Print 22 comment(s) - last by masher2.. on Mar 21 at 9:51 AM

One of the front wheels on the Mars rover Spirit has stopped working

The Mars rover Spirit project has been going very well for NASA, but one of Spirit's front wheels has stopped working.  Researchers believe that the motor that rotates the wheel is no longer working.  The motors that rotate the wheels have worked much longer than the initial mission expected, which may be a reason one of the wheels has failed.  The same wheel had problems before, when it started drawing too much current on the Red Planet.  Engineers would temporarily disable the wheel and occasionally run the rover backwards to counter the problem.

Spirit is again dragging the wheel as it tries to reach a position where it can get as much sunlight as possible during winter, but although the point of minimum sunshine is more than 100 days away, there is already only enough to power about one hour of driving on flat ground per day, JPL said.

The Spirit landed on Mars in January of 2004, and has done a great job gathering information for NASA.

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By ksherman on 3/19/2006 3:46:59 PM , Rating: 4
sounds like it is slowly dying... better take Old Yeller out back and end its suffering ;-)


In all seriousness though, I have been continualy impressed with this little rover considering that it has been functional FAR longer than intended... Kudos to NASA! Lord knows they needed SOME kind of victory...

RE: :-(
By Scrogneugneu on 3/19/2006 4:08:45 PM , Rating: 2
I just wonder...

Is it that normal that the NASA, with all their brains, money and such, claimed a 3 months mission... but it turned out to last 2 years? I mean, yes, it's obviously good news, but... how could they miss it by that far?

RE: :-(
By Bonesdad on 3/19/2006 4:38:34 PM , Rating: 2
ever been to Mars??? Neither have they...

RE: :-(
By timmiser on 3/19/2006 5:22:11 PM , Rating: 3
Well, actually they have...quite a few times. This isn't even their first rover!

The big reason why it lasted longer than expected was because the wind on mars was unexpectly effective and cleaning off the solar panel keeping it relatively clean.

Power is everything and when the solar panel was being cleaned by the natural forces, they really didn't know how long it would last since it was figured the power would go well before the vehicle would stop funtioning mechanically.

RE: :-(
By osalcido on 3/20/2006 12:08:39 AM , Rating: 2
why couldnt NASA attach a windshield wiper or something?

RE: :-(
By timmiser on 3/20/2006 4:30:52 PM , Rating: 2
That actually is something they may implement in the future or some way to self clean the panels.

RE: :-(
By tvarad on 3/19/2006 9:10:31 PM , Rating: 2
JPL runs the Mars Rover show for NASA so if someone needs to be praised, it is the former.

RE: :-(
By Plasmoid on 3/20/2006 6:24:03 AM , Rating: 2
Its a standard NASA rouse.

If you go to the NASA coffers looking for money to run a 3 year mission, needing $20 million a year you get refused.

If you herald it as a 3 month mission costing $5 million to run from the ground you get the go ahead, and then when it keeps running and proves to be usefull and gets public attention it suddenly gets extended funding.

The classis example are the 2 Voyager probes, which continue to be monitored and the project keeps getting funding as they have proving sucessfull.

By Lifted on 3/19/06, Rating: 0
RE: well...
By Xenoterranos on 3/19/2006 7:24:43 PM , Rating: 3
Good thing it was designed to work for only three months . I don't know about you, but I wouldn't mind a car designed by nasa. If they say the oil needs changing every 3 months, you've got at least that long!

RE: well...
By Xenoterranos on 3/19/2006 7:25:09 PM , Rating: 2
damnit, forgot the end " " tag.

RE: well...
By tfranzese on 3/19/2006 8:15:08 PM , Rating: 2
You must not be too bright. Seems clear to me the parent was pointing out the redundancy.

RE: well...
By KristopherKubicki on 3/20/2006 12:33:29 AM , Rating: 2

closing bold tag

RE: well...
By lemonadesoda on 3/19/2006 8:35:28 PM , Rating: 2
I personally think 3 months is rather a poor design criteria for a little mars rover. Especially since it has taken so long for the little thing to get there!

What are the reasons for its 3 months life?

