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NASA Releases Report on Mars Exploration Program 119

latcarf writes, "The lead article on NASA today is about the report on the Mars exploration program - a program that hasn't gotten much exploring done recently. It concludes that the loss of the Mars Polar Lander is most likely due to premature engine shutdown and that the cure to such problems is less "faster and cheaper" and more time spent testing systems at greater cost. The article about this report on CNN includes an interview with Tom Young, formerly with NASA, who relates problems with tests on the Polar Lander."
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NASA Releases Report on Mars Exploration Program

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I can't believe how quickly people have forgot the incredible success of our "faster and cheaper" Pathfinder mission. I bet there wasn't a one of the critics of NASA's new process that didn't sit back and say "We did that for how much! - Wow!!!". Needless to say the mission was monumental from a historical perspective.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    My own perspective on this is that it's a problem of priorities. I'm not going to talk about the ISS, it's too much of a sore point with me.

    There is a lot of other areas where NASA could go a long way to reducing costs without compromising quality control. Deep Space I with it's ion drive is a good example. The use of ion drives/light sails/tethers/etc are all technologies that have long term applications in space and NASA can make a major contribution in these areas.

    As for getting to Mars, the number one problem is still the basic launch system. Chemical rockets are literally WWII technology. In terms of human crewed flight, I don't think that we are really going to get anywhere much without nuclear fusion.

    In the 1950's, the Lawrence factor for magnetic confinement reactors was at 1/100,000. Today it's down to 1/10. That's an order of magnitude per decade. Within the next 10-20 years, we will probably see self-sustaining fusion and from there it will probably be another 20-30 years before it could be used as a spacecraft drive.

    If you can assume fusion, then a Mars mission is not only easy but cheap in comparisson to chemical powered rockets. So it can be argued that the best way to promote space is to put the boot up congress to get serious about fusion.

    It would also have the side effect of also eliminating all of these pesky arguments over green house gas warming as well. ;)

    There's more than one way to remove a felines epidermis.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I firmly believe that one of the reasons that two Mars missions have failed is the incompetence of the engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They command a large share of the NASA market, and can afford to be lax.

    At least, that used to be the case.

    Now there is competition with the Applied Physics Laboratory (Johns Hopkins U). They have sent several NASA probes out, mostly with success (the most recent being EROS). The researchers there truly embody the faster-cheaper-better mindset.

    JPL needs a swift kick in the ass for the shoddy work that they have done. Lets hope that places like the APL provide that.


  • It concludes that the loss of the Mars Polar Lander is most likely due to premature engine shutdown and that the cure to such problems is less "faster and cheaper" and more time spent testing systems at greater cost.

    The quest for systems which are "faster and cheaper" is what our modern equivilent of "computer science" amounts to. Newer, high-prodcutivity languages such as Java and Visual Basic allow programmers to do just that: develop applications faster and with less bugs, thus reducing both the need for testing, as well as costs.

    While I don't know which language they use, I can only assume that it is a legacy language such as C++. Although it costs money to translate this into a safer language like VB, overall it reduces costs, especially over the long run. I urge them to consider the switch to a modern, complete, object-oriented language and toolkit. It'll be easier on me as a taxpayer, and you as a programmer. I know at my place of employment, we had to re-train/hire/fire developers in order to rid ourselves of legacy code written in C++, but overall, the jump in productivity has been great. We've even been looking into "freeware" operating systems such as Linux, FREEBSD, and Python as alternatives to Windows NT 4.0. Just in this forum alone, I've seen many positive and negative comments, so we're still holding off at the moment. But you never know :)
  • First of all, never trust the "media." Pretty much all of them have one goal, to push their agenda. They'll gripe about NASA blowing $100 million here and there, Ken Starr blowing $50 million because one person refused to tell the truth, but when the president (or his wife) want to go around the world giving billions in aid at every stop, well that's noble. This last trip ran up a tab of $70 million just for the Air Force. That's not even taking Secret Service and the like into account, just flying him and his enterage around. The media is in a position today of being able to feed lapdog couch potatoes anything they want. So, they make decisions, NASA out, Social Security in. And once they've made up their mind, you better agree or you'll kill senior citizens.
  • Boeing owns McDonnel Douglas and Rockwell these days. Boeing and Lockheed together do do space stuff, but in a lot of ways they're more like Soviet Design bureaus than private companies; they make a heck of a lot of money being cost-plus contractors for NASA in the good old-fashioned bureaucratic way.

    BTW, there was a report on UPI last week that said that NASA apparently found out that the probe would have blown up long before landing, because the engine was too cold to work right... check the usenet group for info on this. Basically, it seems a Lockheed manager had some tests with the engines rigged (i.e. heating of the catalyst bed) to get the engine to pass the test. NASA found out about this shortly before the probe reached Mars, said they found a fix (which probably wouldn't have worked), and are now ignoring that cause in favor of this last one. Hmmph.

  • Bullshit. Don't accuse someone of knowingly delivering a defective component if you can't back it up with evidence.

    I'm sorry, I don't have any written sources on it handy, but they either did that or they were grossly incompetent when testing the mirror, which you'd probably say is another charge I shouldn't say without proof. However, the fact is, the mirror was defective, and NASA spent a half-billion dollars plus fixing the thing. From what I heard, Perkins-Elmer performed a number of tests, some of which said it worked, some of which said it didn't, and decided the ones that said it didn't (and were right) must be wrong, because the mirror must be right...

  • I'm surprised that the US people still allow the government to literally burn hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes the way they are.

    I mean, what exactly does throwing billions and billions of dollars in your taxes at a NASA get you that you couldn't get by throwing billions and billions of dollars at universities and other more worthy research organisations... Teflon? The International space station? WTF is that for anyway? Can anybody enlighten me?

    While NASA monopolises the US space market, private companies and investors are going to stay away. Nothing will get space research and exploration going faster than some good old greed. I don't particularly like that thought but it's a simple fact of life.

    Anyway wouldn't you rather that companies like Iridium burned billions of dollars up in the martian atmosphere than the government? At least that way, you get a choice.

  • Well I think that weather satellites have improved things. I'm from Florida, and before they had these things, you didn't know if a hurricane was coming until it got there. Now people can get ready days ahead of time.

