA has revealed a selfie to mark the anniversary. Opportunity selfie Do you think I'm dead …

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Anonymous Coward

I wonder if they've considered the possibility that it's a fulgurite - a tubular structure left in the ground by a lightning strike. It would be a hell of a coincidence, but the shape of it is intriguingly similar to a fulgurite - the soil has a very high iron content, and a lightning strike would tend to "purify" that iron oxide as well as protruding it above the surface.

Just a thought.

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Do you mean to suggest that it was uncovered by the rover (as suggested by NASA), or was formed recently by a lightning strike right next to the rover? In the latter case, I think everyone would probably expect it to have hit the rover directly!

Lightning on Mars appears not to be of the cloud-to-ground type seen here on Earth either (http://www.space.com/7102-lightning-detected-mars.html).

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Anonymous Coward

Just want to pick the little blighter up and give him a hug.

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Pint

Just want to pick the little blighter up...

"Just want to pick the little blighter up and give him a hug..."

...and give his solar panels a good going over with a feather duster.

(...and buy a round for all the guys'n'gals at JPL)

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Re: Just want to pick the little blighter up...

...solar panels a good going over with a feather duster

Absolutely! Has anyone any idea how adhesive Martian dust is or the mechanism that binds it? Is it just hanging about on those panels, or statically attracted, or held by Van der Waals forces and or some other form of (chemical) bonding or reaction?

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Priorities

Opportunity costs about $14m a year to run and Dr Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars exploration program, said there would be a senior mission review to look at the operating budgets of the Mars missions and see which, if any, will be turned off so that savings can be made.

Meanwhile, according to the most understating estimates, it costs about $100 billion a year to run the occupation of Iraq.

How about the White House does a senior review to see which wars they could turn off? I bet $14m is pennies to he savings they could get.

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Re: Priorities

how 'bout we take $18B (half each from the War Department and The Department of Homeland Security Theater (Theatre?)) and just double NASA's budget?

they could pull that much from the Pentagon sofa cushions in a week. or, maybe, just sell-off NSA's brand spanking new data center. [you know, the one they won't need if they just target their snooping]

oh well, a man can dream.

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Re: Priorities

The helpful little dictionary of numbers Chrome app informs me that 14 million is the average wealth of a US senator, so there's one solution right there

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ESA Priorities...

Since ESA's Mars Express just celebrated its 10th anniversary orbiting Mars...

Why hasn't this group pressured ESA to increase its budget (one-sixth of NASA's) and take another crack at landing on Mars. The EU economy (2012) is 96% the size of the USA economy. It only makes sense that its ESA budget be five times as large as it is...

Get to it folks!

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Thumb Up

Re: ESA Priorities...

Upvoted because I agree with the sentiment, but ESA can't really be compared with NASA in terms of structure or organisation.

"As can be seen from this list, not all member countries of the European Union are members of ESA and not all ESA Member States are members of the EU. ESA is an entirely independent organisation although it maintains close ties with the EU through an ESA/EC Framework Agreement."

I'll also add to the congrats already offered to NASA and JPL for this ongoing and outstanding achievement.

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Re: Priorities

"14 million is the average wealth of a US senator, so there's one solution right there"

You mean bump one off?

Why not more?

We have a bout 300 odd MPs we could throw in if you wanted spare change.

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Re: ESA Priorities...

BUT... If the ESA increased its budget anywhere-near 5 times...

The NASA budget would EASILY get doubled.

You can DO IT.

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Re: ESA Priorities...

FWIW, Roscosmos works on a slightly-larger budget than ESA. Not much larger, though.

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Pint

doing the donut

i'm glad they're studying this thing closely but it's a shame the rover isn't equipped to pick it up and heft it to determine it's mass. i'm also glad that it seems . . . odd. if it was just an ordinary looking rock they might not put so much effort into discovering what it is and where it might have originated.

kind of a shame that they couldn't include an air compressor on the rover with plumbing and orifices located to blow the dust away instead of relying on the wind. there's not much "air" there to compress but it wouldn't have to be much if managed properly. i guess adding a few tons of equipment for repairing the steering and other such eventualities is asking a bit much. but really, no spare wheel and jack?

beer's for the folks who designed and built the rovers - they tore a lot of pages out of the Voyager book.

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Re: doing the donut

I also wondered why they don't have some mechanism ('air', wipers, one of those guys at traffic lights) to clear the solar panels. I'm sure there is a perfectly good reason, but would be interested to know what it is.

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Re: doing the donut

Because it designed for the 90-day lifespan...

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Re: doing the donut

As I recall, after the experience with the Pathfinder rover, some sort of solar panel cleaning system was considered. However, it was decided that the weight of a cleaning system could be better used for bigger solar panels (which would provide a passive mechanism for extending the solar panels' lives.) The experience of Spirit and Opportunity will definitely lead to some more thought on future solar-powered Martian rovers.

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Never mind the rock

has no-one noticed the rover seems to be driving over some ancient "crazy paving"??!! I suggest they keep a look-out for patio heaters and garden gnomes.

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Boffin

Re: Never mind the rock

The Mysterons love crazy paving, watch out for green circular lights!

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Re: Never mind the rock

dun dun dun da da da dun

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Black Helicopters

The color pic makes the mystery rock look like one of those abalone shell ashtrays....

