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August 28, 2008

Martian 'energizer bunnies' keep going and going

Posted: 03:54 PM ET

After spending nearly a year exploring the inside of the massive Victoria Crater, the Mars rover Opportunity is on to the next task.

Cape Verde outcropping inside the Victoria Crater. Source: NASA

I've followed the journeys of the twin rovers since the beginning (they touched down on Mars about three weeks apart back in January 2004). I know I shouldn't pick favorites, but I've always been partial to Opportunity...something about those layered rocks in the Eagle Crater landing site really drew my eye. And of course, Opportunity was the rover that found hard evidence that a salty sea once lapped the shores of Meridiani Planum.

But back on September 11, 2007, when Opportunity began a long drive down a slippery slope into Victoria Crater, I thought it might starting what would turn out to be a one-way trip. Mission operators back here on Earth were so careful with the drive down, stopping after short distances and backing up to assess traction on the path. And the crater was half a mile wide and over 200 feet deep, with what looked to me like a soft floor – complete with sand dunes!

I should have known the science team wouldn't take any foolish chances...

Here's what they did: they drove part way down the slope and identified a 20 foot tall cliff on the crater rim called "Cape Verde." They backed the rover off several yards and took their time gathering high resolution images of the layered rock face. Analysis suggests the rocks were deposited by wind and altered over time by groundwater.

And with that, Opportunity headed for the exit. Turns out those treacherous-looking sand dunes at the bottom of the crater are of little scientific interest, and, in the words of principal investigator Steve Squyres, probably a "permanent rover trap."

Next up: the rover will study loose, fist-sized rocks called "cobbles" that are littering the plains around the craters that have been Opportunity's main focus up to now. The cobbles were likely formed when asteroids or comets hit Mars to form those craters, throwing up rocks and debris.

The rover is showing some signs of age. A "shoulder joint" in its robotic arm has a degraded motor, so the engineers have stopped stowing the arm, even when the rover is driving. By keeping it deployed all the time, they hope to keep it at least partially functional even if that motor eventually fails completely. And Opportunity's left front wheel is showing signs of distress. It could fail in a manner similar to Spirit's right front wheel, which locked up back in 2006.

What's up with Spirit anyway? Over on the other side of Mars, that rover has been parked for the winter in a relatively sunny spot called "Home Plate" in the Columbia Hills. Even with the broken wheel, Spirit can still move around as long as the terrain is not too rugged. When Spring arrives in a few months, mission scientists plan to explore some bright, silica-rich soil nearby that could have been formed by hot water.

–Kate Tobin, Senior Producer, CNN Science & Technology

Filed under: Mars • NASA • Space

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S Callahan   August 29th, 2008 2:27 pm ET

Do I sense a coming out party? lol
I have seen some awesome pictures of Mars on the NASA site...
and heard many thoughts on the idea of life form on Mars...
so I guess we still wait in anticipation of further news from the Phionex. It surprises me we haven't seen more pictures with the Rovers made public. Aren't they constantly taking pictures?
The so called sand dues at the bottom of this picture appears like a like 'mist' (as in moisture).

Franko   August 29th, 2008 3:54 pm ET

Once self replicating, the roving robots will swarm Mars
Then, back the Robots come, to sanitize Earth, of the pollution called Human.

No matter how EcoGreenPerfected, Insatible robots want more and more.
Earth the color of solar cells, prophecy, in the Dead Sea Scolls, unrecovered yet.

C Roberts   August 29th, 2008 4:46 pm ET

What i find amazing, is how these Robots stay nice and clean and shiny..
on a planet where nasa reports of "WINDS" blowing and "DUST STORMS"
and how pictures of the planet taken 20-30 years ago show no ice on the polar regions, and pictures from today show massive ice caps on both the poles...

absolutely amazing......

