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Fraser
2004-Sep-22, 04:33 PM
SUMMARY: NASA has approved a six month extension for the Mars Exploration Rovers, giving them more time to continue exploring the surface of Mars for evidence of past water. Both Spirit and Opportunity have completed their original three-month mission, and an additional five-month extension. Even though the rovers are well past their expected operational life, neither one is showing much sign of wear, so NASA scientists plan to keep them running. The rovers took a 12-day break earlier this month as Mars passed behind the Sun, disrupting all communication to and from the Red Planet.

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antoniseb
2004-Sep-22, 05:19 PM
I expect that at some point in a later mission extension, the mission on Earth will be reduced to a group of three grad students, two minutes a day from the Deep Space Network, and a lot of auto-navigation [very low sustainable budget].

With luck in a year or so, Spirit will have climbed all of the Columbia Hills, getting good science from numerous outcrops, and a year beyond that it could be making its way to the nearest Gustav Crater wall. As to Opportunity, eventually it will have seen everything there is to see in that crater. It will investigate where the heat shield crashed, and THEN WHAT? Drive in a straight line for a hundred miles looking for a place with no blueberries.

StarLab
2004-Sep-22, 05:55 PM
This is good. B) As long as NASA can keep the probes working until the battery runs low, they're skating off the thin ice.

John L
2004-Sep-22, 06:38 PM
So why do we have to spend a fortune on one nuclear powered rover that they want to send in 2009 when these two cheaper models keep going on? Maybe we should just build more pairs of this model and send them all over Mars. If they can really last a year or more we could get a ton of science for a cheaper price than just having one nuclear rover. Let's launch two at each window, some to the poles, some to the volcanic regions, and even one to "The Face" to shut the wackos up, and get some serious planet wide science done. We'd need a few more orbiter relays for the data load, but that wouldn't be too hard to send, too.

And is there any reason this model rover wouldn't work on the Moon? They want to get some work done there, so why not send a dozen of these to the Moon. You wouldn't even need hard core DSS time, just a few small scale receivers around the planet. You could even farm out the long term project management to University teams around the world to keep the cost down and spread the data analysis out.

antoniseb
2004-Sep-22, 07:07 PM
Originally posted by John L@Sep 22 2004, 06:38 PM
So why do we have to spend a fortune on one nuclear powered rover that they want to send in 2009 when these two cheaper models keep going on?
I suspect that part of it is that the 2009 models will have more complete laboratories on-board, so that they can do some chemical and maybe even isotope analysis. That would require much more energy and heat.

I will grant that it might be useful to send up several rovers and a base, with a very large solar collecting mecahnism and batteries. Put the lab in the base, and have tohe rovers run around collecting and returning materials for the base to analyse. The current plan is to use the thermo-electric generators. I'm guessing its too late to change the plan now.

Spacemad
2004-Sep-23, 07:46 AM
Originally posted by John L@Sep 22 2004, 06:38 PM
Maybe we should just build more pairs of this model and send them all over Mars. If they can really last a year or more we could get a ton of science for a cheaper price than just having one nuclear rover. Let's launch two at each window, some to the poles, some to the volcanic regions, and even one to "The Face" to shut the wackos up, and get some serious planet wide science done. We'd need a few more orbiter relays for the data load, but that wouldn't be too hard to send, too.

And is there any reason this model rover wouldn't work on the Moon? They want to get some work done there, so why not send a dozen of these to the Moon.
I felt so pleased when I heard that both Spirit & Opportunity had come through the period of radio silence in good shape! :) Once again I would like to congratulate all those that made this mission such a success! :)

I would go along whole heartedly with you, John. It would be good to have more pairs of these Rovers doing science on Mars - &, as you say, why canīt we have a few running around the Moon? The work they are doing on Mars is incredible. We could learn an awful lot about our closest celestial neighbour from a few of these Rovers. They could examine sites of particular interest, check out possible landing sites for human explorers, look for water on the Moon as they are doing on Mars right now. Energy would be a lost less of a problem on the Moon with its looooong, looooong days (even though the nights are equally loooong!) so they should be able to achieve a whole lot more. :)