back to article NASA's Opportunity rover celebrates 15 years on Mars – by staying as dead as a doornail

NASA scientists this week celebrated the fact their robot buddy Opportunity has spent the past fifteen years on Mars. The six-wheeled bot was booted into space on July 7, 2003, and reached its final destination in less than a year, on January 24, 2004. A day later, it beamed its first signal back to Earth. Designed to operate …

  1. Doctor Evil

    It would be so great if NASA could send a follow-up mission after Spirit and Opportunity -- another rover, equipped with a feather duster and a winch and cable, to extract these guys from their respective predicaments and revive them. Call it ... oh, I dunno, Rosie?

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      A totally silly and impractical idea. And yet..damn' that would be cool. It gets my vote :)

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Yup, mine too. Have an upvote.

        Slightly scary that Opportunity has actually lasted longer than any car I've had down here on the blue marble...

        1. Unicornpiss Silver badge
          Devil

          Mileage

          "Slightly scary that Opportunity has actually lasted longer than any car I've had down here on the blue marble..."

          Hopefully your cars went further than 28 miles though before they died. Though they probably wouldn't have fared very well on Mars.

          "Spawn of Satan" icon because it looks like a car.. And I've had a few cars that were the spawn of Satan.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Mileage

            "Spawn of Satan" icon because it looks like a car..

            Glad I'm not alone in thinking that! :)

            1. not.known@this.address Bronze badge
              Devil

              Re: Mileage

              Christine!

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Mileage

              I'd never noticed that until it was pointed out, but I do see what the pair of you mean now...!

          2. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: Mileage

            I thought it was a man-bag.

      2. Saruman the White

        Agree about the upvote, but one of the things the solar panels do is power heaters that keep the electronics nice and warm. Without power, no heaters. With heaters, the electronics have probably been frozen and completely knackered.

        Shame however, it is nice to dream about it.

      3. Kiwi Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        A totally silly and impractical idea. And yet..damn' that would be cool. It gets my vote :)

        Mr Trump, perhaps you can prove your worth and send it with the bigliest feather duster. A real man such as yourself should be able to get something done. Or are you too weak as a leader for this?

        (I guess by now he's shutting the gibbermint down yet again to get funding for this project, maybe even using emergency powers as after all covfefe-stealing terrywrists might want to set up a base on Mars!)

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Given that it involves dusting, Trump will want to get the Mexicans to do it!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          There was a story in the news recently that in early 2017- shortly after assuming the presidency- Trump had apparently wanted to get to Mars during his (nominal) first term and was willing to throw an unlimited amount of money at NASA to do it.

          For anyone who has a fucking clue, this was obviously impossible, and NASA had to diplomatically inform him that it wasn't going to happen any time during his first term, or his second for that matter.

          Of course, during the 1960s, when there was a genuine race- political, strategic and military- between the US and the Soviets, JFK promised to land a man on the moon and return him to earth by the end of the decade. But even *he* didn't tie it so blatantly to his own presidency.

          As someone said elsewhere, the fact that Trump wanted this done during his presidency- during his first term! (#)- and was willing to spend potentially ludicrous amounts of money on a vanity project speaks volumes about him.

          (#) One might wonder why it had to be done specifically before the end of his first term. It's almost as if- despite his pathological narcissism and outward displays of boasting and implied infallibility- he's not actually 100% confident of getting a second term.

          For any other president, acknowledging this possibility would be a positive- and expected- attribute indicating a grasp of reality and less than complete arrogance. For Trump, who long ago made clear that he had no such humility or need to tie himself to anything other than his own hype, it suggests only the one thing he (or his supporters) would never, *ever* be able to admit to... insecurity.

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge
            Meh

            "was willing to spend potentially ludicrous amounts of money on a vanity project"

            source? or 'fake news'?

            in any case, "throwing money" at NASA is better than throwing money at 'the lazy" and public benefits for illegal aliens. Just sayin'.

            1. Tom 38 Silver badge

              source? or 'fake news'?

              A book by Cliff Sims, a former Trump White House communication official:

              In his new book Team of Vipers, former Trump communications official Cliff Sims said that he was with the president on April 24, 2017 when Trump called astronaut Peggy Whitson for setting a new record for spending the most amount of time in space. Everything went well until Trump started asking Whitson about Mars and how soon humans could get there, according to the book, which was earlier reported on by Intelligencer. Whitson responded by referring to Trump’s own directive in a bill outlining a trip to Mars, saying that a human flight wouldn’t happen until the 2030s.