    Telecom sats are also beneficial. And while there may not be immediate payoffs from pure science, it's ultimately a good idea.
  • That would be so cool. I wish Britain would chip in on a project like this. I know we get involved (in a very small way) in ESA stuff, but that's a completely different "market".

    If I thought I had the brain-power. I'd drop everything and go to work for NASA like a shot.
  • The basic summary is that "better, faster, cheaper" can work, but some management and structural changes have to be made in order to ensure the success of the Mars program.

    A basic engineering tenent is Better, Faster, Cheaper - pick any two. You can't have all three. But you can have Smaller, Faster, Cheaper, which is what NASA is doing. So they spent $50M and lost it, and found the design flaw - fix it, relaunch, repeat. They can keep doing this 10 times and still spend half of what a Viking cost.

  • Losing billions? You mean spending billions on things in which you see no profit motive.

    There are plenty of private sector competitors to NASA in several arenas. One Texas billionaire is hiring like nuts to build a launcher that has a bigger payload specs than the shuttle. Don't have a link right now, read the article last week...

    "There is NO reason to send spacecraft to Jupiter, it will never be profitable, so why do it? Let's just orbit a huge Pizza Hut sign."

  • But you get what you pay for, NASA. You cut corners, and you blew it. I'm surprised the shuttles still fly.
  • Gotta agree on the futility of insterstellar travel, and here's why: the Inner Solar System offers everything humanity (and decendents/offshoots) could develop through most of the 21st century. Mars, the NEOs, the Moon and Sun have enough materials and energy, readily available, to fuel an incredible industry in space. Just using the inner system, even ignoring Mercury and Venus (to longterm, development-wise), the Earth's first intelligent species 8) can begin both freeing the Earth of the burdensome parts of our existence (manufacturing, power generation [SPS], maybe agriculture) and freeing life from the Earth. We can build habitats in space that mimic any Earth ecosysytem, we can spread life to Mars, the asteroids, the Moon, creating a "safety net" in case of comet or meteor impact on Earth.
    The only way to do this is by commercial means, though. Governments have gathered enough science and intitial surveying for these bodies, that the next logical step is for industry, civil society and private individuals, to begin exploiting the inner solar system.
    PS: Population growth is most definitely not growing exponentially. The rate of population growth is slowing, dramatically. Overall, population is still growing, and will continue for the near future, but (according to UN forecasts), will plateau between 9 and 11 billion, then drop to between 3 and 9 billion by 2100. However, due to various factors, mostly industrialization of the Third World, birth rates across the globe are plummetting. India's birthrate recently dropped to 3.75 kids/woman, still many kids per, but a dramatic decrease over 2 generations. Japan, Spain, Germany all have negative population growth, internally.
  • Grits (known in some circles as "Georgia ice cream") are made by grinding hominy. Hominy is made from corn.
  • Ever read Stranger in a Strange land? The reason that they sent a manned mission to Mars was because they kept losing thier probes. Could somebody in NASA be sabotaging the probes in hope that they will send a manned mission to 'investigate' any possible extraterrestrial causes? Makes one wonder....

  • Even though half of NASA's interplanetary
    spacecraft seem to be blowing up lately,
    the ones that do make return fabulous results.
    The Mars Surveyer makes new discoveries every
    week, including swiss-cheese polar soils,
    and the real shape of the Mars face.
    Galileo is running triple its two year Jupiter
    mission, despite the attenna disaster that cut
    data rates 98%.
    I grieve when NASA fails and rejoice when they

  • Just because a US rocket launches something into space doesn't mean it's a NASA mission! NASA had *nothing* to do with 5 of the 8 launches described above!

  • 'Scuse me.

    NASA didn't cut their own budget, you know.

    Congress cut it, and NASA dealt with it as best they could. If you must blame somebody, at least blame somebody who is somewhat responsible.
  • Ok, in what way does "hundreds of millions instead of billions" not mean cheaper?

    I see two ways to define "cheaper". One is the difference between the two amounts, and the other is the ratio. Let us assume a billion-dollar project versus a hundred-million-dollar project. The example will scale up or down just fine.

    Let's take the first way. The savings here is nine hundred million dollars, which in my book is quite a bit "cheaper". Perhaps you disagree, but I have a feeling that even somebody as rich as Bill Gates would think this.

    Now the second way. The ratio between the two amounts is 10:1, resulting in a savings of 90%. 90% savings are usually things you don't even get at going-out-of-business sales. I'd call this pretty good too.

    So in what way is this not "cheaper"?
  • ...and NASA being a govt agency and all wouldn't exactly mean that they could even have a value since they produce no profit. You could sell stock.. in which case it'd have no value. You might as well just write them a check, but then again, thats what you do when you pay your taxes. If you want to give additional money, I'm sure they'd be happy to accept Discover Card (tm)
  • All NASA needs is to fire their PR department.

    Bowie J. Poag
  • How do we know that NASA gives us the whole deal? How hard would it be for NASA to arbitrarily decide that something (I don't know what, they haven't told me.) was too 'sensitive' or whatever, for common consumption. Would it be feasible for them to, say, announce that they had just 'lost' a major project out in space somewhere, and turn it around as a reason to get more funding too?

    Maybe I'm just paranoid, but it wouldn't be the first time government (and associated agencies) have hidden information from the public.

    Oops! Sorry. Moderate me down if you like, but it's true.
  • That little space station is a perfect example of the problems inherent in multi-national space projects. The Russians are a couple of years late putting up their module, and everything's on hold as a result.
  • Maybe NASA is trying to do a little fundraising. So? Every government program does this. But, in spite of public support, NASA programs are damn near always the first on the chopping block because supporting NASA politically does not create votes like hysteria about guns and drugs and internet perverts does.

    Besides, the estimate for "fixing" the Polar Lander only ran about $10 million; small change in government terms.

    Mind you, I'd rather see NASA get out of the exploration business and instead encourage private and/or commercial efforts, but that doesn't alter the fact that they are accomplishing incredible stuff on a progressively leaner and leaner budget...

  • With all these problems, more focus should be on the design and planning of a mission, and less on equipment. I have often thought of a barrage of mini-sattelites sent as one or several packages, which relay info around. With more specialization, a sattelite wouldn't be too much of a loss, and multiple sattelites of the same function would prevent the need for another launch to send a replacement
  • Nasa's learned that you can do things (fast/cheap/well) pick two. Only marketroids and PHB's believe otherwise and they're WRONG. Maybe what we need in our administration is a good healthy dose of realism and LESS CRACK!
  • Hey - don't you think that's a bit harsh? I mean, I'm sure the NASA team spent countless number of hours programming instructions for the lander, and it's not really that unlikely that they're going to make a mistake. Think about how many things went _right_, and maybe you'll start to better appreciate the hard work that went in to this. It's like writing software - except if you screw up, you lose hundreds of millions of dollars...