Tom Miller   August 29th, 2008 6:09 pm ET

Uh, they aren't nice and shiny, at least Spirit isn't. Major dust problems on the solar cells, etc...

mattie g   August 29th, 2008 10:03 pm ET

Hey franko, take it easy. By the way, what ever happened to the "face on Mars" craze? JPL seemed to have "lost transmission" when they went to take a closer look. Hmmm. Is it so hard to fathom that perhaps Mars had some form of intellegent life? We are in the infancy of comprehending the universe, space travel and understanding science for that matter. Maybe, just maybe, somewhere else among the billions and billions of galaxies fo the KNOWN universe, which contain billions and billions of "earth-like" planets. There contain intellegent life that has perfected space travel and are able to warp past light speed. Einstein, I'm sorry but when the universe was created, it exploded at a rate faster than light speed. It is possible to travel past light speed and possible get to distant areas of the cosmos in relatively short periods of time. Stay tuned!!

Beach   August 30th, 2008 11:35 am ET

Amazing science is right! Space exploration engineers and project teams on these projects are awesome. They deliver far more than the projects are ever designed to, but with each budgetary submission to Congress it seems people lose track of the work done by these explorers.

No long is planetary or solar system exploration the stuff of science fiction. It rewards us with science facts, and in some small way shape our understanding of the ecosystem in our solar system which might someday be what saves mankind from itself.

The most disturbing fact to me, a life long follower of the space programs is that the new generations of people show near utter disregard for the work done by profesisonal scientists, and less awareness for what the future programs are that are planned.

It is a social shame that the US does not have an explorer recruitment program equal to the tasks of solving the mysteries of the solar system and the potential discovery of information that benefits all mankind as it was in the past with the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, shuttle and space station programs.

My college aged daughter related to me that science was not among her interests, she wanted to make a contribution to society through better understanding the global social ecosystem. Her friends all say the same thing, science and scientific discovery does not hold any interest for them unless there is a cure for HIV or cancer first.

I do not have answers to this dilemma, just questions about how to revitalize the interest in science, beyond the renewable energy and the price of oil challenges.

john latkovic   August 30th, 2008 2:00 pm ET

Then name Gustav sounds a little to menacing hmmm how about calling this little rain storm The Goooose....

S Callahan   August 30th, 2008 3:44 pm ET

Beach, You are blessed to have a daughter with such a conscience....good for her.
I think there is still lots of interst in the Science. Part of the problem with Science today is that it has the reputation of wanting to dispute God's creation, debunked the believers, and if it was a fair dialogue it would be okay but it appears one sided. I think if Science incorporated faith based exploration (both on earth and in universe) they may increase their population of explorers and may even surprise themselves with greater knowledge being obtained. .

Franko   August 30th, 2008 6:38 pm ET

"The Singularity is Near " Approaching fast, a point we cannot predict past.

Even the ancient Prophets, could not clearly see, beyond the end.
Robots, Robots, everywhere, taser you, if you get under their feet.

Humanity, salf-sacrificed, the ticket, for passage, beyond the singularity.

Mark   August 30th, 2008 6:48 pm ET

I think what we see today is that folks older than a certain age looked forward to all sorts of technologies and wonders of the future. Then as we started putting dates on when stuff would get here , things started getting troublesome.

So when 2001 rolled around and we didn't have a hyperintelligent AI like Hal, and our real international space-station (I suppose we should be happy to have one at all) looks more like some tin-cans strung together rather than a graceful waystation to other points of interest as seen in the movies.

Not that I blame Clarke or Kubrick or Heinlein or Roddenberry or anyone else but rather that we took it for granted that science would be there, that there would always be engineers or scientists interested in this stuff, when in fact , the reality engineering and science and math are all incredibly hard relative to being a "dancing star" or "reality television" celebrity, and require just as much national attention as does our military or our healthcare if we mean to remain a leading nation economically.

WORSE, is the overpowering effect of money corporate money upon the creativeness of individuals, why – for instance – try to design a new web-site mechanism, the bar looks alot higher than it is in some respects and in others it's much higher, but corporations don't help in quite the way they could, considering the tremendous benefits they reap from education.

But I think like other things, energy use, handling national debt or the myriad environmental problems it's a question of national priority and particularly this last administration is – at best – neutral to the benefits of technology , unless it's for the military – which seems no longer in our interests.