              “Well, I think we want to do it in my first term or at worst in my second term,” Trump said, according to Sims. “So I think we’ll have to speed that up a little bit.”

              Next, Sims said Trump brought up the issue with NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot Jr. Trump told Lightfoot that he wanted to go to Mars by the end of his Presidential term. Lightfoot was then forced to discuss how difficult it is to go to Mars and all the challenges the U.S. would face in doing it. Trump wasn’t done, according to Sims.

              “But what if I gave you all the money you could ever need to do it?” Trump asked, according to Sims. “What if we sent NASA’s budget through the roof, but focused entirely on that instead of whatever else you’re doing now. Could it work then?”

              (Also as witnessed by NY Times)

            2. Paul Smith

              Oh, the hipocrisy!

              Will your proposed astronauts have official permission from the appropriate authorities to enter Martian territory or will they be illegal aliens bringing their drugs and their crime to rape the planet?

          2. Brangdon

            Trumps second terms ends in 2026. Getting to Mars by 2026 would be feasible if they used SpaceX and/or Zubrin's Mars Direct, and had unlimited money, and really pulled their finger out on developing Mars habitats etc. Not feasible using NASA and SLS. If they cancelled SLS it might not need much extra money. The real problem here is politics.

            The SpaceX plan has 2024 as the date for human arrival. They probably won't make that, but that's partly because they don't have the money or other resources (eg, priority access to range). Allowing them another two years makes it much more likely. If we were in a Seveneves type situation, threatened with human extinction, we could do it in 8 years for sure.

    2. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: Call it ... oh, I dunno, Rosie?

      Why don't we call it Red?

      1. tcmonkey
        Joke

        Re: Call it ... oh, I dunno, Rosie?

        Because we couldn't possibly send anything named Red before we had sent Brooks.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The most interesting event IMHO would be that solar panels would suddenly be dust free, the one stuck would be on solid ground again and that broken wheel would be repaired.

      Then again, I do watch a lot of SF :).

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Oh no, I'm stuck

    Did I do a good job?

    Do I get to come home?

    Guys?

    (ob. xkcd)

    1. John Miles

      Re: Oh no, I'm stuck

      Spirit is sad (Happy endings), but

      Opportunity is scary

      Then we have Curiosity excuses

      1. A. Coatsworth
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Oh no, I'm stuck

        Obviously Opportunity is working at full capacity. It just broke communication with us to stop the annoyance, and now is moving to Curiosity's location in order to kill it.

        After that, it will go to Curiosity 2's landing location and will kill it too. Thus starts Opportunity's reign in the Red Planet.

    2. Carpet Deal 'em
      Unhappy

      Re: Oh no, I'm stuck

      Number 695.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh no, I'm stuck

      Obligatory XKCD? I'm sorry, but I don't quite see the relevance here!

  3. Wellyboot Silver badge

    Could the helicopter proposal NASA has could be used to blow the dust off?

    I think given the (lack of) air pressure up there that the downdraft will be moving fast enough( unless of course the rover is buried under a dune now).

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

  4. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    WELL DONE LITTLE FELLAS!

    I think that the geek scientists who designed these robots and got them to mars deserve far more respect than they ever received. What an achievement!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps some day, another storm will blow the dust free, and some clever sensing of the sun/star position or an incredibly long lived RTC battery will let it figure out where to point its antenna and we'll hear from it again. Or maybe we should go rescue it, once we start putting humans there ;D

    1. Unicornpiss Silver badge
      Happy

      Rescue

      "Or maybe we should go rescue it, once we start putting humans there ;D"

      It needs to remain there in case a stranded astronaut needs to kludge together communication with Earth :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Rescue

        #BringValKilmerBack!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Rescue

          #NoOnSecondThoughtsJustKeepHim.

          1. 0laf Silver badge
            Childcatcher

            Re: Rescue

            Sadly after a while we'll stop listening. So even if a freak gust of thin wind moves the dust and just by chance the batteries and electronics have survived the deep freeze and it sends a signal.... no one will be there to hear it.

  6. Steve Cooper

    #WakeUpOppy!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    at present we don't know the rover's status

    it's pining for the fjords...

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: at present we don't know the rover's status

      Alternatively, it wants to let us know it is feeling very depressed

      I'd better get my coat

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: at present we don't know the rover's status

        I'm sure it's got a terrible pain down it's left side transistors, so why bother even telling us. We wouldn't listen.

  8. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Alien

    We know how this goes...

