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Mars rover Opportunity  (Source:
The new flat-topped rock in Endeavour has been informally named "Tisdale 2"

In the 7.5 years that NASA rover Opportunity has spent on Mars, it has uncovered valuable information about the red planet. For instance, Opportunity initially landed in an ancient lakebed that was rich with water-forming materials, which proved that the now-dry planet was once wet and tropical billions of years ago.

In January 2004, Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit, were parachuted onto opposite ends of the planet Mars. Their purpose was to explore the Martian surface including rocks, craters and hills, record the data to their flash memory, and send it to deep space antennas in California, Australia and Spain.

Unfortunately, Spirit was the clumsy sibling of the two who would occasionally break down and send "nonsense data" back to Earth. Eventually, it got stuck in a sand pit and fell silent. Spirit's career officially ended in January 2010 while Opportunity remained the overachiever.

Now, Opportunity is continuing its Martian travels by taking on a new area of Mars. Three weeks ago, the rover reached a 14-mile-wide crater called Endeavour, which is an ideal area of exploration because the rocks on Endeavour's rim are from early Martian history and consist of clay materials that form in wet, less-acidic conditions that could be suitable for life. The rim has discontinuous ridges at present, and some have names. A ridge at a section of the rim where Opportunity landed is named "Cape York," and the gap between Cape York and the next southern rim fragment is "Botany Bay." On the way to Cape York, researchers saw outcrops at Botany Bay "unlike anything Opportunity has seen so far," and a bench around Cape York's edge looked like sedimentary rock that was cut and filled with materials that could have been delivered by water.

Opportunity has already discovered a new, flat-topped rock in Endeavour that has been informally named "Tisdale 2." It is thought that the rock was brought to the surface after an impact created a crater the size of a tennis court. Researchers have since used Opportunity's microscopic imager, panoramic camera and other instruments to examine the rock.

"This is different from any rock ever seen on Mars," said Steve Squyres, lead investigator for Opportunity at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. "It has a composition similar to some volcanic rocks, but there's much more zinc and bromine than we've typically seen. We are getting confirmation that reaching Endeavour really has given us the equivalent of a second landing site for Opportunity."

Opportunity has traveled a total of 20.8 miles since its landing on Mars. Previous to Endeavour, Opportunity spent two years exploring the Victoria crater. It traveled 13 miles from Victoria to Endeavour.

"We have a very senior rover in good health for having already worked 30 times longer than planned," said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "However, at any time, we could lose a critical component on an essential rover system, and the mission would be over. Or, we might still be using this rover's capabilities beneficially for years. There are miles of exciting geology to explore at Endeavour's crater."

NASA plans to launch Curiosity, its next-generation Mars rover, later this year between November 25 and December 18.

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Dang thing wont quit
By AssBall on 9/2/2011 12:22:12 PM , Rating: 1
Doesn't Curiosity have a decent nuclear powerplant? It should hopefully last even longer. This thing has done amazingly well considering solar power sucks on Mars.

RE: Dang thing wont quit
By mgoblue0970 on 9/2/2011 1:17:55 PM , Rating: 1
No. Opportunity (no curiosity[sic]) is solar powered.

Solar power does not "suck" on Mars. It has kept alive 2 rovers, which had a design life of 90 days, for 6 years. During the Martian winters, the vehicles have gone into a planned safe mode due to the low angle of the sun. Dust storms have affected the efficiency of the solar panels but otherwise both vehicles have exceeded expectations.

RE: Dang thing wont quit
By NicodemusMM on 9/2/2011 1:56:34 PM , Rating: 4
Curiosity will be the new rover and, yes, it is powered by radioactive decay. Due to it's mass using solar power would be impractical. Also with power being independent of external sources the rover will be able to travel to areas receiving less light such as the dark side of crate walls or near the terminator. This also means dust storms will not hinder power generation.

Compared to the amount of light received per given area on Earth solar power on Mars sucks. It's just that the rovers use very little power.

~ Nicodemus

RE: Dang thing wont quit
By jimbojimbo on 9/2/2011 2:16:22 PM , Rating: 2
He's asking about the new rover and solar does suck. It's because of it that for months at a time they had to put the rovers into standby and hope they start responding again after winter ends. It's basically been a crapshoot. Will they be so frozen that they won't be able to power up again?

