11 thoughts on “Don’t Feel Sorry For Spirit”

  1. Realistically becoming a stationary science platform means that Spirit will die sometime in the next few months, as it’s not at the proper angle to maintain power (and thus heat) during the winter, especially as dust builds up. Though miracles can happen, I suppose.

    Certainly both rovers have far surpassed their design goals by orders of magnitude. They have become the signature representatives of Mars exploration. Which is a remarkable feat considering the competition (such as the Viking missions). I remember reading about the Athena rover designs in my college days. I devoured that information. It was inspiring and soul stirring even then. Through many setbacks and complications we finally got these rovers built and onto the surface of Mars, and they have met and surpassed every expectation and then some.

    It’s all the more exciting knowing that future rovers will be substantially more capable than these.

  2. It’s all the more exciting knowing that future rovers will be substantially more capable than these.

    Especially if those future rovers are bipedal carbon-based lifeforms. But perhaps that’s too much to ask…

    Is there any particularly good reason (other than a search for life or the possibility of former life-bearing capabilities) that there are rovers on Mars collecting data, taking pictures, etc, but none on the Moon? Is it a design issue WRT temperature variations? Is it a lack of interest? Or is it just a lack of reporting? All I could find since Lunokhod 1 and 2 was a set of future lunar rovers planned by China and India, with the only US-based space rover being planned once again for Mars.

    Not that I think that the moon is necessarily more or less worthy of rover exploration than Mars, but the proximity of it makes it a much more interesting subject, IMHO, especially if we could set up a rover on the far side of the moon supported by lunar satellites (possibly with a primary relay at E-M L2?)

    Just thinking out loud here, I have no experience or training in these things…

  3. I have the vague feeling, John, that the original raison d’etre of the rover idea was the search for life. If you want to study geology, like with the polar landers, you can just pick out your interesting spot and put a lander down on it. You can pack a lot more science gear into your craft if you don’t also have to pack in the capability for motion, and, in the case of Mars, because of the light-speed delay, self-direction.

    So why rovers at all? My feeling is that people had a hunch that life, if it existed at all, might be (1) rare, and (2) tucked away where no one expected it. So the idea was that a rover could poke around in a lot of little nooks and crannies, maybe spot something. The idea of a roving geologist tapping his hammer on everything he sees seems to have come along as a bit of fortuitous synergy. After the photogenic success of the rovers, however, I think the idea (the roving geologist) has become popular in its own right. I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone proposing rovers for the Moon.

    I have zero inside dope, however. I’m mostly basing this on the reflection I recall after the failed Viking experiments. They were sufficiently ambiguous that people were saying Geez, maybe we missed it by an inch, so to speak. If we could just move over 6 feet and dig another trench…

    Or to put it another way: if you study geology, you want to know the typical geology. One place is pretty much as good as another. But if you’re looking for life, then by definition, except on the Earth, you are looking for something rare and atypical. That means you need to search a lot of nooks and crannies. That oversimplifies greatly, of course. But that’s my sense of the history.

  4. My view is that after Apollo, the fad moved elsewhere. There were a pile of lunar rocks to keep the appropriate scientists employed and past that, not much interest in a mission that couldn’t compare to the Apollo landings nor have the sexiness of a Mars mission.

  5. Well, I now know why my work email blocked me from seeing the image. When I opened it at home, Norton Internet Security reported the following:

    Threat Report
    Total threats found: 3

    Viruses (what’s this?)
    Threats found: 2
    Here is a complete list:

    Threat Name: Infostealer
    Location: http://www.imageurlhost.com/images/xtgw15fhom52170noo8w.jpg

    Threat Name: Backdoor.Trojan
    Location: http://www.imageurlhost.com/images/n8yuj83wzd1lm2zjrh1.jpg

    Drive-By Downloads (what’s this?)
    Threats found: 1
    Here is a complete list:

    Threat Name: HTTP Suspicious Executable Image Download
    Location: http://www.imageurlhost.com/images/j03ekxjbff0yznyzzq.jpg

    Nice link, Rand.

  6. Re: Moon vs. Mars robotic exploration, keep in mind that the Apollo missions returned a metric ass-ton of science. We know a hell of a lot about the Moon. And mostly what we found out was that though it’s relatively boring. More specifically, we started to run out of compelling questions about the Moon that hadn’t been answered. Since then we’ve gathered more data that has raised some new questions, mostly in regard to water on the Moon. However, even with all that it pales in comparison to Mars. Martian geology has been far more active and far more varied through its history than has the Moon’s. There have been and continue to be gobs and gobs of really interesting unanswered questions about Mars, not the least of which involve reconstructing past geology and hydrology and, perhaps, biology.

    Mars has an atmosphere, Mars has seasons, Mars has volcanoes and craters and canyons, Mars once had lakes and rivers and oceans, Mars still has substantial ice caps (partially CO2, partially H2O) and enormous quantities of subsurface water ice. Mars is enormously rich geologically to the degree where each new mission tends to raise as many new questions as it finds answers for.

    In some ways its easier to explore Mars robotically than it is the Moon. The delta V requirements are similar, but the operational requirements are much more severe for lunar rovers. You get much more bang for your buck from a Mars rover than you do from a lunar rover, generally. Especially since at the relevant scales of engineering the Mars rover would be providing new science results whereas the lunar rover would mostly be duplicating a lot of the work that Apollo astronauts had done.

    The combination of all these factors makes Mars a vastly more worthwhile target for robotic missions.

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