Barnyard   August 30th, 2008 7:13 pm ET

I teach science and technology (and have a science degree). One thing I think you may not realize is that most scientists are NOT atheists. They are painted that way by the religious right. Most people have no problem integrating science and religion. I once had a seminar class on creationism run by a 7 day (ok, 6day) creationist Christian Endocrinologist and a Creationist Jewish Plant Physiologist. They had atheists come speak to us and argue with the professors. Most students were in between. It was not a pick one view or the other.

As far as getting kids interested in science, it takes good science teachers doing really good science to enthuse numbers of students. It takes new ways of teaching and teaching new things. Of the upcoming year's college freshman I have students with engineering scholarships to NC State, Georgia Tech, and Stanford. It was the opportunity to work with robotics and technology that assured them that engineering was the field for them. Good experiences math or science helps boost those majors.

NASA people are great to work with, and will actually come to your class, or video confernce with your class if you set it up in advance. ( I teach at a NASA Explorer school and love to take advantage of these things (presently my video conferencing microphone is broken).

Over all, kids are great. If we do them justice at home and in school, they will be just fine.

S Callahan   August 30th, 2008 10:55 pm ET

Thank You Barnyard. I happen to know quite a few through my own church experiences who are likewise (I'm pretty traditional). Perhaps I wasn't being fair in generalizing, yet the public perception seems to lean that if your in Science you have to battle for your faith based convictions, who knows maybe the failure is in the communications dept.
Congrats for the success of your students, says alot for your gifted teaching abilities.

JOAN BROWN   August 30th, 2008 11:43 pm ET

are you wondering why we are having all of these storms/ jesus told us to "keep on the watch because we do not know the day or hour when he is coming. the book of matthew in the holy scriptures, chapter 24 tells us that we when we see all of these things ocurring, know that the end is near. 2peter in the holy scriptures tell us that we are awaiting a new heavens and a new goverment. that means that god;s kingdom is coming and it will solve all of mankind;s problem. a new world government is about to come to earth and turn the earth into a paradise.

Franko   August 30th, 2008 11:55 pm ET

Faith dishonors reality, deludes what it seeks to elevate.
Faith, the product of fear of bad, or fear of loss.
Follow the chief of the monkey troupe, or become a surviving Lone Wolf ?
In a church, take what is helpful to you. Short time sedative, or poison forever ?

In the soccer field of life, to kick the ball, follow the rules, or get lost ?

S Callahan   August 31st, 2008 9:54 am ET

Wow Franko, now I understand. I'm sorry if what you and or others may have experienced was bad, or distorted. I have had many friends who were poisened by non believers practicing in organized church.. I can fanthom that acceptable to God. The God I know is not a drug, or corruptive, but one of pure Love, forgiveness, and spiritual elevation. His actions and judgements aren't in contempt but of love. Mankind has failed in his objectives. Simple tasks of loving our neighbor (visiting the lonely, showing compassion, being helpful: feeding, clothing, sheltering others ) are not at the level God demands and that is human failure not God failure. I sit in awe of all that God created, for our pleasure, including the asthetics of land,water, sky. It breaks my heart that some just can't know, feel, or see all that he is.

Jared   August 31st, 2008 10:41 am ET

Hey know robots wont kill you unless you program them to? Pretty sure we're safe. I think your tin-foil hat is a lil too snug there buddy. >.o

Franko   August 31st, 2008 10:54 am ET

Faith, a hidden variable theory, if proof then not faith.
The key to understanding the process, is the need to be satisfied.

(I was looking at Feynman Videos, how name in 10 different
languages, does not give more information on the bird described.)

Apply "Man Know Thyself" to an adaptive optics telescope.
Telescope distortions are determined by corrections to focus a laser beam.
Known distortions allow clear imaging through atmospheric turbulance.
People similar, part of reality, once self-calibrated ?
Faith is shooting yourself in the perception foot, purposevly distorting.

S Callahan   August 31st, 2008 2:44 pm ET

Faith is the bridge over the gulf between the known and all links and perceptions then are heighten. 🙂
Franko, I sense a thought was made that people are predetermined, perhaps there is some truth to that at least in the day of birth and day of ending. But the laser issue is really about what is truth. No risk in believing, is loss of your own soul. Risking is the gift to be redeemed.