    Check out Greg's Bridge Page!
  • The basic problem with just privatizing NASA is that NASA isn't suppose to make a profit. NASA should be doing basic engineering research and development (and releasing it) to enable other companies to make a profit. The problem is that NASA has grown so massive and bureaucratic that it actively smothers private space development (IMO, the rise of private space development companies is in spite of, not because of NASA).

    The only reason I might support privatizing NASA is to watch it crash and burn (metaphorically speaking) and make room for private space development.
  • I think NASA is basically saying that they are going back to the way things used to be. It was more expensive, but it was also more cost effective.

    The problem is those more expensive missions seem just as prone to failure as the "smaller, faster, cheaper" ones. Of course, the advantage of the more expensive ones (from NASA's point of view) is that you can spend years just on the feasibility studies alone. Plus, since you launch fewer missions, you get fewer failures. And if it fails, well, obviously you should have done more studies. :-)
  • Yeah guy, like I said, I don't agree in TOTAL government control. I think NASA could use the help of outside investors and outside insight too
  • No one ever thinks of any kind of ramafications other than economical. What's wrong with all of you people??

    When deciding about the governent taking control of NASA, all anyone is thinking about is tax dollars and efficiency, money well spent, etc etc.

    I do agree that the economical workings of NASA will have some effect on how the govt will fund them in the future, but..

    If the government can't fund them, I don't think they should exist. All we need are a bunch of money hungry investors pumping lots and lots of cash into private programs, and eventually what you get is rampant commercialism out in space. Ever heard of the Internet? Even computers in general? Not to say that the economics leading up to today's internet and computer software were bad for the industry and the concepts as a whole, but look how commercial it all is, ads everywhere and a few elite owning most of the shares and influence.

    If the space program is allowed to get as commercial as these industries, you can expect to see stunning, disgusting parallels between your space program the industries mentioned.

    Saftey and use of large scale (high energy even a good term?) technologies and development of projects is another thing I wouldn't want a large corporation to handle.

    I love space, I love space exploration, I dream just like the rest of the geeks out there, but I want this industry to develop as non commercially as possible. When technologies are prefected and situations normalize, then we can have private projects.

    No more ranting, what I propose is altruism, that is large corporations donating money to NASA. The government may even be able to conpensate these investors with use of their technologies (software? whatever).
  • I don't think that nasa would wast all that time and money.
    Besides, if nasa did crash it on purpose then that proves that they suck.
    And if they didn't crash it on purpose then that also proves that they suck.
  • I disagree. Faster, cheaper, works most of the time is exactly where modern 'computer science' is taking us. Using RAD tools as a substitute for proper design and testing seems to be the way of the world.

    Suggesting that NASA could improve their systems by going to VB, is a contemptible insult to some very talented people. Since there is no true support in NT for hard realtime or fault tolerance, it's also a complete non-starter.

  • With regards to Congress and the slashing of NASA's budget, I think things went something like this:

    Congress: Your work is expensive and provides no real bonuses towards us getting re-elected, like jobs in our regions or profits for $big_corporation. We're going to slash your funding, but we won't again if you don't screw up.

    NASA: Well, cutting our funding won't help our success rate, but since we don't have any choice, we'll try and make do.

    *Several major screw-ups that could've been prevented by some cash later*

    Congress: We told you. We don't want to do this, but its necessary. We need the money to get re-elected. Sorry, but we're cutting again. No more problems, and we might give you a few hundred dollars back. What is this space thing you're always talking about, anyway?

    NASA: Umm... Those problems could've been prevented if you hadn't slashed our funding.

    Lather, rinse, and repeat.

  • These things are usually one time builds. They take into account everything from Earth launch to Mars landing (as a trajectory). The whole fuel-weight-timing thing is carefully balanced.

    Further, in the time it has taken them to design, build, (under-)test, and execute the state-of-the-art has changed. You might as well redesign and rebuild anyway.

    On the other hand, you're right. I'd rather see them spend a few million dollars more on a heavy lift, and recycle a design ten or twenty times.

    So to recap: "build once"-"test many" or "build many"-"test some". Pick one and get on with it.

  • *idly wonders the possibility of an Open Source space program*

    Don't underestimate the power of peanut brittle
  • I would love to try this one on my boss.
    "Uh, yeah I screwed up that last project, but maybe if you give me more time to perform a given task, and maybe pay me more too, I will do it better!"

    And the 'thud' you would hear would not be the Mars Lander landing, it would be my boss' foot kicking my ..!
  • You gotta be kidding. Look at how many ppl jump on NASA's back and badmouth them when they made just a slight mistake. (When you're in the aerospace industry, "slight mistake" usually means disaster.) Purposely sabotaging their mission(s) will cut their budget rather than increase it.

    But yeah, NASA has done some pretty amazing things even with their limited budget. I mean, look at the Galileo spacecraft. It's survived way beyond its originally-planned mission, and it's still doing wonderful. I find it sad that people always see the flaws more than the achievements. When NASA loses a mission, they get flamed and defamed. But how many people thank NASA for the Galileo mission, besides the scientists who actually benefitted from it? How many people even realize how incredibly successful the Galileo mission was and still is?

    Now, if only the powers that be would see beyond the flaws and political agendas and see the value of giving NASA a more generous budget, we might actually see the results we want to see.

  • I know it's been proposed before, and shot down many times, but I think the Open Source model might have some relevance for NASA projects.

    The real effect of Open Source is not so much in thousands of people wiring thousands of lines of code, it is in thousands of eyes looking at the code, and one of them seeing a problem. So, why not publish all the design documents and all the code as you go along? Doing so would not cost much, and I am sure many readers here would like to have a look. It would require perhaps one full-time person to moderate a mailing list or web site with discussion, and to select the most relevant-looking stuff to be forwarded to whom it may concern. Just knowing it was going to be published might help the busy programmers and engineers to keep their motivation up.

