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 …

  1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Keep on rollin'...

    Top work little chap. Good work NASA.

    1. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
      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!

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Keef

    Obligatory...

    https://xkcd.com/1504/

    1. ratfox Silver badge

      Re: Obligatory...

      And here's the Follow-up.

      1. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

        Re: Obligatory...

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

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge
        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.

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          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.

          1. Vulch

            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".

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Obligatory...

              Previously the amount of dust expected was "some".

              And they were only targeting 90 days anyway.

            2. 0laf Silver badge

              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.

            3. barbara.hudson

              Re: Obligatory...

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

          2. ThatOne Silver badge

            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")...

            1. 0laf Silver badge

              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.

            2. Stoneshop Silver badge
              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>

          3. bombastic bob Silver badge
            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...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              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

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              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.

              1. scarper

                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.

          4. Annihilator

            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

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              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...

          5. Tom Paine Silver badge

            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.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Dan McIntyre

    Pretty awesome.

  6. ForthIsNotDead Silver badge
    Pint

    Massive round of drinks for the NASA guys

    Top job guys n gals.

  7. 0laf Silver badge
    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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.

  8. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    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!

  9. Bob Wheeler
    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.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    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

    1. Nik 2
      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.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Martian Winter

    Do they get snow and sausage rolls?

    1. Pedigree-Pete Bronze badge
      Pint

      Re: Martian Winter

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

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

        1. cray74 Silver badge
          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.

          1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Martian Winter

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

            1. Anonymous Coward
              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?

              :)

        2. Anon
          Alien

          Re: Martian Winter

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

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

          1. cray74 Silver badge
            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.

        3. Blotto
          Alien

          Re: Martian Winter

          for Mash get Smash

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

          1. Peter2 Silver badge

            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.

          2. MJI Silver badge

            Re: Martian Winter

            Now the real question is

            Has Andy Weir seen the Smash advert?

        4. JJKing Bronze badge
          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.

  12. phuzz Silver badge
    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 :)

  13. James 51 Silver badge

    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

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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?

  14. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    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?

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Image scale

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

      Yuge!

    2. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      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.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Image scale

        Thanks!

  15. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    They don't build 'em like that any more.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      "They don't build 'em like that any more."

      Planets you mean? Why, back when I were a lad, Mars had canals and Martians; Venus had oceans full of strange fish...

  16. JaitcH
    Thumb Up

    The American Government Might Be Run By The Biggest Idiot Of All Time But . . .

    it is hard to beat it's historic generosity to man (and woman) kind in all the benefits we have derived from President John Kennedy's decision back in the day.

    From Teflon to eye-popping pictures from Hubbel , adjustable smoke detectors, artificial limbs, baby formula, cell-handset cameras, computer mouse (stolen by Jobs), cordless tools, ear thermometer, firefighting equipment, instant dried food (far better than Army field rations of past years), invisible braces, transformational distance communications, foams and glues, MRI and CAT scanners, boot insoles, skiing boots, solar devices, UV-blocking visual aids, water recycling and purification filters. (I am sure there are more on Google)

    And a Thank You to American Taxpayers who made it all possible.

    1. ITS Retired
      Holmes

      Re: The American Government Might Be Run By The Biggest Idiot Of All Time But . . .

      And some people say governments can't do anything right.

      They they run for office and prove themselves correct.

    2. Gordon JC Pearce

      Re: The American Government Might Be Run By The Biggest Idiot Of All Time But . . .

      Actually, CAT scanners were a British invention, developed at EMI by Hounsfield and Cormack.

  17. Buttons
    Happy

    Good Job!

    Quality.

  18. aberglas

    Will Opportunity outlive Curiosity?

    When Curiosity's nuclear battery runs out.

    1. cray74 Silver badge

      Re: Will Opportunity outlive Curiosity?

      When Curiosity's nuclear battery runs out.

      RTGs generally deliver useful power for decades, based on the Pioneer 11-12 and Voyager 1 & 2 examples. I'd expect something else would give out on Curiosity first, like its wheels, batteries, or flash memory.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But would it survive a British "snowstorm"?

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