My Battery, It’s Low, And It’s Very, Very Dark



Excuse me while I go be sad for a freakin’ rover on a lonely planet….

Open thread

96 replies
  1. 1

    I will have a full update on Baby tomorrow after his vet appointment. He’s doing amazing. Keep a good thought for me and Scout, because she has her spay tomorrow, too.

  2. 2
    khead says:

    I’m not gonna link to it (WaPo) but McArgleBargle wrote an article about how America can’t have nice things (high speed rail) anymore because her Dad doesn’t think it can be done and there’s too much red tape. I just want to note that, once upon a time, we did things. Bigly.

  3. 3
    J R in WV says:

    And if highly advanced alien explorers enter our solar system 100,000,000 years from now, they may find the robotic explorers resting in or on Mars’ sandy dunes, and wonder where they came from.

    Will they be trapped deep under moving dunes of Martian dust or sand? Will they be proudly sitting on top of high spots, where they could view large swaths of the Martian landscape? We may never know… but we can be proud that our constructed rovers covered so many hills and valleys and craters of another world!

  4. 4
    Punchy says:

    A machine designed for 90 days that went 15 years is a fact that needs much repeating. These sly cats at NASA and JPL are freakin amazing. Can I get one to design and build a car?

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    NotMax says:

    Demise by dust. All things must pass.

    Meanwhile, Insight still has that alluring new probe smell.

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    debbie says:

    I miss Opportunity already.

  8. 8
    TomatoQueen says:

    V’ger & V”ger Jr are still noodling around out there.

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    Steve in the ATL says:

    @J R in WV: like Viking settlements on the east coast?

  10. 10
    Jeffro says:

    Saw and retweeted the same tweets earlier…I think many of us science-believin’ folks must be on the same wavelength ;)

    So much to celebrate about our past achievements and future aspirations, and so much to lament that never changes. I’m gonna sleep on it and wake up with ‘the glass half full’, I will.

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    SFAW says:

    Any truth to the rumour that its last transmission was the first part of “On A Bicycle Built For Two”?

  12. 12
    sukabi says:

    @khead: we could do a helluva lot of big amazing things if we taxed the wealthy like we did in the 40s, 50s, 60s, & 70s when we were doing all those amazing, big, boundry breaking things.

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    NotMax says:


    Just so long as Voyager isn’t found by space Republicans. If it is, they’ll make a beeline to burn Earth to a cinder for sending out depictions of nudes.


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    Redshift says:

    @khead: I saw the headline and said “Nope!” Funny how the people who hate government and have favored all the policies that make it harder to do big things are also think “we don’t do great things any more”, and are certain it’s because of some generational character defect, and has nothing to do with crippling and starving our government.

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    @NotMax: I believe this is basically a futurama episode!

  17. 17
    Redshift says:

    I thought xkcd’s Randall Munro had a good take.

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    chopper says:

    i’m astounded by how they engineered the shit out of that guy. 15 years out of a 90-day mission. that’s a fucking well-made rover.

    never mind how mind-bogglingly difficult it actually is to launch a probe to martian orbit in the first place, much less land it on the surface and have it still function in the end.

  19. 19
    HalfAssedHomesteader says:

    “I like rovers that don’t lose battery charge.” — Donald Trump

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    NotMax says:


    Somewhere amongst the clutter I have the record put out via IBM circa 1961 with a computer singing that song as a demonstration of computer-synthesized speech.

    And, YouTube provides.

  22. 22
    eric says:

    @debbie: I never miss an opportunity

  23. 23
    HeleninEire says:

    I’m about half through Michelle Obama’s book. How did we get here? That’s a rhetorical question. I can’t entertain your answers nor can I answer that question myself.

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    mapaghimagsik says:

    wow. All set to write a bleak, miserable post about murdercorp, and there’s this.

    It gives me hope

  26. 26
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    “Red Rover, Red Rover! Come over?”

  27. 27
    oatler. says:

    Have to admit I liked the opening scene of the “My Favorite Martian” movie that had a Mars rover dying out behind a big rock, with the pull-out reveal being a big lively martian city behind the rock.

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    eclare says:

    @TaMara (HFG): All fingers, toes, and paws in this household crossed for a good vet visit tomorrow!

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    frosty says:

    @Redshift: Great minds etc. And a cleaner link. :-)

  30. 30
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @chopper: first well built rover since the Defender

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    J R in WV says:

    @Steve in the ATL:

    Yes, exactly !!!