    Plus, it might well give NASA good publicity, no matter how the project went. If bugs were found and fixed in time, fine. And even if the project failed, at least there would be lots of people around who have seen the complexity of it, and might have some understanding for it, and voice it in various places.

    In short, I think NASA may gain a lot by publishing everything, at a pretty low cost. Why not give it a try?

  • Like they say - space is only an hours drive, straight up.

    I wish there was a cheaper easier way to get into space - like fly a rocket up high, piggybacked to a b52 - then fly it up to LEO using a hydrogen ramjet.

    And yeah - "open" design of rockets would probably suck - but it sure would be fun.

  • "Two small probes that ejected from the craft also disappeared." So what happened to these? Were their sensors "incorrectly wired," rewired, and not tested too? Does anyone know why these probes would have disappeared? It would seem that they would be ejected according to the same software that was supposed to control the landing...but wouldn't they be able to do some calculation themselves?


  • Eeexcuuuse me?

    Countries like France? Sorry, they already have their own Space programs. Which sometimes run at a PROFIT...

    Canada perhaps? No thanks, we already contribute quite a bit to NASA, through training crew members and in hardware. Unfortunately, we don't have the equitorial advantage that the US does. Nor do we have the budget for it.

    And let's not forget about that little old space station that's getting built up there. :-P

  • I couldn't agree more. I work currently for the Canadian Space Program - at least until Friday. An e-commerce company doubled my salary - what could I say? Factor in aerospace's complete and utter monotony from a software point of view, and the decision was a no-brainer.

    There are *lots* of complete morons who work in the space industry. Aerospace is a big filter - the smart people trickle through and leave, but the idiots become lifers.

  • Incinerated in the explosion presumably. That's if the spurious-legs-unfolding-signal scenario is correct.

    Personally, I find one of the other explanations rather charming, the it-landed-perfectly-well-but-the-parachute-covered -it-up scenario.

  • Do we? If we do it like that, no-one's told me.

    Public subscription seems a reasonable way to raise money for this type of thing, as mooted by various groups (inc. Asimov I think), but I don't know of any actual launches on that basis.

    If only all government spending worked that way, then I could opt out of nuclear spending (without being nicked).

  • Not to be a conspiracy theorist or anything, but could NASA have purposly "sabataged" the mars stuff to justify a bigger budget?

    If they did, hey, more power to 'em. I've always wanted to see NASA with a bigger budget and a lot more leway. NASA has done some awsome things with a limited budget, just imagine if they had a bigger one...


    Do not provoke me to violence, for you could no more evade my wrath than you could your own shadow.

  • You're forgetting that money spent in NASA is not "burned" up. It is spent on developers, scientists, contruction and materials, which goes back into the US economy.

    I'm not an economist, but common sense would tell me that the money vector of $1 to the UN is a lot smaller than the $1 to NASA.

    There are plenty of less tangible NASA benefits which include: inspiring children to go into the sciences, providing open access to information and discoveries that would be hoarded by private industry, and most importantly, discovering new tidbits of information that could potentially find its way into a Star Trek spinoff plot line.
  • Are the administrators at NASA mad. This could have been the most important piece of space exploration in the first half of the 21st century. These false ecconomies have cost the world much needed close research into our solor system and will probably cost NASA billions in budget cuts. But will they learn - I think not. They must be off their trollys'
  • To keep things in perspective, each of these projects cost as much as a "Summer Blockbuster" movie. How many of those bomb every year?

    Last I heard, Schwartzenegger was still working...
  • Actually, in the scientific world metric units are standard. Ever take a physics or chemistry course recently? What units do you normally deal with? Metric, of course.

    Let's look closely at your precious meter or is that metre (lousy French)? Measure the distance from the north pole to the equator through Paris and divide by 10e6.

    Actually, last I heard a meter is defined as the distance light travels in 1/299792458 of a second in a vacuum, which as far as I know doesn't really change. A liter is 1 cubic dm (meter/10), so that doesn't vary either.

    Temperature? boiling / freezing point or pure water at exactly 1 atm? What's the barometric pressure today?

    Actually, temperature does not vary that much with pressure. In the example of a gas, the universal gas law states that T=PV/(Rn)where R=0.08206 L*atm/(mol*K). Since pressure rarely differs too much from 1 atm in nature, the pressure won't change significantly. The same idea applies to liquids, as far as I know. The human body, on the other hand, varies in temperature anywhere from about 96 F to 100 F.

  • As an afterthought, most of the world uses metric units also. We Americans just seem to have the egotistical attitude that we're the best and everything should be done our way.
  • I wrote an email into Roblimo a couple of weeks ago regarding moderation (I believe). She told me this:
    You might want to e-mail him about this ( next week. Not this week, please. This is his first vacation from /. in 2.5 years and he needs it BADLY!
    I''ve only seen one post from him since then... Maybe he's still on vacation.

  • Space exploration will never take off, literally or figuratively, if we continue to stagnate in our current system of federally run and funded space programs. We no longer have leaders like Kennedy with the political will or vision to see what an asset, and indeed a necessity, space exploration will be in the future. No good scientific research, least of all space exploration, can survive random partisan budget cuts and political attitudes that change every four years with each administration. Do we really want some suit who has never launched even a model rocket or read a single science fiction book controlling what may become the only chance of human survival? If we want to really get somewhere, it's up to you and me, and all the other geeks on the planet, to find a way to get us off the planet. Private research and development is the only thing that will revitalize our dying space program.
  • thankyou for saving me the trouble of fuming at this post. I was about to lose it.
  • Idunno, I really would like to see private investment in space beyond the existing level of satellites-only, but privatising NASA would be, in my opinion, a bad move. For one thing, the corporate body would have to be cripplingly overregulated, to prevent it from abusing the massive power it'd wield. Imagine if a cost-cutting, rush-job company tried to put something into orbit that had radioactive materials involved? If it blew up on the way out (which does happen sometimes) it would shower the area with fallout. Or howbout McDonalds setting up a string of satellites in orbit forming a small image of the golden arches in synchronious orbit over middle America? Companies have looked into this concept. Plus, without NASA, advanced exploration would grind to a halt, as only short-term return money making ventures (satellite launches, primarily) would earn capital. There would be no hubble, no international space station, and no comet tracking program, no solar observation. If America needs more money, just spend less on corporate handouts, that's the real hole in the pocket.

