Opportunity Rover Begins Tenth (!) Year On Mars

Nine years and no maintenance later, Opportunity is still doing science on Mars

2 min read
Opportunity Rover Begins Tenth (!) Year On Mars

Listen, NASA. We love you, but you're setting an impossible precedent here. Opportunity, one of a pair of rovers sent to Mars in 2003, landed at Meridiani Planum nine years ago last week. Nine years ago. The warranty on this robot? A mere 90 days. You do the math on how amazing that is.

Oh alright, we'll do the math for you: that's about 3,200 days, or over 36 times longer than Opportunity was promised to last. Imagine buying a car with a five year warranty that instead keeps on running for 180 years. And now imagine that it keeps running for 180 years with zero maintenance. Seriously, NASA is making the rest of the world look like a bunch of amateurs, because this incredible robot is still going and still doing valuable science. Curiosity may be bigger and fancier and laserier, but it's got some giant wheels to fill.

So what's Opportunity been up to? The picture up at the top of this article shows where the robot is currently hanging out: a place called Matijevic Hill on the western rim of Endeavour Crater, some 22 miles from where Oppy touched down. Clay minerals have been detected in this area from orbit, suggesting that water may have modified the rocks, so Opportunity will be checking the place out down on the ground.

As for what's next, well, at some point this little robot is going to stop working. It's already got some quirks- nothing serious, but still, it's closing in on a decade of non-stop operation. We've said this before, but we'll say it again: every day that Opportunity keeps on doing science on Mars, it should be headline news, and it's unfortunate that NASA is often recognized for success and failure in equal measure. Really, the fact that we've got robots on Mars right now is something that is, or should be, a continual source of wonder for every single human on Earth. As a species, we're taking the first tentative steps towards exploring and understanding our solar system, and these robots are leading the way. There will certainly be more, probably lots more, but Opportunity will always be among the first, and it's already made itself into a legend.

Via [ NASA ]

PS- Sorry for going all, you know, at the end there, but I really <3 these robots.

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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