Rover is shut down for scheduled maintenance.

-Maintenance man comes out onto the Mars soundstage

-He's a smoker.

-Enjoys a few puffs while he is cleaning up Opportunity

-Forgets to take the ashtray with him when he leaves!!

See! A perfectly reasonable explanation!

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I love reading stories like this, I personally find they lift the soul in what we can achieve when brilliant minds work together. Outstanding effort by all concerned. I hope there are many years left in the old fella trundling around out there.

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Black Helicopters

What annoys me is that the surrounding surface is so crisp and detailed, and yet the mystery thing seems blurry and indistinct.

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So... the rover is already on Mars, it is powered by the sun, it communicates via radio waves. What exactly is costing $14m a year?

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I hope you're joking...

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Facepalm

People.... Radio receiver/transmitter time.. Other Ground based equipment...

A team of 20 would be half that figure I would assume in just staff costs...

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Sigh. Apparently you cannot ask a question on the internet anymore.

It's not like I said it cannot possibly cost that much - I asked WHY it costs that much?

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Deepspace network, etc...

The $14Mn includes staff/office-space/support, payments to DSN infrastructure/staffing.

Probably a very good value, but there will be some that feel that MSL supplants MER.

I hope they do it!

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Brilliant little blighter! Amazing that it has survived so long past its design life,

but if dust on solar panels is such an issue, why didn't they design a way to clean them?

Surely for such an expensive project, adding an extra few hundred grams to ensure the machine could clean its own panels would have been worth it to extend the life?

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Presumably because they expected something else to break before the panels became an issue, or they expected electrostatic cling to require more than a puff of air to clear the panels and the weight of a suitable system would have taken the place of instrumentation. The weight envelopes on these rovers is miniscule.

I remember seeing a documentary about the lead up to Beagle 2 and they found the parachutes were going to weigh more than expected. The science groups were working out how much they could file off this arm or the edge of that PCB to save a gram here and two there.

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Pint

Poor dusty rover

But what a tough little fella!! Next solar powered rover should be equipped with a shower (or blower or vacuum cleaner).

I'll celebrate its tenth anniversary in style this evening

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Re: Poor dusty rover

Mars' atmosphere is less than 1% of Earth's, so a fan would need to be one hundred times bigger.

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Re: Poor dusty rover

The solution has already been mentioned by commentards - a feather duster - weighs next to nothing and if the rover can take a selfie it can dust itself down too.

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Expected lifetime

It wasn't 'expected to last for 90 days'. It was designed to work (without significant degradation) for at *least* 90 days. That means that each component had to have a MTBF much higher than 90 days.

From that you can see that the *expected* working life *with* degradation - which is what we have now - is much much higher than 90 days.

I'll make up some numbers to illustrate the point. Let's say that the goal is 95% probability that the rover will have all of 20 major components (ten scientific instruments, ten functional systems) working at the end of the 90 days. That translates into each component having to have a 0.9974... probability of surviving 90 days. Ten years is (near enough) 40 x 90 days; 0.9974^40 = ~ 0.90. So there's still a nine in ten chance that an individual component will be working after ten years. (Ignoring wear and tear, obv). And despite starting off with a completely made-up 95% goal, this matches fairly closely what we observe: most, but not all, components still working.

Of course the other one died but I believe that was mainly a power issue.

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Pint

Re: Expected lifetime

Just wanted to amplify this point: designed for a life of 90 days, still going after _10 years_.

That's not an "excellent" design, that's a f*cking AWESOME design!. The team that designed these two bad boys should be getting free beer for life from their management. Well done!

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Re: Expected lifetime

<sigh>

Shall I try again? If your design goal is that *everything* should be still working at the end of 90 days, unless you're really quite unlucky, then your design goal is *also* that *most* of it will be working some years later. Which is what we have. It's maths.

Don't forget that (for example) one of Spirit's wheels failed back in 2006.

Yes, I have grossly simplified things. Yes, I agree it's quite an achievement.

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Re: Expected lifetime

"Of course the other one died but I believe that was mainly a power issue..."

That, and being hopelessly stuck in deep dirt, as I recall. Then, the power issue arose as it was unable to get someplace to "winter over" with its solar panels towards the sun.

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Flame

Where's the obligatory post to 695?

I am shocked, shocked to discover that no one has posted a link to xkcd #695 yet. Admittedly it's about Spirit, not Opportunity, but still....

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Happy

Re: Where's the obligatory post to 695?

Here you go: http://xkcd.com/695/

You could have done it yourself, you know!

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It's a well-made American vehicle.

There's a first!

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Much ado about nothing...

At last, after two thousand years of research, the illudium Q-36 explosive space modulator.

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Headmaster

Shameless promotion: Want to meet the JPL geezer?

A free public lecture hosted by a space advocacy & STEM outreach (non-profit) org in the CA southland:

Saturday, Feb. 22, 3:30 pm

OASIS Lecture Series

10th Anniversary Landing of Mars Exploration Rovers

John Callas, Project Manager, JPL

Long Beach City College Planetarium

4901 East Carson Street

Long Beach CA 90808

http://www.oasis-nss.org/wordpress/?page_id=3

Disclaimer: I'm a member of OASIS.

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