    No nation owns space, so there are very few laws there (although there are some international treaty's, such as the one banning nuclear armnaments on satellites). The potential for abuse is quite real. Still, I'm a dedicated socialist, and I view privatization as a univerally risky business.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think NASA, and the US gov't need to devote more money to NASA.

    Why? So they can lose more billion dollar satallites(sp)? Ever see the conditions of our nation's public schools? Money would be better spent on education at lower levels. That would help to create more and *better* scientists (and probably fewer lost satallites! :)

    I'd rather see money spent on NASA than the United Nations.

    I disagree. I personally feel that we should put more money into *beneficial* UN programs such as UNICEF. Surely feeding starving children and bring food, education, and medicine is more important than having the national ego boost of flying to Mars (or whatever NASA has planned). While the space program certainly has it's benefits, we are no longer in the "space race" as you pointed out. Who are we competing against, spending so much money?

    A problem, I think, is that many scientists tend to lose site of the "big picture" when it comes to scientific studies. Sure it's nice to know that there are black holes, but how does that knowledge affect us on Earth? It may have advanced knowledge of astrophysics, but what benefit is that to the majority of the population of the planet? Science should always keep in mind that the greatest it can achieve is to improve the lives of human beans everywhere. The UN can do this well. NASA, it seems, can't.
  • The current priorities in the speeches politicians want to give nowadays involve "how I will give you money." And the average Joe Schmoe laps it up like the trained monkeys they are. So, we have a group of politicians that have put American into a Gimme-state, so the budgets have to be adjusted appropriately. I don't see NASA getting a worthwhile increase in budget for a good 8-10 years. We'll have to go through a couple more presidents before the whole political arena will change enough to allow ideas other than gimme programs. Watch raw Algore speeches on CSPAN ( has has real video I believe for those of you outside this country, check listings for "Road to the Whitehouse"). It is all, "I will give you X {m,b}illion dollars for {education,social security,welfare,cigarette smokers,etc}. Gearge Bush will kill you."

    I can recall all the way back to about 1991, then President George Bush gave a little speech calling for humans on Mars by 2010 (might have be 2020). Here we are already in 2000, and we haven't mastered landing craft there. We (the American people as a whole) just don't give a damn about space today. Kennedy gave a similar speech, with the side-effect of being killed two days later, but we did make it to the moon in under 10 years. For the last thirty years, since we stopped associating with the moon, all we've been is a shuttle service for satellites and growing tomatoes in space. I think we've pretty well mastered that, let's move on to something more challenging people! :)
  • Hasn't NASA heard of that elementary law of engineering / programming? "Fast. Cheap. Good. Choose two." You just can't get all three, and they ought to know that by know.

    Actually, I suspect that they do know it, they're just not telling Congress because they know that Congress, not being made up of engineers, want all three and will cut funding if someone points out the facts of life to them. I suspect that NASA's motto really is:

    <LOUD> "FASTER, CHEAPER, BETTER." </LOUD> <mutter> "choose two..." </mutter>
    The real meaning of the GNU GPL:

  • NASA DOES have competition. Boeing, Donald McDouglas, and Rockwell. These all will put a satellite up or do other space related things for a profit. NASA gets to do the stuff that isn't simply money driven. No one will pay money to just put a lander on Mars. NASA as a private company would simply become another satellite pusher.

    Bad Mojo
  • If there are life forms on Mars that can do anything about us crashing stuff on the planet, they don't seem to be retaliating. They don't seem to be doing ANYTHING.

    PR with Mars? I know Mars, and if you don't crash a few landers onto the surface, you're insulting Mars.

    Bad Mojo
  • Wow. I sure love ad hominem arguments. I said nothing about Star Trek, nothing about space exploration ending human misery. You say I am assuming a Mars lander improves the human race. I say that YOU are assuming that a Mars lander does nothing to improve the race. Those efforts which happen at the farthest edge of human knowledge are always the efforts that produce the most benefit and the most advancement. Doing research on poverty might raise the standard of living for the poor by, who knows, 50%? he standard of living for everybody, including the poor, has increased an order of magnitude since the turn of the century, and generally not because of people trying to help them, but because of people helping everybody. Because of people doing research on the very edge of human knowledge.
  • I wouldn't say that valueing RedHat at $7.4B is exactly realistic or wise. In fact, if the market crashes, I'll be the first to point the finger at over valued companies like those listed. Just because some people believe ignorantly that those companies can turn a profit that will value to that amount, doesn't mean in any way that they will or ever could.
  • I'd love to see you engineer a project with countless interworking systems and attempt to find and nail each and every bug to the wall while on a shoestring budget without the time necessary to do the job right.

    Stuff it, already. It's not possible to foresee each and every possible failure; hindsight is 20/20. They've managed to successfully launch and maintain hundreds of other projects, all while their budget continues to dwindle. One mistake, and everyone jumps on their back. Kinda disgusting.
  • Where does the job posting from sun say it requires 7+ years of java experience?
    It asks for 2+ years of relevant experience, and mentions that java is a plus.

  • Okay. How would they make money? Holy capitalist pig.

  • Yes. For spacelift service, to put up satellites, that's a good idea, at could be profitable.

    But those Europeans don't put people on the moon, or try to land robots on mars, or put up space telescopes, or.. the list goes on.
    Nasa is about RESEARCH, not profits.
  • Okay. I enjoy dissing the US on occasion..but I must say.
    The US PEOPLE, through their tax dollars, as a nation, put a man on the moon, probes on mars and other planets, voyager, etc...
    A choice? There IS a choice. Space exploration costs MONEY! And NASA has had an ever shrinking budget because there is no taxpayer support. So. If the US People WANT nasa to succeed, they have to put the money into it. If they DONT want to do that, they should scrap it.

    Imagine you are a contractor. Someone hires you to build a server for him. You explain to him that to do what he needs will cost $10,000. He says 'I only have $1000, but I want you to do it anyway'. You do the best you can, but his server cracks under the load the first day it is up. Should he blame YOU for it's failure, or himself for not listening in the first place?
  • Not really, in my opinion ... the Ground Data Systems for the MVACS module of the Polar Lander were intricately tied in with the telemetry of the lander itself, and needed to be attached to a testbed to be of any real use.

    So, unless NASA makes a testbed available, or a pretty damn good simulation of one, there's not a great deal of use in open sourcing anything.