1./ Power expectations?
2./ Poor quality of OEM parts?
3./ Somebody trying to cover their pretty little ass. If it didn't last, then they wouldnt get the boot. Conversely, if it did, then they would get a cheer from everyone saying, wow, 300% life expectancy etc.?

If 1./, then they were expecting the solar winter to cause loss of power, meaning no moving until days/weeks of battery recharge, but in this time, the poor little thing would cover up with too much dirty/silt and the wheels would get stuck

If 2./, better OEM parts may be available in china, Korea or CCCP?! LOL.

If 3./, then find him and fire him. This is the sort of person that would rather give a 1 day life expectancy for real ass covering, but realised that too many people would notice just 1 day and say "hey, that's a hell of a lot of money to spend on a 1 day rover".

I personally think the rover should be designed at a minimum to last one Mars summer (which is approximately one Earth year).

RE: well...
By Fenixgoon on 3/19/06, Rating: 0
Why such a short design life...
By mmp121 on 3/19/2006 9:19:53 PM , Rating: 2
Since you all are so up in arms over the *short* design life of certain NASA science projects let me give you some more info. NASA just last year terminated two space science missions that were well past their expected design life of 18-months. The ERBS spacecraft was turned off on October 2005, after 20 years and ~10 months of operations. The UARS spacecraft was turned of on December 2005, after 14 years and 2 months of operations. There are numerous other spacecraft that are in operations that operate well beyond their planned designed life.

Another great example is Hubble, which had a designed life of 18-months also. I believe Hubble was launched in 1990, and is now close to 15 years old. There is a new satellite in the works called the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) that is being built right now to replace Hubble. The pictures it will take will make Hubble’s look like it was taken on a 1MP digital camera.

The projects are usually designed for a short life because you have a limited amount of fuel, cryogen, battery life, ball bearing life span in the gyros, and limited life of the solar array panel cells, etc that you can take with you to accomplish the *PRIME* science mission. That does not mean that other instruments or components can not continue operations well beyond the designed life span of the mission.

Let’s not forget, that NASA only budgets operations for the designed life cycle of operations. Anything beyond that is an additional un-expected cost to NASA. If the science is deemed worthy, and of good enough quality, then more money will be allocated to continue, otherwise, if a newer mission is on the books or already on orbit, why continue running an older mission that can not provide the accuracy that newer missions can do?

RE: Why such a short design life...
By masher2 on 3/20/2006 8:24:31 AM , Rating: 2
> Another great example is Hubble, which had a designed life of 18-months also"

While I agree with the rest of your post, this is incorrect. Hubble was designed for a 15-year mission.

By Eris23007 on 3/20/2006 10:54:57 PM , Rating: 2

....with periodic servicing from space shuttle crews.

RE: Why such a short design life...
By TomZ on 3/20/2006 12:28:01 PM , Rating: 2
Just wanted to point out your flaw with regards to comparing Hubble and the JWST. Hubble is visible light and James Webb is infrared light.

It's also not supposed to be launched until 2013 providing Bush's 'legacy' mission of the Moon-Mars crap doesn't cause this mission, like many others to fold.

RE: Why such a short design life...
By masher2 on 3/21/2006 9:51:05 AM , Rating: 2
> "Just wanted to point out your flaw with regards to comparing Hubble and the JWST. Hubble is visible light and James Webb is infrared light."

No. Hubble's spectrum spans deep infrared to optical to UV. JWST starts at the mid-infrared and terminates in the optical range (around 0.6um I believe). JWST is optimized for near-infrared and within that range, has a much greater light-gathering capacity and somewhat higher resolution.

As for the original point that JWST is a "replacement" and/or successor for Hubble, that is exactly how NASA has been billing it, even though their capabilities don't overlap perfectly.

Past warranty
By DarthPierce on 3/19/2006 4:08:18 PM , Rating: 2
Worth noting that the rovers were designed to function for 90 days, and have been going for 785 and 765 days. That's impressive!

By maxusa on 3/20/2006 12:16:23 AM , Rating: 2
I mean this may be not as bad as sounds. The rover is an amazing piece of machinery with all sorts of built-in controls. Does anyone know if they suspended the wheel to freely rotate, or it's actually stuck... and the rover must drag it?

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