November 19, 2009

NASA hopes to free Mars rover from sand

Taken from the article:
Spirit had traveled 4.8 miles from where it landed in 2004 when it got stuck on April 23. It had just rounded a small plateau the scientists call Home Plate and was driving across a patch of sandy crust when it broke through and sank hub deep. An effort to free it by getting the rover to spin its wheels to gain traction proved futile; the rover just sank deeper. By May 5, mission controllers gave up and began working on a new strategy.

For $400,000,000, you would think the Mars rover would come with roadside service or some emergency rocket boosters. For the price, I'm also not impressed with the vehicle's top speed of .0001095 mph. It does have a great GPS and video entertainment system. In NASA's defense, they did get a buy one, get one half off deal on the rovers.

The part of the article that surprised me wasn't that the rover got stuck in a sand trap. (I know that can happen from experience on a golf course.) It was that it was stuck on April 23rd and NASA spent a week and a half literally spinning its wheels before declaring their plan wasn't working. And then they've been working since May 5th to come up with this new plan to spin its wheels some more. And these guys are rocket scientists? I guess it really doesn't take an astronautical engineering degree to figure out how to change a light bulb.

I can't believe some people seriously think we should send people to Mars or to live on the moon. The way NASA runs things, a $900,000,000,000 People to Mars mission will have to be aborted when the crew runs out of toilet paper or peanut butter.

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