    Also, I remember hearing once that there's no actual security on the probes, apart from the difficulty in transmitting all the way to Mars ... so, do we really want all the protocols opened ? :)

    Instead of all the manpower it would take to monitor the comments from people, it would be much more advantageous to hire one or two kick ass programmers to marshall and audit the code instead.
  • by hey! ( 33014 )
    The quest for systems which are "faster and cheaper" is what our modern equivilent of "computer science" amounts to. Newer, high-prodcutivity languages such as Java and Visual Basic allow programmers to do just that: develop applications faster and with less bugs, thus reducing both the need for testing, as well as costs.

    Humbug! First of all, on a project like this coding productivity is scarcely signficant -- it's requirements specification, system integration, and testing where all the time goes. If the coders get to churn out a hundred lines of code a week, averaged over the entire project, they're lucky. If they're pressed for time, they aren't going to cut corners in coding, but testing and integration.

    VB is only a higher productivity language for certain classes of problems (simple forms based interfaces with database access and a couple of visual ActiveXs bolted on for eye candy). It works really well in this space, because of the IDE, not the language itself which is execrable and error prone. Essentially you can integrate all of your application components (database, ActiveXs, forms) within the IDE and test them iteratively.

    I admire the Java language greatly, but really it is not that different from C++; mostly it is noticeable (as a language) by what it leaves out -- among other things pesky and error prone pointer arithmetic. However, I doubt NASA's problems are related to stray pointers -- they probably use ADA. Java also has an innovative runtime system with nice security features.

    I think it is interesting that a lot of the value of these "languages" comes from the infrastructure that exists around them -- the design time IDE in one case and the runtime system in the other. What it suggests is that NASA needs to, over the long run, develop a robust and reusable space exploration rapid prototyping system. It would include standard hardware components, testing apparatus, highly tested reusable software objects and a standard operating system. Real time Linux? It would make a lot of sense for vendors to deliver source code to NASA under a license that would allow subsequent vendors to reuse it.

    I don't think coding productivity would make any changes, but it would probably make integrating the entire system faster and easier.
  • Yeah, because... uh... it's so easy to Open Source hardware. Seriously, how the heck do you apply open source to a space-shuttle? I don't understand what everyone's obsession is with tacking the words "Open Source" onto everything... It's the same thing here as it was with the Iridium satellites: You can't "Open Source" something that isn't "source" to begin with.


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • Privatize NASA? y'all on drugs? ;-)... In a sense NASA is *already* privatized: when it spends a few hundred million dollars on an X plane that validates a technology some company (Boeing, Lockheed, Northrop --the only ones left really) will build an aircraft around, the money does eventually flow to the private sector. The single greatest example is perhaps the X-33, where NASA is essentially subsidising the development of a commercial launch vehicle.

    But what most of the readers here fail to realize is that NASA *must* stay as a government agency for both scientific and economical reasons: Scientific, becuase as others mentioned, NASA has probably the best 'research ethic' in the world. The people there are more free to pursue their own research interests than they would in a corporate R&D facility or in a (corporate-subsidized) research university.

    Most importantly though, NASA cannot *afford* to be private; the financial threshold for entry into the aeronautical or space business would have any Valley VC running scared... most big commercial aerospace projects (a good example is the 777) don't pay themselves off until a *decade* or so into production. Boeing is large enough (and the governments behind Airbus can tax enough) to keep those huge cash reserves around, but the stock market doesn't have that kind of patience, especially this market of 6-months-from-incorporation IPOs...

    What is truly sad is that most of this wealth is being created by companies largely immitating one another, while true innovators are punished because they are 'sinking' their profits into R&D (who's 'hotter': VA or IBM? Lucent or ?)

    engineers never lie; we just approximate the truth.
  • > *idly wonders the possibility of an Open Source space program*

    Great idea! Let everyone participate in the development of these projects. Surely any random guy who who can hack the Linux kernel is qualified to work on a space probe. After all, it's not like it's rocket science.

    Oh, wait. Never mind...
  • The rest of the world is pumping money into space exploration. I'm sure you've heard of the international space station in the works. All contries involved have put a great deal of money forward on this project.
  • One of my fav comics from User Friendly: dec/uf001332.gif
  • Huh? That link says "java a plus" not "7 years or more of Java experience required"
  • There is no way to implement "better, faster, cheaper" properly. Not anymore. It's too late.

    I work in the defense industry, on a satellite project that had a serious launch failure last year. The reason we have been having so many problems in the space program is because of a complete breakdown in the transmission of the expertise necessary for success. This expertise was originally gained in the early days of the space race, and would be impossible to recall without cash outlays comparable to what was spent in those days. Adjusted for inflation, of course.

    The engineers who did the basic research in those days are long retired, but in past decades they had a long time to transmit what they knew to the younger generation of engineers. Sorry if this offends any of the younger crowd, but freshly minted college graduates are not really fully trained. They have all the basics, but real-world experience is absolutely essential. When there were a large number of experienced older engineers in the workforce there was a kind of informal apprenticeship system in place whereby the new generation received this training. But because this was never codified or formalized, the pointy-haired bosses of the industry never took serious note of it. Under the pressures of "better, faster, cheaper" the began to look for any way they could to cut costs - their own salaries and perks being sacrosanct, of course. Their jaundiced eyes soon lit on the senior engineering staff. They were all older, and with accumulated seniority much more expensive. Why, a PHB could hire three new grads for the cost of just one of these old guys! So out the door they went, either laid off or forced into early retirement, and they took their knowledge with them.

    In most cases the knowledge lost wasn't the kind of information that any PHB could apply simple-minded metrics to and put down on a balance sheet. They were all the little things - habits, ways of working, all the reflexive sanity checks that ensured that the numbers that came out at the end of their procedures conveyed the information they were intended to convey. They would check and doublecheck things like unit conversions and software loads just because that's how they worked. And by and large NASA projects worked too.

    But now they're gone. Boosters are inserting payloads into useless orbits. Probes are crashing into the planets they were supposed to land softly on. Satellites are failing before their designed lifespans are elapsed. And there just may not be a single thing that can be done about it. Not without an effort that this country no longer has the will to support.

  • this UPI story is []. It basically states that NASA knew the polar lander was doomed well before it reached Mars.

    I hate to say it, but...

