back to article Opportunity rover survives Martian winter for eighth time

It has been the week of long-lived space hardware: first came the news of Voyager 1's thrusters working after 37 years without use and now NASA's cautiously suggested that the Opportunity rover on Mars will be fit to roll into its 14th year of red planet operations. Two big threats imperil Opportunity's ongoing operations. The …

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Keep on rollin'...

Top work little chap. Good work NASA.

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Facepalm

Re: Keep on rollin'...

That's what you get with dedicated, passionate and well trained engineers, something that can survive harsh off-world climates year after year.

Meanwhile back on earth some software "engineers" still can't write simple software that doens't have a shed load of security holes and puts lives at risk!

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Obligatory...

https://xkcd.com/1504/

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Re: Obligatory...

And here's the Follow-up.

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Re: Obligatory...

Actually, no, that's the follow-up to https://xkcd.com/695/

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Pint

Re: Obligatory...

When Elon is going to send that Roadster to orbit Mars, perhaps he could put a couple of spare windshield wipers in the trunk to drop off when over Spirit and Opportunity.

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Re: Obligatory...

'When Elon is going to send that Roadster to orbit Mars, perhaps he could put a couple of spare windshield wipers in the trunk to drop off when over Spirit and Opportunity.'

Joing aside, does anyone know if they ever thought of including something in the design to keep the panels clean? I've always thought it was a bit of an own goal not to, but I'm guessing they had a pretty good reason for not adding some wipers.

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Re: Obligatory...

Weight, extra moving parts (you really don't want a wiper or brush to get stuck halfway across a panel) and I think the amount of dust collecting on the panels was one of the things that was quantified by Spirit and Opportunity. Previously the amount of dust expected was "some".

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Re: Obligatory...

Previously the amount of dust expected was "some".

And they were only targeting 90 days anyway.

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Re: Obligatory...

I think weight, complexity and lack of necessity for the original mission are all right.

But also Martian dust can be quite sticky due to static so maybe a brush just wouldn't work anyway of might cause electrical problems etc. Things don't always work as expected in these (to us) extreme environment.

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Re: Obligatory...

> does anyone know if they ever thought of including something in the design to keep the panels clean?

Don't know about Opportunity, but Curiosity has a cleaning device named DRT ("Dust Removal Tool")...

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Re: Obligatory...

That's for cleaning the rocks to be sampled - https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/pia16565.html

And Curiosity is a nuclear tank, no solar panels to clean.

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Go

Re: Obligatory...

Curiosity has a cleaning device named DRT ("Dust Removal Tool")...

NASA engineer: "A Roomba? Small beer. Let's go for a nuclear-powered Roomba. On Mars."

Entire planning commitee: <various sounds of agreement>

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Devil

Re: Obligatory...

"I'm guessing they had a pretty good reason for not adding some wipers."

no refills for the windshield washers?

without water, it would probably scratch the surface of the solar cells. I can't imagine anything worse than wiping sand across a glossy surface with a slightly brittle wiper blade and no washer fluid...

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Re: Obligatory...

"Joing aside, does anyone know if they ever thought of including something in the design to keep the panels clean? I've always thought it was a bit of an own goal not to, but I'm guessing they had a pretty good reason for not adding some wipers."

Pretty in-depth response from the mission manager below. Short version, they wouldn't have taken the dust off, they'd have damaged the cells and there was a far simpler solution for the scope of the original mission - make the panels slightly bigger than required to mitigate the issue.

https://www.quora.com/Why-werent-wipers-installed-on-the-solar-panels-of-the-Spirit-and-Opportunity

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Re: Obligatory...

Also - how do you power the wipers at the end of winter?

I've often thought that a sot bristled brush which could be used by the robot arm would be fun...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Obligatory...

"I'm guessing they had a pretty good reason for not adding some wipers."

DURR

so that the down -and-outs at the traffic lights had something to do

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Re: Obligatory...

It could have a vent strip at the side to blow air over the panels. A mechanism that slowly draws air in from the environment over time and pressurises it (various forms of osmosis do this) could provide enough force to blow dust off the panel.

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Re: Obligatory...

>> .. could provide enough force to blow dust off the panel.

That's called "sneezing". Or anyway it was when some early hard disks did it.

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Re: Obligatory...

It's a FAQ over at unmanned spaceflight.com . You have to remember that any mechanism you add has to have its mass balanced by taking something else off. Mossbauer? RAT? It would also be something else to go wrong. For a vehicle designed to last three months, it wasn't worth it.

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Re: Obligatory...

Ever try to use your windshield wipers without windshield washer? Dust and grit will make permanent scratches.

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Pretty awesome.

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Pint

Massive round of drinks for the NASA guys

Top job guys n gals.

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Pint

I'm glad they're not relying on anyone to maintain an app to keep it working.