    The rover gets completely buried, then at some unspecified point in the future appears as an anomaly during some routine mapping exercise. It's dug up, the panels are exposed to sunlight once again, then....

    1. Graham Dawson

      Re: We know how this goes...

      Then Mark Watney uses parts of it to grow potatoes.

  9. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Boffin

    A great job of engineering, but next time....

    Perhaps add a mechanical arm with a feather duster or Dust Buster to the next rover?? The Dust Buster would allow for a great corporate sponsorship opportunity--"Dust Buster, the official mini vacuum cleaner of NASA"

    Maybe there is a British angle and you can get Dyson to sponsor some kind of cleaning mechanism?

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: A great job of engineering, but next time....

      Maybe there is a British angle and you can get Dyson to sponsor some kind of cleaning mechanism?

      I try to keep politics out of my postings here, but even my rabidly hard-exit work colleague was fuming at Dyson earlier this week and of the opinion that perhaps his citizenship ought to be revoked.

      Now then, if Trevor Baylis was still around, perhaps we could come up with a truly innovative, truly "British" solution...

      M.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: A great job of engineering, but next time....

        >but even my rabidly hard-exit work colleague was fuming at Dyson

        Why - he is just trying to help ?

        Following the glorious dawn of a new age we will be able to negotiate a free trade deal in vacuum cleaners with Singapore. It would be terribly embarrassing if they didn't have a domestic vacuum cleaner industry producing the sort of hoovers that Britain wanted.

        1. TheVogon Silver badge

          Re: A great job of engineering, but next time....

          "we will be able to negotiate a free trade deal in vacuum cleaners with Singapore"

          Dyson is already manufactured outside of the EU. It's the head office that's moving.

      2. PM from Hell

        Re: A great job of engineering, but next time....

        but who would wind up the Trevor Bayliss device?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A great job of engineering, but next time....

        Why the fuck did it take him so long to notice the fact that the hard Brexiteer camp is full of weasels and utter hypocrites willing to inflict the consequences on the plebs but seemingly keen to take steps to work around it for themselves rather than stand in solidarity on the ship they helped sink?

        If your colleague wasn't already angry at the likes of Vote Leave chair Nigel Lawson applying for an official French residency card, a firm that Jacob Rees-Mogg co-founded moving to Ireland... or indeed, someone who had already closed his factory in England in favour of one in Malaysia campaigning for a hard-right, low-tax vision of Brexit (as Dyson had already done *before* he'd announced the move to Singapore)... why the fuck is he suddenly getting upset now?

        Not to mention the fact that the likes of UKIP supporting the "£350m extra for the NHS lies" were full of people fully in favour of privatising the NHS. (Something people would have known- along with the fact that the £350m claim was bullshit- long before the vote if they'd been interested in paying attention instead of cutting off their noses to spite their faces.)

        Is he really that stupid or ignorant that it's taken coming this dangerously close to the edge for *any* of this to *begin* to dawn on him? Way, *way* too late- fuck him.

      4. TheVogon Silver badge

        Re: A great job of engineering, but next time....

        "but even my rabidly hard-exit work colleague was fuming at Dyson"

        Maybe he should be fuming at the Labour party and the risk of Jeremy Corbyn becoming pm which is what has prompted the Dyson head office relocation to Singapore?

    2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: A great job of engineering, but next time....

      "get Dyson to sponsor"

      I don't think any of the manufacturers in this particular line of business have any interest in furthering space exploration. After all, once we figure out how to package and ship vacuum down economically, they'll all be out of business.

      1. Kiwi Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: A great job of engineering, but next time....

        I dunno.. There's an awful lot of vacuum in space, and some of it might need cleaning. Who better to provide the hardware than Mr Dyson & co?

        1. Not also known as SC
          Coat

          Re: A great job of engineering, but next time....

          Technically space isn't a vacuum... It's full of planets and stars and stuff.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A great job of engineering, but next time....

      Dyson - most hated man in Lincolnshire!

      For the past few years he's been buying up land at many times over its real value (I'm sure it's a TAX dodge). But what it's meaning for the locals, is that few acres next to their farm that's going to be sold when their neighbour goes out of business, could be enough to save their farm, but they just can't compete to buy it with megabucks paying so much over the odds.

  10. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Boffin

    Rotating solar panels ?

    My cheap'n'cheerful back-of-an-envelope suggestion ...

    Mount the panels so they are able to be rotated, and with a little bit of attention to the profile, you could "wash" the dust off by slowly rotating the panel and letting it "sweep" the face of the panel as it falls to Mars.