Franko   August 31st, 2008 5:39 pm ET

Like the telescope, when distortion is, the real image is not.
However warm and fuzzy, the telescope may be, ScrapYard ended.

Faith = pleasure. (image, fantasy) – Reality = joy.
After pleasure of the Brandy, comes the reality of the Hangover ?

When the internal process seen, one is with reality.

Tower   September 1st, 2008 10:32 am ET

Franko, you are on the wrong website.

Franko   September 1st, 2008 2:55 pm ET

Tower: You could become Faith Crime Policeman
Science, better modeling the reality. I agree with you.

Franko's Mom   September 2nd, 2008 2:17 pm ET

I dropped him when he was younger.

I was dancing to George Michael's 'Faith' at the time.

My apologies.

Franko   September 3rd, 2008 2:15 am ET

To: Franko's Mom
Thanks for the hint. I will download the song.
Will it be a hidden variables theory song, mantra, sung to belief ?
Stare at your navel, proved, tested, good as jumping rope ?
All kinds of Gods, Devils, Angels, primitive, sacred text, to the time history began, as the Monkey Man, wanted to become a Monkey God ?

KeshoZeto   September 5th, 2008 1:03 pm ET

Franko: I dig your scientiphile beat poetry, man. You should have a self-calibrating blog somewhere, (if you don't )already.

Ramoth   September 5th, 2008 2:03 pm ET

The Singularity... Franko is talking about a point in time, in which some Scientists theorize that the human mind will achieve a "singular conscience" ... in other words. The entire human race will, all at once, evolve into a single, telepathic mind, where everyone can read everyone elses minds.

Part of the Singularity theory also revolves around the rapid advancement in medical science and the use of cybernetics in the human body. Such as a robotic limb used to replace a real one that was lost; which they already do today.

Technologically speaking, Singularity can be achieved through technology, by implating a special "chip" in the human brain which can send and receive wireless transmissions, much like a WiFI Laptop computer can do today. This is possible, even today, to a limited extent, they already have special chips that can be implanted into the brains of certain individuals with major disabilities that helps them get over their disabilities; and work simply by sending the needed electrical charge down the spine to say, an arm they can not move, and the electrical charge triggers the nerves and muscles to move.

Franco thinks, that the human race, in the near future, is all going to turn into Robots with a single consciousness, and replace itself.

He is pointing at the Mars Rovers, as his argument, to show that technology is almost already at that point, by considering the fact that these robotic rovers are still going, long, long after they were designed to last and that they're preforming these miraculous tasks that humans can not yet do for themselves; namely, the exploration of Mars.

For more information on the technological advances of the "The Singularity" theories ... refer to Wikipedia:

Franko   September 5th, 2008 2:40 pm ET

To: KeshoZeto
Entertaining, while I learn a lot. The whole world's ideas,
and perceptions, unlike the Faiths. Religions, Gods, I get a reply.
Sometimes a good laugh from the clear perceptions of others

Franko   September 6th, 2008 5:20 am ET

"Hey franko….you know robots wont kill you unless you program them to? Pretty sure we’re safe. I think your tin-foil hat is a lil too snug there buddy. >.o"

The mosquito robot, needs us, the blood supply. If it figures out we produce insect poison. Organize and kill, suck all humans to death. Other animals are more mosquito friendly, allowed, only if mosquito domesticated .

More than a mosquito, the robots we produce, however safety designed. A MicroBugs buffer overflow flaw, guess what. Robot that understands and acts on it's survivor needs. Reproduces, to more efficiently occupy; Time, Space, Energy. Kill all competition, in the needed territory. Expand, mice cannot pull the power plug. But Humans, a threat that a battery charging, in sleep mode robot, just cannot have around.

Thanks for the singularity links, lot of ideas to google more.

Layla Collins   May 27th, 2010 9:25 pm ET

George Michael is also a great singer and was quite famous in the 80's era."*;

Philippine Lotto Result `   October 11th, 2010 9:25 pm ET

George Michael made some scandals a couple of years ago but i love his music.-,

Body Pillow   December 13th, 2010 5:10 pm ET

i can say that George Michael is nice guy, he is really a very talented guy '-"

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