    Amazing that the little robot could keep on running for 15 years with an expected lifespan of frickin’ 90 days!!!

  32. 32
    frosty says:

    @frosty: Oh, you found a different one!

  33. 33
    Wapiti says:

    Those conniving freeloaders at NASA sold it as a 90-day job, and dragged it out for half of a career. Federal workers! /sarcasm

  34. 34
    randal m sexton says:

    I Sad-Brag a little, I worked for a chip company, that sourced some chips that are on those rovers, ( I did a bit of the design, test, validate/verify of those chips ) – when I found out our chips were on those things I hammered our marketing folks, saying we should be bragging about this stuff, but they were a bit chicken, cuz some XILINX chips had failed and crashed some other mars ( maybe moon ? ) probe. But then I was pretty happy when they worked LONGER than one year which was their design goal. I have gotten a few clinked beer glasses when I tell this story – Amazing that it lasted this long. YAAAY for the RH-1280 FPGA from Actel Corp. ( Now Micro-Semi !! ) Maybe in the year 2525 ( If man is still alive ) we can disect the rovers and find out why they failed, and Im hoping its a washer or a a doohickey, and not my 1280’s .

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    SFAW says:


    I had no idea re: the source/genesis for that scene. Thanks!

  37. 37
    Jerzy Russian says:


    Have to admit I liked the opening scene of the “My Favorite Martian” movie that had a Mars rover dying out behind a big rock, with the pull-out reveal being a big lively martian city behind the rock.

    Isn’t that from the TV movie the Martian Chronicles?

  38. 38
    Jay says:

    @randal m sexton:

    According to Matt Damien, it was the batteries that gave out, the circuits were fine.

  39. 39
    Yarrow says:

    It’s just amazing. The 90 day mission turned into 14 years. Good job, Oppy!

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    ArchTeryx says:

    @randal m sexton: I suspect what did it in was a failure either in the batteries or the solar panels. The dust storm drained the battery, and the battery or panels failed and couldn’t recharge any more. That’s something no number of rescue commands could fix.

    The batteries lasted 15 friggin’ years. I dare any cellphone LiOn battery to go anywhere near that long!

  41. 41
    NotMax says:


    Always liked the (probably conjured up later?) second verse.

    Johnny, Johnny, here is your answer true
    I’m not crazy all for the love of you
    If it won’t be a stylish marriage
    If you can’t afford a carriage
    Then I’ll be damned
    If I’ll be crammed
    On a bicycle built for two

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    NotMax says:


    One working theory have seen is that the coating of dust was so thick it ended up diminishing power for so long as to reach the point where the internal clock was scrambled. Once that goes haywire, it is pretty much game over.

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    Jay says:


    Lead acid if given a full recharge every few days, a top up of distilled water once a month and a full charge/equalization charge once a month can last 25 years.

    AGM’s, full charge, equalization charge, 25 years +.

    The first LIon battery I had 15 years ago lasted just over a year with full charging every day. Then it melted.

    The Mars Rover is a wonder.

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    Yarrow says:

    @NotMax: They just need to find some little green squeegee men to clean the solar panels and everything will be fine.

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    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:


    No joke. Trump actually asked an astronaut if NASA was going to land boots on Mars before the end of his presidency. As an aside, it seems like for the past 20 years, the plan has been we’re going to land humans on Mars “sometime in the 2030s”. As recently as 2-3 years ago, I think NASA was still citing that time frame. The 2030s are a mere 11-20 years away and we’re not any closer it seems.

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    NotMax says:


    Except after not receiving a tip they’ll key the thing.


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    dmsilev says:


    A machine designed for 90 days that went 15 years is a fact that needs much repeating. These sly cats at NASA and JPL are freakin amazing. Can I get one to design and build a car?

    Two things: The design life of 90 days wasn’t really “how long until something breaks”, it was “how long do we think it will be before dust blocks the solar panels”. Turns out that there was enough wind under most circumstances to keep the panels clear, and it took (roughly speaking) an unusually bad and prolonged dust storm to do in Opportunity. Secondly, if your car was hand-built with an eye towards durability by a dedicated team of engineers who had a budget of a couple hundred million dollars per car, it’d probably be pretty reliable as well….

  49. 49
    NotMax says:


    Paging Powel Crosley Jr. …


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    Yarrow says:

    @NotMax: Have we figured out what currency they accept on Mars?

  51. 51
    NotMax says:


    Milky Ways.

    Although quatloos.are never refused.