    2000-03-22 02:01:47 NASA knew Mars Polar Lander was Doomed (articles,space) (declined)

  • we just need to decide what we want to see done here. The public/government should really decide what's important to them. If we want to see a man on Mars by the end of the first half of this century - then we're going to need to throw money at this project like it's going out of style. Otherwise...we should re-evaluate how badly we want to go to Mars or anywhere else for that matter.

    I'm not saying that we need to either go full force into this...or kill it. But the amount of money we spend on these missions should be proportional to our need or desire to get them done successfully.

    Your Ad Here!
  • PreMature Engine Shutoff my tushie! It was the Damn polar aliens, they've been doing this for years! What do you think happened to the Mars Rover?
  • Lets look at the most recent things that has cause nasa to get into the news ... ahh yes ... it's ability to crash things into alien planets ...

    Remember way back when we were all five and we would crash things and make the big `splosion noises then go eat macaronni? Well I think nasa is just one noodle short of a 5 year old here.

    Another thing. If you were an alien considering making contact with the so called superior organism would you take kindly to them crashing things into your planet or bringing remote control cars in your lawn? ... no of course not.

    If nasa wants to keep good PR with mars they need to negotiate a landing zone and coordinate a way for the lander to enter into the martian atomosphere. This crashing business will just cause the martians to have ill feelings towards humans and we just can't have that.

  • Granted, it doesnt seem like knowing all this happy stuff about black holes and mars has any effect on me as a person. However, it is a form of abstract knowledge, and the time frequently comes when abstract knowledge leads to vital information. For instance, having the space shuttle drag a sled through our atmosphere at a certain level does not seem to have any positive effect, but the knowledge garnered from such a task could lead to stations in geostationary orbit, in a gravitational field LOWER than that of earth, where medicine could be applied to certain people with peculiar and not-so-peculiar problems that low gravity _may_ help more than no gravity. Just because it doesnt apply directly to real life now does not mean that it will never apply to real life.
  • No, really. NASA is currently unable to compete for highly qualified programmers, given the price tags have created... and, having worked with JPL employees, and having seen the things going on in these contracts, I'm rather afraid. Warm-body staffing all over the place. It isn't always that bad, but it happens. And there is no way, with the current budget, that NASA can afford to recruit the best of the best to write their software... at least, not enough of them to keep from being strapped to the wire and undermanned.
  • I think in order for space exploration to truly take off, more countries need to get involved. Currently, NASA is essentially the only organization left that takes on this challenge, and graciously shares a lot of its findings and discoveries derived from costly space missions and experiments to the world. It would be nice if the world community could pump something back in, in financial terms or otherwise, to help continue the trek.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @05:06PM (#1164139)
    No, I think it's a bit more complicated than that. I understand your reasoning, however, because we have all been hyped into believing that this dot com revolution is causing a brain drain in other industries. Quite frankly, I don't buy it.

    One of the problems with NASA is it doesn't have a particular mandate. We don't have a race with the USSR anymore and NASA has lost focus. Mars, because of the cost involved, doesn't have the sexiness that putting a man on the moon did. I think NASA, and the US gov't need to devote more money to NASA. Hell, I think NASA needs to become more of a world organization. We need to get the whole world involved in this endeavour. I'd rather see money spent on NASA than the United Nations.
  • by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @11:51PM (#1164140) Homepage
    The contractors that ground the Hubble mirror knew the thing was flawed when they delivered it.

    Bullshit. Don't accuse someone of knowingly delivering a defective component if you can't back it up with evidence.

    Obviously the problem is that NASA and its contractors make mistakes. Well, we will just have to fire them all and replace them with magic robots who never make errors and will work unlimited hours for free.

    I work for a NASA contractor and have seen the effects of faster and cheaper up close. It's like Stalin's purges, every month more people disappear, never to be seen again. I haven't seen a new hire in years. My boss is retiring this week and his position will disappear with him. Time to print out another org chart.

  • You are mixing up the improvement of the lives of some people with improvement of the human race. Despite appearences, the two are only superficially related.

    Pumping money into food for starving people will not alleviate the problems that made them starve in the first place. As the saying goes, if you give a man a fish he'll eat for a day. But if you teach him to fish, he'll eat for life. Which leads to education. This is certainly a good goal, but again the solution is not what one would expect. Throwing money at a problem has never created a solution, not in the entire history of our race. Throwing money at education will not create better schools or better teachers. Perhaps they need more money, but this is not all they need. They also need wild and crazy reforms. Being a recent graduate from an American high school, I can say that the US school system is breaking at the seams, and it's not because it doesn't have enough cash lying around.

    Other countries may be different in this regard. Perhaps their systems are fairly decent, but just don't have sufficient money to run them. For the cost of one Mars Polar Lander each year, you could pay for roughly sixteen thousand teachers at ten thousand dollars a year. Not a lot in this country, but in the countries that need it most that salary is incredibly luxuriant.

    I think that scientists understand that the best thing they can do is to further the human race. However, they also understand that the greatest scientific discoveries in history were made by people not expecting to make the greatest scientific discoveries in history.
  • by Grant Elliott ( 132633 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @05:02PM (#1164142)
    It seems that when NASA ran missions that cost hundreds of times as much, the media griped about the high cost and our tax dollars and so on. When NASA cut costs drastically, a few missions fail. Now, the press is griping about the money down the drain and your tax dollars and so on. No win situation... So many people love to point out the problems that no one saw the counterpoint until it was tried out.

    I think NASA is basically saying that they are going back to the way things used to be. It was more expensive, but it was also more cost effective. I think NASA is less concerned with public opinion now, and more with science. It's for the better. I hope it lasts.
  • by Forager ( 144256 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @05:20PM (#1164143) Homepage
    Maybe they should stop wearing those ridiculous bow ties. (sorry, but it's true)


  • by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @11:12PM (#1164144) Homepage
    Most of those are not NASA missions. Except for the Space Shuttle, satellite launch services are purchased from private companies such as Boeing or Lockheed-Martin. NASA does not design or build the launch vehicle. Almost all of the Titan launches are done for the USAF, NRO and NSA., not NASA. NASA has enough to deal with without being blamed for other people's launch failures.
  • by crumley ( 12964 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @05:26PM (#1164145) Homepage Journal

    NASA has the complete reports [] on the Mars Polar lander incident and on recommendations for the Mars exploration program in general. They also have a press release [] (though the server seems to be down).