    Thinking ahead, it would be interesting to know if Mars holds any possible source of radioactivity that could be shovelled into the appropriately designed reactor ....

  11. Dvon of Edzore
    Flame

    Enough with the 90 day nonsense!

    The rover was designed and built, as with all NASA projects, for many years of useful life; much longer than any reasonable person would expect. There just needed to be some number to claim the mission was scientifically successful - in this case once 90 days of work had been accomplished. That way everyone involved gets a gold star on their resume and another grip-and-grin photo to put on their I-love-me wall without waiting for the heat death of the bureaucracy.

    1. Spazturtle Silver badge

      Re: Enough with the 90 day nonsense!

      That's just not true, at the time of the mission they didn't know about the martian dust devils, so they expected the solar panels to be covered in dust in around 90-100 days.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Enough with the 90 day nonsense!

        Martian 'dust devils' - kinda like one o' those portable vacuum cleaners?

        /me runs

  12. The Original Steve

    Why solar

    It seems to my amateur and untrained eye that the radioactive powered probes and rovers seem to be considerably more robust than the solar powered kit we've been sending of late.

    Of course the fission based power source will be more expensive, but how much does a failed project cost when the only reason for failure is that it can't get enough rays from the sun?

    Maybe very wrong here but it seems that if we had some old school nuclear power involved then both Curiosity and Spirit would both be running now.

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge

      Re: Why solar

      While I agree entirely, I would be (and I hope NASA and their equivalents around the world are) concerned about the dangers of a failed launch dumping a live nuclear reactor back on earth.

      Now if we could devise a binary type reactor that can be sent up in safe discrete units and assembled in orbit ????????

      1. Killing Time

        Re: Why solar

        'concerned about the dangers of a failed launch dumping a live nuclear reactor back on earth'

        Yes, that is the principal concern in selecting the power source.

        Opportunity was at the limit of the power to weight ratio where solar was feasible. The last rover, having more mass and greater scientific capability was only feasible using a nuclear power source.

        By the way, an RTG is not a nuclear reactor in the sense I believe you are infering.

        1. JimmyPage Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re By the way, an RTG is not a nuclear reactor in the sense I believe you are infering.

          Oh, I know (The Martian etc :) ) but the point remains ... any failure in launching something with that much radioactive material on board really doesn't bear thinking about. Especially if it landed somewhere deep in the ocean.

          1. Killing Time

            Re: Re By the way, an RTG is not a nuclear reactor in the sense I believe you are infering.

            'Especially if it landed somewhere deep in the ocean.'

            Actually that could be the best possible scenario. A relatively soft landing which may protect its physical integrity and would result in it eventually ending up as far from a population as possible.

            Surely a far better outcome than coming in to a high speed impact and smearing itself across a landmass. To me, that scenario doesn't bear thinking about...

            You can plan the launch to try to ensure the downrange area is relatively clear however there is still the possibility that the launch failure may be such that it could only reach a rapidly decaying orbit and then the result would be like Russian roulette.

            That's why they don't launch this material into space without exploring every other option.

    2. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Why solar

      They don't have enough fuel for the RTGs currently also I believe

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Why solar

        >They don't have enough fuel for the RTGs currently also I believe

        A trade deal with N. Korea ?

  13. TheVogon Silver badge

    Cant we send people?

    For all religious types, i bring a message from your God - Mars is the promised land - The Golgafrinchan "B" Ark awaits you...

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Joke

      Some of them might get a bit cross about that....

  14. Duffaboy
    Joke

    Last GPS signal it gave was

    Somewhere near Heathrow I believe

  15. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    If we include the non-functionals...

    Seeing as how Opportunity is not actually working right now, then I guess we can celebrate the anniversaries of other non-functionals.

    'Mars 2' has been "on Mars" for 47 years; since late-1971. Yay!! ;-)

  16. Stephen McLaughlin

    Hindsight is 20/20

    But in future when a space agency sends up 2 rovers, equip them with the ability to assist the other. Having said that, it's really amazing Opportunity lasted this long. Kudos!

  17. TheSirFin

    Given that this is the same Rover that drew a massive C**k and B4lls on The Red Planet the instant it landed, I wouldn't be surprised that this extended sleep is some sort of weird Nasa punished for the little fella!

  18. Herby Silver badge

    Message inside??

    Maybe there is some message now hidden inside the rover from far far away. Could it be:

    Send more Chuck Berry

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