  52. 52
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    If there isn’t already, there needs to be a Vonnegut-esque comedic sci-fi short story parodying Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, where a bunch of ancaps “Go Galt” either to Mars or some other planet to set up a colony governed entirely by Rand’s principle of Rational Self-Interest.

  53. 53
    ArchTeryx says:

    @NotMax: Yeah, that would do it in pretty effectively.

  54. 54
    Yarrow says:

    @NotMax: Mars bars. Duh. ;)

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷: I’d rather it be a reality show where they “go Galt” on some island but forget to bring cleaning people and doctors and so forth. Every time it turns out they need something not already on the island–so they’re not really being self-sufficient–they pay a fine.

  55. 55
    NotMax says:

    @Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)

    Not comedic, but believe it was in Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress that the master computer is directly referred to as the “John Galt of the revolution.”

    Trivia: Rand wrote a well-received science fiction-ish dystopian novel, Anthem, published in the late 1930s.

  56. 56
    NotMax says:


    Q: What’s the national anthem of united Mars?

    A: I’m Just Wild About Ares

  57. 57

    Opportunity dead? I blame Trump.

  58. 58
    Anne Laurie says:

  59. 59
    Doug R says:


    Have we figured out what currency they accept on Mars?

    I think they barter in probe parts.

  60. 60
    Jay says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷: @Yarrow:

    Their arrempts at “going Galt” suggests that the most unbeliveable part of the premise would be actually building the spaceship.

    Their attempts at island building did not go well. The Tongan Military took back the reef, and their concrete Island sank twice, now it’s an artificial reef.

  61. 61
    NotMax says:


    The Tongan Military

    Both of them.


  62. 62
    Jay says:


    They were part of the “Coelition of the Willing” a key US ally in Dubya Dubya Me Too,

    They also brought a band to the Island.

  63. 63
    B.B.A. says:

    I love this space stuff, but all of my instincts are wrong, so: NASA is a waste of money that could be better spent on poverty programs, decarbonization, and/or guillotines.

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    West of the Rockies says:

    Opportunity has expired. Clump still lives, shambling from one plate of greasy fried chicken to the next. Life is not fair. Why did we not hear about his weight with the physical he had last week? I’m guessing 239 moved upwards of 250 and his doctors knew one would believed he grew to 6’4″ in 12 months.

  65. 65
    NotMax says:


    IIRC they were announced by the W administration as being signed on as part of the “coalition of the willing” and almost immediately after it was reported that was the first the government of Tonga had heard anything about it.

  66. 66
    Redshift says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷:

    The 2030s are a mere 11-20 years away and we’re not any closer it seems.

    I guess, if you ignore the development work on the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion capsule.

    There are a lot of problems still to be worked out, and plans get jerked around by different adminstrations and congresses, but progress is being made

  67. 67
    NotMax says:

    @West of the Rockies

    239 moved upwards of 250

    “Those added pounds are all brain.”
      – Dolt 45 quack of the month


  68. 68
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷: We could crowdfund sending all the Trump trash to Mars before summer.

  69. 69
    Jay says:


    Yup, the whole Coeltion of the Willing was a total farce, to sell to the Gullibillies and Deplorables that there was International support for the war.

    And the friends and allies who tried to hold you back from one of the stupidist mistakes of the 21st Century got mocked and villified.

    And Needy Amin’s Minions are looking for a “hold my beer” moment.

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    Jay says:


    Shot into space one way by summer, Mar’s not so much, but we don’t need to tell them that. Don’t even need a capsule.

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    smike says:

    That’s DOTUS to you, sir!

  72. 72
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @Jay: Hmmmm….space Trump trash. Maybe swing it around and let re-entry do its thing. Oops! Forgot to install heat shields.

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    NotMax says:


    Remember when W was taken to task and had to publicly disavow and retract those sixteen words in his SOTU? Yet Dolt 45 devotes hundreds of words in his SOTU to lies, half-truths, inaccuracies and mythology, and barely anyone of any import raises so much as an eyebrow.

  74. 74
    Jay says:


    The US MSM learned nothing from Iraq.

    January 2002, Palmegate, Iraq Invasion, Mission Accomplished, Judith Miller, desperate search, retraction, December 2003.

    Is ur MSM learnin?

  75. 75
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @Jay: Got a desk that just really want to slam your head into? Look up George Carlin talking about Desert Storm back in the early 90s.

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    Redshift says:


    I love this space stuff, but all of my instincts are wrong, so: NASA is a waste of money that could be better spent on poverty programs, decarbonization, and/or guillotines.

