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Mars Phoenix Lander's Ovens Were Destined To Fail 77

Posted by Soulskill
from the double-checking-is-for-wimps dept.
RobertB-DC writes "The Phoenix mission to Mars' frigid polar regions was going to be tricky from the start, with only a few weeks to perform as much science as possible. Success depended on everything working right. But one of the mission's most frustrating glitches — the stuck doors on the TEGA ovens — could have been prevented with basic quality control on Earth. Nature is reporting that bad brackets were replaced by the manufacturer ... with identically bad brackets. The Planetary Society blog sums it up succinctly: 'Ouch. Ouch ouch ouch.'"
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Mars Phoenix Lander's Ovens Were Destined To Fail

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  • by pavon (30274) on Saturday December 13, 2008 @01:00PM (#26103709)

    The lander wasn't made by NASA, JPL, or anyone like that. It was designed and assembled by the University of Arizona, who naturally had to get most of the parts fabbed by other folks.

  • Human Mars mission (Score:4, Informative)

    by wfstanle (1188751) on Saturday December 13, 2008 @01:02PM (#26103723)

    You are forgetting something ...

    Some plans for a manned Mars mission were based on there not being a return trip to Earth. Anyone who went on such a mission would be marooned there on purpose. It's not a kind of trip I would like to take.

  • by Fastolfe (1470) on Saturday December 13, 2008 @01:54PM (#26104195)

    Off-topic, and the author is an idiot. The rovers' cameras do not necessarily take pictures using the standard red-green-blue colors that we perceive. Depending on what filters were used (for scientific reasons), if you want a "full color" image for humans to appreciate, you have to choose or synthesize non-RGB channels to form an RGB image. The blue tab, for example, on the color calibration target is also very bright in the infrared, so if you use an infrared image as your red channel, what should be blue appears to be pink. All of this perfectly normal and completely expected by everyone that knows how this stuff works. Stop being a silly conspiracy theorist and apply some rational thought and a tiny bit of research []. [] []

  • Re:Amazing (Score:3, Informative)

    by NekSnappa (803141) on Saturday December 13, 2008 @03:19PM (#26104857)
    As the saying goes. "Never attribute to malice what can be explained with incompetence."
    This could well have been an issue of poor configuration management. Since the article says they used the same drawings. I imagine that even if their models were updated if those changes weren't propagated up through the drawings and the machining files used on the fabrication floor.
    So the net result would be an identical part being fabbed.
  • manglement (Score:3, Informative)

    by sohp (22984) <> on Saturday December 13, 2008 @04:05PM (#26105237) Homepage

    Most of the comments so far are focusing on the oven door problems. Naturally, because that's what's mentioned in the summary and no one RTFAs.

    Anyway, the *much* more interesting revelation is that after the problems came up, the directive came all the way down from the top of NASA directing the mission scientists to change their plans. "At the end of June, word came down that the Phoenix team was to treat its next TEGA sample as its last, and to go after a sample of rock-hard ice before it did anything else. The Tucson team had lost its autonomy." After that, the team blew at least a month trying to meet this directive, and missed out on doing some of the basic science they wanted to do, just so NASA heads could trumpet feel-good publicity about having detected ice with Phoenix.

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