Cassini, Voyager, Opportunity. Those chaps and chapettes know how to build stuff.

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Anonymous Coward

Also glad they didn't build it with Node.js

Would've run fine for a couple of years then crashed in a heap of unresolvable package dependencies.

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Pint

Brilliant stuff!!

I remember pointing out Mars to my boys years ago, explaining how they could tell it was a planet because it wasn't twinkling, and how to recognize it was Mars by its red colour. A thought struck me and I told them two robot cars (Spirit and Opportunity back then) were driving around on that little dot in the sky, and their jaws dropped. They were already well beyond the 90 days at the time. Amazing to think Opportunity is still going strong. Excellent engineering!

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Joke

Missing the obvious

Every time Opportunity rover stops, some homeless guy jumps out from behind a rock to clean the panels looking for a few quid.

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Anonymous Coward

Don't believe the 90 days. That was just managing expectations incase things went wrong. PR nonsense.

They clearly designed it to last years. Probably could have survived 90 days without solar panels

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Go

True to a certain extent, I think. 90 days was the primary mission objective, and would have been achieved for the nearly-worst-case situation for panel dust collection. Everything else was massively overengineered against the 90-day objective because it was known that the level of dust collection might not be worst-case.

I doubt that anyone seriously thought they'd get away with it for this long, though.

icon: Go - and keep on going.

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Anonymous Coward

Martian Winter

Do they get snow and sausage rolls?

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Pint

Re: Martian Winter

Snow and sausage rolls... Nope, just potatoes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Martian Winter

Potatoes? Surely not - those are the things that primitive earth people peel with metal knives then boil in water for twenty earth minutes then smash all to bits ... Martians have a much more advanced cuisine.

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Joke

Re: Martian Winter

Martians have a much more advanced cuisine.

I dunno. Expedition reports suggest that of all possible food crops, Mars' greatest botanist selected potatoes. With a side of ketchup.

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Alien

Re: Martian Winter

For those readers younger than us, the "more advanced cuisine" is revealed in

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SAbJjktk7E

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Headmaster

Re: Martian Winter

For those readers younger than us

Or born on the wrong side of the Atlantic. ;) Thank you for the link, I'm now more educated in Cadbury products and extraterrestrial advertising campaigns.

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Pint

Re: Martian Winter

Are you sure? Isn't our only precedent Matt Damon growing potatoes in his own turds on the red planet?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Martian Winter

Isn't our only precedent Matt Damon growing potatoes in his own turds on the red planet?

What was that movie called again? "Recycling, the short route" or something?

:)

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Alien

Re: Martian Winter

for Mash get Smash

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4MTgjNkfyI

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Re: Martian Winter

"They clearly designed it to last years. Probably could have survived 90 days without solar panels"

If you had built a device with an 80% chance of lasting 90 days, then as well as standing a 20% chance of dying during the initial period then statistically it's pretty certain it'd now be dead.

However, if you spec a device to have a 100% chance of surviving 90 days, that gives a very, very high statistical probability that it will still be running for many multiples of that time.

That it has lasted as long as it has though is more or less pure luck. If storms didn't periodicly blow the solar panels clear(er) then it'd be dead long ago from dust buildup on the solar panels. Since we didn't know about the storms before it's not something that could be planned for or expected.

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MJI
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Re: Martian Winter

Now the real question is

Has Andy Weir seen the Smash advert?

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Coat

Re: Martian Winter

Potatoes? Surely not - those are the things that primitive earth people peel with metal knives then boil in water for twenty earth minutes then smash all to bits ... Martians have a much more advanced cuisine.

According to a Mars documentary that I watched, they apparently mix vicodin in with theirs.

Mine's the one with all the prescriptions in the pocket.

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Terminator

Is the name 'Perseverance Valley' inspired by Opportunity?

If not, I think it should be.

Go on, you wonderful collection of nuts and bolts you :)

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Same on everyone for missing the almost reference to the late grate Mr. Adams and mention it was on year eight of a ninety day mission:

https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/48886/why-is-the-trilogy-made-of-five-books

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Anonymous Coward

.... why, did they realize that they got really bad science results in days 60-90 and hoped if they kept on going they might reach the high standards achieved in days 0-30 again?

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Image scale

We've placed an October 2017 image from inside the valley at the top of this story

Could someone suggest an idea of the size of the rocks in that photo, wrt to Opportunity?

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Re: Image scale

Could someone suggest an idea of the size of the rocks in that photo, wrt to Opportunity?

Yuge!

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Re: Image scale

> Could someone suggest an idea of the size of the rocks in that photo, wrt to Opportunity?

If you follow the link in the photo caption to the NASA site, they give the size of the full image, which is about 3.5m (metres, not miles). The cropped image used in the article is maybe 0.5m.

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Thumb Up

Re: Image scale

Thanks!

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