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posted by janrinok on Tuesday June 12, @10:42PM   Printer-friendly
from the we're-rootin'-for-you dept.

The Mars Opportunity rover is caught in a dust storm, and the craft is hunkered down doing its best to survive the intensifying weather. The storm was first detected on Friday June 1st by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, at which point the rover's team was notified because of the weather event's proximity to Opportunity. The rover uses solar panels, so a dust storm could have an extremely negative impact on Opportunity's power levels and its batteries.

By Wednesday June 6th, Opportunity was in minimal operations mode because of sharply decreasing power levels. The brave little rover is continuing to weather the storm; it sent a transmission back to Earth Sunday morning, which is a good sign. It means there's still enough charge left in the batteries to communicate with home, despite the fact that the storm is continuing to worsen.

[...] The main concern here isn't the dust storm itself. It's the need to keep the rover's heaters operational while maintaining a minimal power level in the batteries. This isn't the first storm that Opportunity has weathered, but it is the worst. According to NASA, the weather event the rover faced in 2007 had an opacity level around 5.5. The estimate for this current storm is somewhere around 10.8.

Opportunity is a hardy little rover, though, and it has continually defied our expectations over the last 15 years. The rover was only designed to last for a 90-day mission, and yet it's still going. Here's hoping that Oppy will continue its trek across the Martian surface for many, many days to come.

Original Submission


Reply to: Re:how long did they really think

    (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday June 14, @03:34AM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 14, @03:34AM (#692678)

    "Time on the ground" is a nine-figures line item

    Getting NASA out drops it to an eight-figures. SpaceX and more mass available for a mission (which greatly reduces the need for extreme, and extremely costly, mass optimization) would drop it to seven. Mass production combined with ISRU probably could then drive it down to five-figures though it's a lot of overhead, if you're not settling the planet. Overpriced reliability testing to ridiculous degrees would be one of the early on casualties.

    You're somewhere between Dunning-Kruger and amazingly wrong.

    Do the math yourself. (0.9999^100) ~ 0.99, meaning that 100 such parts each with its own 0.9999 chance of stopping the mission could be introduced and still have a 99% chance of success over a year's time. Reducing that to 90 days means you can quadruple the number of parts and still maintain the 99% chance of success over the shorter period of time.

    What's really futile about this degree of reliability testing is that you aren't doing it often enough to know whether it works or not. Doing it successfully for twenty projects means that you don't know whether it's successful 99% of the time or 95% of the time (a big difference!).

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