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Data Storage Hardware Hacking NASA Space Build Technology

Data Recovered From Space Shuttle Columbia HDD 274

WmHBlair writes "Data recovered from a 400MB Seagate hard drive carried on the Space Shuttle Columbia has been used to complete a physics experiment performed on the mission in space. The Johnson Space Center sent the recovered drive to Kroll Ontrack in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Considering the shape the drive was in (see picture in the linked article), it could indeed qualify for the 'most amazing disk data recovery ever.'" Update: 05/08 12:51 GMT by T : Reader lucas123 points out a piece at Computerworld with a series of photos of the recovered drive.
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Data Recovered From Space Shuttle Columbia HDD

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  • by Rearden82 ( 923468 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:32PM (#23328456)
    I'm amazed that it's still in one piece and recognizable.

    I've always been skeptical when a hard drive's specs mention being able to handle 300 g's. Looks like they aren't kidding.
  • by Thornburg ( 264444 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:34PM (#23328486)
    If this experiment was on Columbia, why is the image called "Challenger_drive.jpg"?

    Challenger was many years earlier...
  • by joeytmann ( 664434 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:41PM (#23328580)
    Ontrack has been doing this type of recovery for years. A couple of times I have asked for quotes, just to even look at the drive was like $1,000US. Can't remember how much it was per MB to retrieve the data. I know they have recovered data for machines lost in hurricane andrew, servers sitting in water for months. They were in Kuwait after the 91 gulf war recovering systems there. I think the only way to not have Ontrack recover a drive is to literally melt the platters.
  • How hard did it hit? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Darth_brooks ( 180756 ) <clipper377@ g m> on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @04:12PM (#23329022) Homepage
    I need a physics geek. Assume a 1kg weight, and assuming it was just "dropped" from 100,000 feet (that was roughly the altitude Columbia was at when things went sour), how fast would it have been going when it hit the ground? Obviously, this drive must have come down inside a much larger chunk of debris based on the shape it was in. I'm just wondering about how many G's it really took on impact.

    My assumption is that the drive probably wasn't going all that fast (in comparison to the 13,000 mph it was moving at on initial re-entry) when it hit.

    Of course, I wouldn't want to be standing under it when it hit the ground...
  • by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @04:13PM (#23329038) Homepage Journal
    At least the astronauts didn't die in vain. I mean, they didn't anyways since they all know there are risks, but recovering useful data from the drive adds maybe a tad more meaning to the loss.
  • Re:Yup... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rthille ( 8526 ) <web-slashdot.rangat@org> on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:03PM (#23329712) Homepage Journal

    I've got a friend/co-worker/gun-nut who never returns a drive with his data on it. Work gets laptops back, sans drives. He takes them out to the range with a high-powered rifle and puts rounds thru them.

    Me, I just use OS-X's write-random 7-times. But if blocks got remapped because of io-errors in the drive, that might be enough for the truely paranoid. If I were that, I'd use my oxy-acetylene torch and just melt the platters to slag, after pulling the magnets out to play with.
  • by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:05PM (#23329762) Journal
    The best way to protect a supposedly cleaned hard drive against someone later trying to read the data is this [] or this [].
  • One TOUGH DRIVE (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nonillion ( 266505 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:21PM (#23329990)
    Did anyone else notice that the drive got so hot that the head controller IC was completely de-soldered. Just goes to show that if you want a hard drive destroyed you should have it shredded. []
  • Re:Yup... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by citylivin ( 1250770 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:57PM (#23330490)

    "My home computer has full disk encryption"
    Hopefully its not a windows machine, as I read last week that microsoft provides a FOB that decrypts automagically, windows partitions for law enforcement purposes.

  • by JoshRosenbaum ( 841551 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @06:18PM (#23330730) Homepage

    I think the only way to not have Ontrack recover a drive is to literally melt the platters.
    I think this is false. I sent a hard drive to them and they sent it back (and made me $100 poorer) and told me they couldn't recover anything.

    The story of the drive: I had my computer (tower) at a party in college and one of the sides was off. I also had one of my storage (not boot) hard drives (which contained various art, pictures, and other valuable stuff to me) laying on the bottom of the 'puter. A buddy came flying out of a door, hit my hand which contained my beer and the beer went flying into the case and all over my hard drive. Needless to say I was pretty well "gone" at that point and toweled the inside/drive off, but left it running. At that point my computer was the party machine pumping loud music and it couldn't be stopped. :P Anyhow, let's skip to the next morning where I go and power down the computer and check out the drive. Well the chips on the controller card were fried. (Physically melted.) :(

    So the moral of the story is that if you want to make your data unrecoverable, have a party. Space shuttle explosions will not do the trick. Oh, and backups are good. :) And probably about 20 other morals too. :P

    Needless to say, I sort of hope that one day I will find a company that can recover the data, because if they can recover a hard drive from a space shuttle explosion, you'd think a little beer would be nothing. :P
  • by wjsteele ( 255130 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @07:11PM (#23331314)
    Actually, the Challenger didn't blow up. The external tank collapsed due to the solid rocket motor burning through the external hydrogen tank. As the hydrogen tank collapsed, the mass of the shuttle was greatly reduced, which caused an acceleration of the entire vehicle assembly. That acceleration drove the remaining portion of the hydrogen tank into the oxygen tank causing it to also collapse. As the same time, the srb burned through it's rear attach point to the external tank, causing it to loose lateral stability. That instability allowed it to rotate (out of sync with the rest of the shuttle stack) which further weakened the external tank structure.

    As the external tank collapsed and the srb rotated, it rotated the shuttle so that it was no longer aligned with it's nose pointed towards the direction of travel. The aerodynamic forces became so extreme, that it overwhelmed the shuttle's structure.

    The shuttle was literally torn apart due to the aerodynamic forces. The explosion actually occurred after the collapse and breakup as the escaping oxygen and hydrogen ignited.


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