Saturday, April 14, 2007

One mistake in Space and it's all over.

Space travel has always been on interest to me. I've never been one for looking through a telescope and looking for things or at the moon and so on. But I'm quite happy to lie down gazing at the stars at night. (Not the show, if it's still on)

So I read lots of things about our Space exploration and get pleased when the US mars mission lasted for many times longer than it should and disappointed when we have a failure like the Beagle or this.

Seem that one of our successful missions became uncontrollable when control made a mistake. The story here is a bit contradictory. It says changes to the computer memory made five months ago and then says that a change to the solar panels position inadvertently subjected a battery to direct sunlight. I suspect that it is an error by the code writer and the code that should have detected the danger was faulty, not the memory, and the change therefore went ahead and the heat damaged the battery.

Makes you wonder if we are ready to send men to Mars but there will still be more volunteers than could possibly go. Mistakes are made but as we progress we get better. the list of successful missions grows. Only a paltry £77M was lost anyway and it wasn't a total right off we did get data while it was working OK and to put it in perspective we waste more than that our our MPs junkets to oppressive regimes to pick up tips.


At 2:00 pm, Blogger james higham said...

Funny you should write this as I've jsut been telling Johnathan at Samizdata, about the TGV - one mistake and it's lampshade time.

At 1:16 am, Blogger Bag said...

Problems with trains and the like tend to be cascade failures nowadays. Or a delibrate act designed to bypass safety features.

However the difference here is that when something unexpected happens you can't just fix it because you can't touch it and all you have is what has been set up previously. A wire falls off when in Mars orbit or it gets hit with a microscopic bit of dust travelling at 18K.

In saying that as things get fster the more spectacular the result of errors.


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