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<   No. 2234   2009-03-09   >

Comic #2234

1 Martian 3: So why a Large Hadron Abrasion Tool?
2 Martian 2: Those Earthlings destroyed everything with their Large Hadron Collider.
3 Martian 2: The problem was, it was too crude, just flinging hadrons together and creating a mess. It was ultimately just sheer destructiveness.
4 Martian 2: We need finesse.
4 Martian 3: I see.
4 Martian 2: Hand me that jackhammer.

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Those Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, on which this model rover is based, and which landed in January 2004, had a planned operational lifetime of 90 days.

As I write this annotation, over five years later, they're both still going.

Now that's engineering.


2021-12-25 Rerun commentary: Update:

Spirit became stuck in soft sand on 1 May, 2009 - just 53 days after this comic was originally published. NASA attempted various drive manoeuvres to free the rover, without success. Science work continued, with the rover redefined as a stationary research platform. Unfortunately the angle at which Spirit was resting was not optimal for catching sunlight on its solar panels to recharge its batteries. The last communication with the rover was on 22 March, 2010, after which it is assumed that it went into a low power mode, awaiting a battery recharge which never eventuated. NASA continued attempts to contact Spirit until 25 May, 2011, at which point it declared the rover's mission was over.

Opportunity continued to operate successfully until a planet-wide dust storm occurred on Mars in June 2018. Contact was lost on 10 June, but it was expected that it should be regained after the storm, when the dust cleared enough to allow the rover to recharge using its solar panels. However, contact was never re-established, possibly due to either a thick layer of dust coating the solar panels and preventing charging, or perhaps a catastrophic failure during the storm. NASA declared Opportunity's mission over on 13 February, 2019.

In total, Spirit was operational on Mars for 6 years and 77 days, while Opportunity was operational on Mars for 14 years and 136 days.

When NASA over-engineers something, they really over-engineer it.

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My comics: Irregular Webcomic! | Darths & Droids | Eavesdropper | Planet of Hats | The Dinosaur Whiteboard | mezzacotta
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