With Curiosity if it's nuclear powered it should be able to run 24/7 since power isn't as much of a dependency.

RE: Dang thing wont quit
By FITCamaro on 9/2/2011 2:47:35 PM , Rating: 1
It has kept working but has constantly been a problem to keep the panels clean. Nuclear power makes far more sense because it doesn't need any outside stimuli and just works 24/7 no matter what.

RE: Dang thing wont quit
By Samus on 9/2/11, Rating: -1
RE: Dang thing wont quit
By captainBOB on 9/2/2011 4:10:47 PM , Rating: 3
Nope, solar power was the ONLY option for extraterrestrial space exploration until now. Aside from nuclear which was off the table up till now, there wasn't any other practical source of power beyond solar.

Nuclear will be much more robust and reliable than solar, though I do expect issues to crop up in its first generation.

RE: Dang thing wont quit
By theapparition on 9/6/2011 1:38:46 PM , Rating: 1
Better go check your facts.

RE: Dang thing wont quit
By AssBall on 9/2/2011 4:20:50 PM , Rating: 5
Um the longest lasting probes ever are all nuclear powered. Hello, Voyager.

RE: Dang thing wont quit
By Reclaimer77 on 9/3/2011 4:16:33 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Dang thing wont quit
By AssBall on 9/2/11, Rating: 0
RE: Dang thing wont quit
By AssBall on 9/2/2011 6:04:11 PM , Rating: 1
I get downrated because:

A: you don't know how solar power works
B: you are a troll
C: nuclear power scares you
D: you are too bored/dumb to make an argument so you just downrate


RE: Dang thing wont quit
By talikarni on 9/2/2011 4:32:23 PM , Rating: 2
Cooling should not be as much of a problem since average surface temps are well below freezing point of water, and even the warmest days only see up to 27 °C (81 °F) which is a rarity. Even during the dust storms, they seem to be composed of cold dust so a warm summer day can cool off quick during the summer dust storms, dropping below freezing point of water quickly.
If anything the nuclear powered rovers should be able to run much longer and more often being they do not have the solar limitation.

RE: Dang thing wont quit
By Solandri on 9/2/2011 7:22:40 PM , Rating: 2
There are limitations to using nuclear power, too. Cooling and current stability come to mind.

The problem with space probes is excessive cooling. A large fraction of the rovers' solar energy budget is devoted to keeping the electronics warm overnight and through the winter. In fact that's what killed Spirit - insufficient solar power to keep its electronics warm through the martian Winter. In deep space probes, the excess heat from nuclear RTGs is a benefit since it helps keep the electronics warm.

Currently stability is more a problem with solar. With nuclear RTGs, you can design them so there will be sufficient and stable current for decades. With solar, your available current depends on the state of your batteries, time of day, and the local weather.

Solar power is always the best option for space exploration, which is why the previous rovers, probs and all satellites are solar powered.

No, every space probe visiting Jupiter and beyond has been nuclear powered. Solar energy density just isn't high enough out there to realistically power a spacecraft.

Solar power is the best option for space option only inside the orbit of Mars. And as we're seeing with the rovers (which basically have to shut down during Winter due to insufficient sunlight), solar isn't all that great an option there if you're planet-bound.

The original mission for the rover was limited to 90 days based on the assumption that the solar panels would gradually get covered with dust and energy production levels would degrade to unusable within 90-180 days. As it happens, they got lucky and the occasional windstorm and dust devil has cleared off the dust frequently enough for the rovers to keep chugging for years.

RE: Dang thing wont quit
By icanhascpu on 9/5/2011 12:07:54 AM , Rating: 1
Did you really come here just to lie? Or are you regurgitating BS you heard from someone else?

And we have ... no lift off???!!!
By drycrust3 on 9/2/11, Rating: -1
By MrWho on 9/2/2011 1:04:54 PM , Rating: 2
Talk to China. I've heard they can almost launch a rocket past the launchpad!

