The Difference

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On June 10, 2003, NASA launched the Mars rover “Spirit” on it’s way to mars. After traveling for  over 535,000,000 km (about 335 million miles) to arrived at its destination and landed safely.

It was then scheduled to drive around on Mars for 90 sols and cover about 600 meters. A ‘sol’ is about 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35 seconds, a little longer than an earth day. But for the purpose of this article, let’s call it a ‘day’.

About a month after ‘Spirit’ was launched, its twin, ‘Opportunity’ was launched as well and also traveled the same huge distance and made a safe landing on the red planet on January 25, 2004. Like ‘Spirit’ it had an intended life of 90 days and change.

Spirit has performed much better than anybody expected. It eventually got stuck in one place in late 2009 and its last communication was received on March 22, 2010. It was in operation 24 times longer than initially intended.

Opportunity on the other hand has outperformed Spirit by several years. It has been active for 4116 days since its landing as of this writing and it is still performing tests to this day. So far, it lasted 45 times longer than anybody had expected.

Both, Spirit and Opportunity weigh about 180 kg here on earth, which is quite a bit less on Mars, about 68 kg.

And then there was that Yutu rabbit (玉兔). The little Chinese rover was sent to the moon on  December 1, 2013 and arrived there two weeks later and also achieved a soft landing. It is a little lighter (140 kg) than the two Mars rovers but carries similar instruments for its exploration. The moon is only 238 thousand miles from earth, so the distance to travel was a lot shorter. The climate on the moon is a lot harsher than on Mars since the Moon is lacking an atmosphere. Temperatures can vary between a sunlit and a shaded area by 200° and this seemed to have lead to a ripe end of the rabbit, at least to its movements. As of February 12, 2014, it can no longer move and as of February 22, 2014 its control circuit had failed. There are still a few instruments that are functioning but the rover is unable to complete it’s missions, only 70 days after landing.

And now, you understand the difference between “Made in America” and “Made in China”.


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