Saturday, January 03, 2009

We can still build some things to work well

(CNN) -- NASA's Mars rovers are celebrating their fifth birthday on the Red Planet -- exceeding their original life span by four years and nine months -- with no end yet in sight to their history-making work.

The rover Spirit landed on January 3, 2004, with Opportunity touching down 21 days later.

NASA said the rovers had made important discoveries about the wet and violent conditions on ancient Mars.

They had returned 250,000 images, covered more than 21km (13 miles), climbed a mountain, descended into craters, struggled with sand traps and ageing hardware and survived dust storms, NASA said.

"These rovers are incredibly resilient considering the extreme environment the hardware experiences every day," said John Callas, Jet Propulsion Laboratory project manager for Spirit and Opportunity.

"We realize that a major rover component on either vehicle could fail at any time and end a mission with no advance notice but on the other hand, we could accomplish the equivalent duration of four more prime missions on each rover in the year ahead."

Will we be able to find our 'Can Do' spirit after eight years of rewarding incompetence and avarice? The spirit that got us to the moon?

Yes. We can.


xan said...

Wild and thuderous applause. "Yes we can" indeed, and those little machines (much as I originally hated their names) are shining examples.

ellroon said...

We're going need every bit of inspiration from any place we can get it to get out of the Bush Hole. Maybe Spirit and Opportunity can help....

Ali said...

they must've been surprised to see the cat.

ellroon said...

Mars' cats have those cool headlight eyes....

Steve Bates said...

"We can still build things..."??? Try "we used to be able to build things..." instead.

Spirit was launched June 10, 2003; Opportunity was launched July 7 of the same year. I don't have dates in front of me, but the NASA R&D that created these rovers extended at least back to December 1996, when Sojourner was launched, or rather, at least two years before that. In other words, NASA had the ability to build and deploy successful Mars rovers... back in the Clinton era. Ask anybody who knows the internal workings of NASA in recent years whether they still have that capability. Or the ability to send humans to the Moon. Or... you get the idea.

The last administration to do as much damage to the human space flight program as the Bushies was Reagan's, and for some of the same reasons. Do not think for a moment that the success of Spirit and Opportunity is rooted in the fundamental(ist) hostility to science and technology endemic to the Bush administration.

(CAPTCHA text: "anglo". Hmmm...)

ellroon said...

*sigh* No, Steve, I know you're right, but I am keeping hope alive by looking forward to the Obama administration. When he tells us we are able to achieve great things, I'm going try my damnedest to support them.

Yes, I can.

Steve Bates said...

ellroon, do not be dismayed by my rant. I, too, hope for a revival of human space flight in America, and I think it will happen, though perhaps not in Obama's presidency because of the depr... um, the recession. This is not out of national or even local pride on my part, nor from self-interest... I've done only one very tiny subcontract for NASA some years back, an application to track operator training and certification status on the myriad consoles at Mission Control... but from a sense that exploration is a large part of what makes us human, and space exploration is of long-term intrinsic significance.

Obama has announced his desire to combine efforts of the Pentagon and NASA in some aspects of space missions. I thought that had long since been done; maybe the Bushists screwed it up in their eight years. But count me as a real enthusiast for space exploration for its own sake and for the sake of science. If Obama fosters that sort of effort, I'll be an even bigger supporter than I already am.

BTW, lest there be any mistaken assumptions, I know a lot of Democrats who work for NASA; one mustn't stereotype those people.

ellroon said...

I, too, hope for a revival of human space flight in America, and I think it will happen, though perhaps not in Obama's presidency because of the depr... um, the recession.

I hear you. We can at least look forward to an appreciation of science and education which will help jump start space exploration again. That will create jobs and stop the brain drain to other countries. Eight years of a C student in charge is enough.