Six years ago today, the Spirit rover landed on Mars for her 90-sol mission. 2134 sols later, she is still operating, sending back data, and making new discoveries. Congratulations on an awesome mission (so far) to the entire team!
A few comments that I remembered from Dave’s talk back in 2006:
a) a very limited opportunity to do the mission - physics of celestial mechanics imposing some tight deadlines. (sounds like an FRC deadline)
b) very limited weight, and parts list availability due to mission requirements (sounds like the FRC rulebook)
c) a ‘challenge too tough’, time ‘too little’ - sounds like some of the GDC requirements
d) software not finished at ship time - anyone in FRC have that problem ? There is a pretty interesting story about how the software was finished enroute, plus the drama of some really bad software problems later on.
e) basic requirement - 90 days. A year later it was all gravy. A few years after that I read somewhere NASA had to chase funding (correct me if wrong) to keep the program going because the rovers kept going and going and going and going…
f) driving the robot involves deciding on a course of action, transmitting or signaling the robot to do the course of action autonomously. Remember 2 years ago Dave talked at kickoff about maybe moving FRC in that direction, signaling the robot to do autonomous or semi-auto things. hmmm… morse code anyone ?
Should we embark on a manned mission to Mars in the next 100 years, I vote that we bring Sprit back. If that little bot doesn’t represent a modern-day epoch in scientific discovery, I don’t know what does. The thing just doesn’t quit!
Meh, if men are on Mars at that point, Spirit’s probably just about done anyway, as the Earth-based labs that will be studying Mars for a while will be too busy with Martian rocks/soil to take in data from either rover. Bring the rover(s) back, give them their x-year maintenance, and send 'em back out to find more cool stuff on Mars, if they’re still in shape for that. (If not, Smithsonian or a NASA museum–driving around.)
I think what we have here is a case of everyone involved in the design doing their very best under difficult conditions - and, as it turns out, their very best was far more than it needed to be. OK, we’ll take it.
It cost a few dollars, but ended up being a huge bargain for us taxpayers. Good thing Dave declined the extended warranty.
Today I sent in a letter of recommendation for a former 1676 student for a NASA internship. I hope she gets it, since she’s the type that’ll get us to Mars before I leave this life. And I’d like to see that.
Congrats to the whole team! I’ve got to say that Spirit & Opportunity are probably second only to Voyager 1&2 in mission bang-for-your-buck. (Come on, hard to compete with the Golden Record! Sagan knew the importance of a good sound system )
I’ve been keeping tabs on the “Free Spirit” sub-mission. Let’s just take the best of both worlds, bring the whole FRC to Mars, and make it the game for 2011. GDC, you have your task!
Again, Dave, congratulations to the whole gang at JPL-- keep up the inspiring work!
Not just JPL. One of the lesser-known facts about the Mars Exploration Rover project is just how large of an effort was required to pull off this mission. Representatives from literally hundreds of different government agencies, universities, companies, and organizations, both domestic and international, have participated in the development and operation of the rovers. Steve Squires, the Principal Investigator for the science team, is one of the best-known “faces” of the project. The contributions that Steve made to implement this mission are enormous. But simultaneously, one cannot over-state the value of the efforts of the nearly 6000 other people that had a role in the project, from the beginning in May 2000 through today.
I can’t find my copy for specifics, but Steve Squyres’ Roving Mars discusses it. Essentially, after Lockheed’s Mars Polar Lander incident (they didn’t read the manual, and their software operated in Metric units when it was supposed to be English units and it burned up in the Martian atmosphere) the emphasis was on a reasonable duration they were SURE they could exceed. They were sure that dust build up on the solar panels would kill them, but luckily the dust build up was slower than they though, and it turned out that every so often the wind would blow some of the build-up off the panels.