    You’re wrong. :-)

    Budgeting doesn’t work that way. NASA’s budget is about $20B a year. The GOP tax cuts reduced revenue by $200B a year.

    We’re the richest country in the history of the world. The reason we’re not spending enough on those things isn’t because of programs that are 0.5% of the federal budget. It’s because we have a political party that objects to solving any of those problems if it requires government action, and thinks rich people should be able to do whatever the hell they want with their money instead of contributing to the common good. Oh, and has convinced their base that huge increases in a bloated military budget (which actually is a very significant amount) show they love ‘Murica.

  77. 77
    Amir Khalid says:

    Did a guy named Dave shut it dpwn?

  78. 78
    Mary G says:

    God, now we have thunder, lightning, torrential rain, and a freaking gale warning.

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    Amir Khalid says:

    The BBC reports Airbus is shutting down production of the A380, the humongousest passenger plane ever, because sales orders have dried up. The airline industry is going to smaller, more fuel-efficient planes thay bypass the big hub destinations the A480 was meant to fly to.

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    Amir Khalid says:

    @Amir Khalid:
    A380, not A480.

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    Fair Economist says:

    @Amir Khalid: I didn’t realize the A380 was such a flop. According to the article, they will only sell 250 of them, and half of those are to the Emirates airline.

  82. 82
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Fair Economist:
    I guess the A380 is like the bigliest, grandest imperial palace ever, whose construction turns out to mark the end of the empire’s golden age.

  83. 83
    Mike J says:

    @Amir Khalid: It didn’t help that airports needed to do work to make it possible for the 380 to taxi to gates, and gates needed to be expanded to load both levels at once.

    When the 747 came out, airports needed to do the same types of things. Boeing actively campaigned against it, and let SeaTac and the Port of Seattle know they would be very upset if A-380s were accommodated.

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    Amir Khalid says:

    @Mike J:
    The A380 is an engineering marvel. But as we saw with the Concorde, that by itself won’t make a plane a hit. There wasn’t enough demand for the Concorde — a 727-sized fuel-guzzler that went into service at a time of high oil prices, and a hell of a noisy plane if you lived under its flight path. Singapore Airlines wanted to fly Concordes to London; but Malaysia refused to let them go supersonic in our airspace, so that didn’t happen.

    I can’t say I disapprove of Boeing defending against a competitor’s plane touted as a 747-killer. Boeing is still making 747s for the cargo business; as far as I know, Airbus doesn’t do a cargo A380.

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    Amir Khalid says:

    The morning threads seem to have slept through the alarm clock.

  87. 87
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Amir Khalid:
    And as soon as I post that, there’s a morning thread.

  88. 88
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @B.B.A.: I don’t think NASA is a waste of money. I do think most of their human spaceflight efforts are scientifically unjustified, and massively expanding uncrewed solar-system exploration, orbital Earth science and space astronomy would be better from a knowledge-expansion point of view. But people seem to want to have some astronaut heroism.

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    Ken says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷: Landing humans on Mars is no problem. Applying arbitrary and capricious additional requirements, e.g. they must be alive, makes it much more difficult.

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    Ken says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷: Libertarianism is tricky in an environment where opening the freaking door wrong can kill everyone.

  91. 91
    Barbara says:

    @Ken: Not to mention that you need a working plan to bring everyone back, yes, alive. Kind of adds to the complexity.

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    randy khan says:


    Trivia: Rand wrote a well-received science fiction-ish dystopian novel, Anthem, published in the late 1930s.

    Speaking as a lifelong SF reader *and* someone who’s read more Rand than I should have, Anthem is so awful it isn’t even laughable. It’s hard to imagine why it would have been well received except by staunch anti-Communists.

  93. 93
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    @NotMax: Nyet!. Born To Be Wild

    Fire all of your guns and
    Explode into space!

    written for Steppenwolf by one Mars Bonfire. (You could look it up!) (My brother at one time owned the Mars Bonfire debut album – including a much more respectable [i.e., no fun] version of BTBW.)

  94. 94
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    There were giants off the earth in those days – men of old, men of renown.

    (Gen 6:4 paraphrased).

  95. 95
    NotMax says:

    @randy khan

    Well-received at the time. One among many turgid SF-type novels published right around then.

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    chopper says:


    anthem was pretty well received, i’m sure in part, because it was fucking short. no 50-page long speeches by the main character about bootstraps and the means for pulling them.

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