By 4745454b on 9/2/2011 1:16:07 PM , Rating: 2
If that is all correct

Not to my knowledge. First, I haven't seen any site/article that said the reason the Russian launch failed was because they didn't load enough fuel into it. Honestly I haven't been looking for those articles so its possible.

What is wrong is your statement that says we have no way to launch this rover. Just because we can't launch a shuttle doesn't mean we can't launch other things. We do still have rockets. We just "can't" put a shuttle on them.

RE: And we have ... no lift off???!!!
By mgoblue0970 on 9/2/2011 1:34:32 PM , Rating: 5
Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Pointy tin foil hat much? Why would the Russians only fill up the tank half full? There's no world wide shortage of rocket fuel either. You may want to consider some of the text here too:

Besides, since you assume that because fuel prices have increased in the world and that implies oil, well, oil is trading for $85 a barrel now. So "fuel" as you say is cheaper now than the last couple of years.

Soyuz/Progress has had several problems in the last couple of years though; mostly software and procedural related.

Also, Russian rockets are not our govt's cheaper option. There is no option as the Shuttle isn't flying anymore. Quite frankly, with $500B per launch, no design objectives met, and very little science being done on the ISS, the ROI of the Shuttle is certainly debatable.

Furthermore, the US has rockets. Just not manned ones. Juxtaposing the Shuttle with launching a follow-on rover mission is idiocy. The Rovers would never fly out of the Shuttle in the first place -- they'll go up on a Delta or something.

By MrBlastman on 9/2/2011 3:44:05 PM , Rating: 2
Nice read. :)

The biggest reason why these spacecraft need so much fuel is that they have to reach such a high velocity to achieve low earth orbit. If they were just going straight, up, up and away (like Superman), it'd be a different figure... that is, until gravity catches up with you.

RE: And we have ... no lift off???!!!
By NicodemusMM on 9/2/2011 1:45:38 PM , Rating: 4
I could be way off base here, so correct me if I'm wrong...

Spirit and Opportunity weren't launched with the shuttle, I think they used a Delta variant. Curiosity with be launched with an Atlas V variant. I think the Hubble telescope is the most far-reaching deployment the shuttle has performed. Typically you don't use the shuttle for things passing out of Earth's orbit. In most cases you just use a rocket, whether it's deploying a communication satellite in orbit or pushing a new rover to another planet. The shuttle's main purpose is(was) a reusable manned re-entry vehicle with the capability of deploying large, heavy cargo in Earth orbit and/or carrying equipment for research.

As far as the rest of your comment...
"America decides to support the International Space Station because it gives Shuttle something to do"
America supports ISS because doing so with partner nations is much more feasible than doing so alone.

"ran out of fuel halfway up the uphill to the ISS"
The recent Russian rocket crash was due to a generator failure in the third stage.

"But no one thought the 'built and launched to that exact price' meant that as the price of fuel increased so the amount that went into the fuel tank decreased, but that is exactly what it means. Thus it was no surprise to the Russians when the supply rocket ran out of fuel halfway up the uphill to the ISS. So the Russians promptly 'grounded' their rockets (i.e. saw no point in launching rockets without full tanks) while they 'investigated the problem' (i.e. renegotiated the price)."

Really? Please... Be careful as I've heard that wearing a tin-foil hat too long can cause baldness, nausea, hairy palms, lack of friends and separation from reality.

~ Nicodemus

RE: And we have ... no lift off???!!!
By Solandri on 9/2/2011 7:38:13 PM , Rating: 2
I think the Hubble telescope is the most far-reaching deployment the shuttle has performed.

The Galileo spacecraft to Jupiter was also launched from the shuttle. It was originally supposed to have been launched from the shuttle using a large booster rocket (Centaur-G) as big as the shuttle's cargo bay.

But following the Challenger disaster, NASA decided that carrying tons of explosive fuel inside the shuttle's cargo bay was a bad idea. So they drastically cut down the size of the rocket, and put Galileo on a roundabout trajectory involving a slingshot around Venus and two past the Earth to get it out to Jupiter. This long voyage combined with a few extra years in storage following Challenger is thought to be the culprit behind Galileo's high gain antenna failing to open.

By NicodemusMM on 9/2/2011 8:17:59 PM , Rating: 2
Ah, cool. I did not know that.


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