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NASA Bug Mars Space

Software Error Likely Killed MGS Spacecraft 199

Aglassis writes "NASA investigators have determined that a software update performed in June of 2006 may have doomed the 10-year-old spacecraft. Apparently the software error caused the solar arrays to drive against a mechanical stop which then forced the spacecraft into safe mode. Unfortunately, after that the spacecraft's radiator was pointed at the sun which overheated the battery and destroyed it. Contact was lost with the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft in November 2006. NASA will form an internal review board to determine formally the cause of the loss of the spacecraft and what remedial actions are needed for future missions."
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Software Error Likely Killed MGS Spacecraft

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  • by quadelirus ( 694946 ) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @11:37AM (#17556852)
    One crash in ten years? Why don't the NASA guys write consumer operating systems?
  • Re:Battery (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11, 2007 @11:51AM (#17557030)

    The worst part of it all was that Sony stopped using their own batteries because they knew they were defective. Boycott Sony.
  • by zyl0x ( 987342 ) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @11:54AM (#17557072)
    Be careful not to place too much of the blame on us programmers. Most of these crazy "business logic" equations were created by some math genius in another department. Since most of these equations mean nothing to programmers, we make sure we're typing them in correctly, since there's no way we would ever recognize any type of mistake. Most of the time the problem lies with the math guy, who was too lazy to carry a remainder, or who thought the equation was good enough being precise to four decimal places.
  • by jespley ( 1006115 ) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @03:07PM (#17560574)
    I'm a scientist that works with the MGS data so I don't know the engineering side well. However, I do know that last year NASA was strongly considering dropping all support for MGS in order to spend the limited Mars program money on newer missions (the idea being that we had gotten 90% of the useful science from MGS). Instead they decided to keep MGS funded with a bare minimum of money and hence a bare minimum number of personnel. I imagine that the poor overworked engineers running the operational show at JPL just didn't have the time to doublecheck everything as they would in an ideal world. As their end user, I'm just grateful for all the work they did over the years to keep the thing running.

The moon may be smaller than Earth, but it's further away.