Wake Up, Opportunity!
August 14, 2018 2:37 AM   Subscribe

Mars Rover Opportunity was put to sleep by a planet-wide dust storm that didn't allow her solar panels to recharge her batteries. The dust storm has died down, and as the engineers wait for her to wake back up, they've been greeting her every day with a different wake up song. Space.com has the article, and the article has a Spotify playlist.
posted by hippybear (21 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I’m not surprise that Opportunity didn’t respond to “Rocket Man.” After all, it ain’t the kind of place to raise your kid rover.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:32 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Let's be honest. It works in the movies.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:09 AM on August 14, 2018

I've started humming "Wake up, Opportunity" to the tune of "Wake up, Little Suzy."
posted by carter at 4:19 AM on August 14, 2018 [16 favorites]

So we're playing it 'disco'? Didn't "The Martian" teach us anything?
posted by ewan at 5:23 AM on August 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

The sandstorm wasn't so hot.
It didn't have much of a plot.
We fell asleep, our goose is cooked
Our reputations shot.
posted by hippybear at 5:53 AM on August 14, 2018 [7 favorites]

Feal the beat, wake up and beep you beauty; there is life left in you and work to do. Nap time is over.
posted by zengargoyle at 6:29 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Moving, just keep moving,
Till I don't know what's sane,
I've been moving so long,
The days all feel the same
posted by arcticseal at 7:07 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I love this.
posted by greermahoney at 7:34 AM on August 14, 2018

So when the sandstorm first started kicking in there were a bunch of links to Oppo/Spirit's power management systems, but none of them answered whether the rovers were self-starting or if they needed power to manage the power systems so once they went cold that was it, they're dead. Anyone know? The article suggests they could still wake up, but is it just a long shot that maybe the panels were getting enough power during the storm to perform battery maintenance and heating but not phone home, or it it just a matter of getting sun on the panels and enough heat into the systems and it'll boot right up and start phoning home?
posted by Kyol at 7:50 AM on August 14, 2018

My (somewhat limited) understanding is that when there's enough sunlight on the solar arrays, the batteries charge up to a sufficient level to run the onboard computer (in some minimal-use mode). It then autonomously kicks off several activities, one of them being a check to see if there's enough stored electricity to run the transmitter and call home. I believe this check happens at least daily. It could take several-to-many days for it to get enough power in the batteries to wake up to a more active state and run the transmitter.

So it may be waking up daily right now, but finding that it doesn't have enough charge to do anything else (run heaters, run the transmitter, etc). It's possible that because it got so cold some of the more fragile electronics were damaged badly enough that this autonomous process may never get past step 1.
posted by tclark at 7:58 AM on August 14, 2018

Missing an obvious choice given the circumstances.
posted by borkencode at 8:56 AM on August 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

obligatory XKCD the real reason he hasnt called home. He doesnt need us anymore
posted by ShawnString at 9:01 AM on August 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm honestly quite stressed about Opportunity. I know it's anthromorphism, but...
posted by praemunire at 10:26 AM on August 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

oh no robot feelings
posted by poffin boffin at 11:02 AM on August 14, 2018 [9 favorites]

Pfft of course it's not going to call us.
Everyone knows Opportunity -knocks-.
posted by The otter lady at 2:16 PM on August 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

omg just reading the FPP description and i'm already about to tear up from the feels
posted by numaner at 2:57 PM on August 14, 2018

i fully blame fucking wall-e for the beginning of my feels for robots
posted by numaner at 3:00 PM on August 14, 2018

It's possible that because it got so cold some of the more fragile electronics were damaged badly enough that this autonomous process may never get past step 1.

Nope. Happily, this rover is in a location and season where it experiences low temperatures that are ABOVE the temperature threshold where things start breaking. From the press conference (below), I vaguely remember that they expected to see lows of -35 C, whereas as the rover is designed to survive -55 C. That doesn't stop news outlets from breathlessly reporting that the rover could freeze to death. I got the sense from the original presser that they really were not that concerned about it freezing. It was just going to take a long time to work its way back up to operational health, as tclark described above.

Whenever the sun's strength creates enough power on its solar panels to wake it up, which it may be doing every day now, it then evaluates whether it's got enough juice to fire up the heaters, and then maybe the transmitter. If not, it just goes back to sleep.

If you haven't been satisfied by the articles you've been reading, instead try listening to the press conference (conference call with graphics) that NASA/JPL conducted on June 13th when this all started.
posted by intermod at 7:34 PM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don't want to get too "Well, actually..." here but I work on the Mars 2020 rover project and was in the Quarterly meeting where the Mars Program Office was reporting to headquarters staff at the end of July.

They definitely said that the weather appeared favorable for the electronics to be safe, but also that Oppy had never experienced these cold temps for this long without heating, and that the possibility may not be high, but it was still a possibility that the electronics have been damaged beyond operability. We'll only know they made it when she starts talking to us again, and their best guess on that is if we don't hear anything by mid-September, a countdown for closing out operations will likely begin.
posted by tclark at 8:32 AM on August 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I always sort of wonder what the impact of continuing operations is on future missions. On the one hand we didn't need to build another rover and send it to Mars and all that, on the other hand are we missing out on opportunities for new science because funding is being soaked up in the 15th year of a 90 day mission?

Or are most of the costs of continuing operations generally sunk costs, you're going to have ground station staff and scientists either way, whether they're nerding on this or that doesn't make a significant impact in the final costs - the upfront costs dwarf the nerd salaries.

I mean if it were my way we'd be sending a half dozen rovers to Mars every transfer window, but I don't make the budgets.
posted by Kyol at 9:07 AM on August 20, 2018

Or are most of the costs of continuing operations generally sunk costs

Vastly on the "sunk costs" half of the equation. Operations aren't cheap but they're far cheaper than development. A rule-of-thumb sort of estimate would be that operations over a lifetime for a mission is probably around 10% the cost of the development of the mission. Various factors definitely intervene here so it can vary a lot (especially if the operations last a long time), but it's not a bad estimate for the primary mission operations cost versus development costs.
posted by tclark at 12:29 PM on August 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

« Older Not under the weather   |   the jazz musician of American acting Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments