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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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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.

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