    The basic summary is that "better, faster, cheaper" can work, but some management and structural changes have to be made in order to ensure the success of the Mars program.

    \whine{Don't you hate it when you submit a story hours earlier, with better links, but it is rejected. }

  • by imac.usr ( 58845 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @04:59PM (#1164146) Homepage
    Oh well. To make up for it, here's my favorite line from the CNN story:

    There was a full-scale test of the suspect software before flight, but some sensors were incorrectly wired, Young said. After the wiring was corrected, the test was not repeated.

    Insert "D'oh!" here. (Or perhaps the sound of one hundred thousand people saying "whop.")

    Seriously, has NASA's budget and time window really shrunk so far that they can't afford to utilize basic tenets of software testing and design? If so, Congress really needs to rethink the constand slicing and dicing of NASA's fundage. I've seen projects that were released without adequate testing (which I later had to support...grrrr....), but the consequences there were an increase in work time and client frustration, not the loss of over $100 million of spacecraft.

    Remember: always mount a scratch monkey.

  • by yuriwho ( 103805 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @05:24PM (#1164147)
    Rather than scrapping the entire design (if NASA truly believes the leg deployment triggered a sensor that shut of the thrusters) why don't they revise the sensor design, retest the lander thoroughly and relaunch a new mission with the esisting design? How much would that cost. Does anyone know the percentage of total cost that goes into design/testing versus launch/deployment?

    We have to get to Mars before my arteries clog.

  • by Captn Pepe ( 139650 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @05:50PM (#1164148)
    Part of the problem here is that NASA, like most government agencies, gets its funding allocated very finely. While this is generally a good thing (we DO want congress to have control over government projects, after all), politics has caused a real mess in space science. Ever since the Republicans pushed through spending caps, nobody wants to be the one to blame for exceeding them, despite the massive government surplus.

    Now throw in the fact that the ISS has developed a huge political momentum, which means that its money is sacrosanct - ISS allocations actually increased last year - which meant that the chunk of money that was supposed to be skimmed from NASA's budget almost all came from the planetary and earth science budgets. Remember when there was going to be a rover on the Polar Lander? That's where it went. These projects were cut to the bone, leaving too few engineers working too much unpaid overtime to finish the lander.

    So to the people out there complaining that NASA just wants to return to the "good old days" of multi-billion dollar missions, think again. The press release [] put out by NASA even says that they're going to continue with the "better, faster, cheaper" philosophy, but "properly applied" this time. Essentially, all they really want is the breathing room to hire a few extra engineers, to retain the most experienced workers (think "institutional experience"), and do tests over when need be.

  • by HollowGraham ( 168793 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @05:30PM (#1164149)
    Yes, there have been failures in the space program, yes, there are failures in all areas of life. After recently viewing the latest batch of Hubble photos ( which by the way were first I have seen since all that hubble failure talk a few years ago) I was completely amazed and astounded. Pointing the camera at one of the tiniest patches of completely black sky in our heavens, at maximum zoom ( they call it the fringes of the universe) We see literally hundreds of galaxies. All different shapes colors and sizes. Our lives are short and for the most part pointless, with the magnificent splender of an entire ,seemingly endless universe ( If any of us can possibly imagine that) and the wonder of where we fit in amongst the heavens in our tiny aquarium like planet, we strive to find meaning and order amongst chaos. It is our last hope as humans to gleen some small fraction of the puzzle ( if one exists) in our lifetimes. The rest we leave to those that follow. Is there life out there? A joke more than a question. Of course there is, no doubt, look at the photos.
  • by Brento ( 26177 ) <brento AT brentozar DOT com> on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @04:55PM (#1164150) Homepage
    I love it how CNN says that the two spacecraft cost a combined $320 million. Let's put that into perspective with numbers from the sister site, CNNFN:

    Red Hat - market capitalization of $7,465 million
    VA Linux - market cap of $2,905 million
    Cobalt - market cap of $1,292 million

    I could go on and on. Why isn't Nasa seen as a tech company instead of just another gubbermint agency? Maybe if we privatized it and put it on the Nasdaq, it would get more respect from the press - and some better mission success rates.
  • by E_Let ( 95623 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @05:16PM (#1164151) Homepage
    I don't think it would be a good idea to privatize NASA. There are some advantages as (you noted and as noted before); better funding, better salaries to entice better workers...

    The disadvantages to a private NASA are few but are very important. I would think that this private agency would be one motivated by profit and less by pursuit of knowledge. This would probably affect certain decisions made by project managers. While NASA does work under tight budget constraints, its goal in conducting exploration missions is the collection of data for public distribution. I can forsee a private company claiming ownership of, lets say...rock samples collected by a lander.

    If NASA was privatized but still retained some government control, I think it would be better off. I think the government still should regulate who has rights to building massive rockets carrying tons of highly explosive materials. The government should also claim public ownership of any scientific discoveries made by these exploration missions. Heck, I'd hate to finally make it to the red planet someday just to see flags with the microsoft logo on them planted in the dust.

    To say all government is evil and detrimental is silly
  • by TheSimon ( 151561 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @05:32PM (#1164152) Homepage
    It's probably been implied many times already, but one of the reasons NASA projects continue to fail is that they are going with the budget mission idea where they can send lots of small/cheap/disposable missions instead of the expensive but more calculated(read: successfull missions)

    Here's some stats on some of the recent NASA missions:

    August 12, 1998: A Titan IVA rocket loses control because testing failed to catch frayed wires in the power supply.

    August 27, 1998: Delta III Rocket loses control due to flaw in control system.

    October 24, 1998: Successfull launch of Deep Space 1.

    December 5, 1998: Submillimeter Wave Astronomy satellite successfully launched on a Pegasus-XL.

    March 4, 1999: Wide-Field Infrared explorer loses coolant first day in orbit.

    April 9, 1999: Titan IVB fails because of improperly placed electrical tape...

    April 27, 1999: Payload shroud on Athena II fails to release. Ikonos satellite lost.

    April 30, 1999: Titan IVB fails to reach proper orbit because of incorrect manual data entry.

    The list goes on, this is from Popular Science (April 2000). I left some out because of lack of time but I woudl suggest reading the article.
  • by sparky vunderblunt ( 168732 ) on Tuesday March 28, 2000 @05:43PM (#1164153)
    I mean, they did hit the planet.

"You can have my Unix system when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." -- Cal Keegan