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Data Recovered From Space Shuttle Columbia HDD

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the gary-sinise-was-not-involved dept.

Data Storage 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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First post (-1, Offtopic)

Aliencow (653119) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328204)

First post recovered !

Re:First post (4, Funny)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328462)

You call THIS "recovered"??? More like "Houston,we have a problem ..."

Error Executing Database Query.
Data source rejected establishment of connection, message from server: "Too many connections"

The error occurred in /home/httpd/customtags/parameters.cfm: line 22
20 :
21 :
22 :
23 : SELECT tag, value FROM parameters
24 :

SQL SELECT tag, value FROM parameters
DATASOURCE blocksandfiles
VENDORERRORCODE 1040
SQLSTATE 08004

Resources:
Check the ColdFusion documentation to verify that you are using the correct syntax.
Search the Knowledge Base to find a solution to your problem.

Browser Opera/9.23 (X11; Linux i686; U; en)
Remote Address 70.49.63.152
Referrer http://blocksandfiles.com/article/5056 [blocksandfiles.com]
Date/Time 07-May-08 07:30 PM

Stack Trace
at cfparameters2ecfm1715857017.runPage(/home/httpd/customtags/parameters.cfm:22) at cfApplication2ecfm1592932022.runPage(/home/httpd/vhosts/blocksandfiles.co.uk/sitedocs/Application.cfm:17)

com.mysql.jdbc.exceptions.MySQLNonTransientConnectionException: Data source rejected establishment of connection, message from server: "Too many connections"
        at com.mysql.jdbc.SQLError.createSQLException(SQLError.java:921)
        at com.mysql.jdbc.MysqlIO.doHandshake(MysqlIO.java:1055)
        at com.mysql.jdbc.Connection.createNewIO(Connection.java:2749)
        at com.mysql.jdbc.Connection.(Connection.java:1553)
        at com.mysql.jdbc.NonRegisteringDriver.connect(NonRegisteringDriver.java:285)
        at coldfusion.server.j2ee.sql.pool.JDBCPool.createPhysicalConnection(JDBCPool.java:562)
        at coldfusion.server.j2ee.sql.pool.ConnectionRunner$RunnableConnection.run(ConnectionRunner.java:67)
        at java.lang.Thread.run(Thread.java:619)

Re:First post (1, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328910)

WTF? ColdFusion and Java? To serve a single static page?

And is it just me, or is that a SELECT statement without a WHERE clause?

Yup... (4, Insightful)

Raineer (1002750) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328218)

Data recovery has come a long way, keep this in mind when not using proper deletion techniques! Would have been nice to see a picture of the HDD though, to get a full understanding of the recovery.

Re:Yup... (2)

DanWS6 (1248650) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328290)

What are proper deletion techniques?

Re:Yup... (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328432)

Well, seeing as how this thing was burnt to a crisp in the photos (before the /.ing), i'm not sure thermite would really help... perhaps dropping in a box filled with white phosphorous into the bottom of the abyss?

btw -- this story is linked to the one about week ago about the sheer thinning of Xenon. This drive had the data for that experiment.

Re:Yup... (1)

Raineer (1002750) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328550)

Well, seeing as how this thing was burnt to a crisp in the photos
I saw the site before the slashdotting set in, there were no pictures of the HDD, just the ship itself. There is not really proof positive that the drive was burnt to a crisp.

Re:Yup... (5, Informative)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328822)

http://www.blocksandfiles.co.uk/contentimages/small/Challenger_drive.jpg

that photo is clearly linked to the article above -- which also doesn't even seem to actually be slashdotted... totally a fritter.

Re:Yup... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 6 years ago | (#23329018)

I thought we were discussing a drive from the Columbia re entry failure, not the Challenger explosion. The picture is just some toasted HD. Not clear at all where it came from.

Re:Yup... (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 6 years ago | (#23329044)

Well, its the one they are showing on the website with the article. That's the best I can do.

Re:Yup... (5, Informative)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328488)

There are a number of standards for secure deletion of magnetic media, but basically writing over it a few times with a random pattern should be sufficient. A lot of people claim that the Gutmann method is superior but that was based on an older encoding scheme that presupposed you knew about the physical layout of the data -- modern drives are permitted to shuffle your data however they want (e.g. sectors can be mapped arbitrarily to the physical platters). Gutmann himself no longer recommend his eponymous method:

In the time since this paper was published, some people have treated the 35-pass overwrite technique described in it more as a kind of voodoo incantation to banish evil spirits than the result of a technical analysis of drive encoding techniques. As a result, they advocate applying the voodoo to PRML and EPRML drives even though it will have no more effect than a simple scrubbing with random data. In fact performing the full 35-pass overwrite is pointless for any drive since it targets a blend of scenarios involving all types of (normally-used) encoding technology, which covers everything back to 30+-year-old MFM methods (if you don't understand that statement, re-read the paper). If you're using a drive which uses encoding technology X, you only need to perform the passes specific to X, and you never need to perform all 35 passes. For any modern PRML/EPRML drive, a few passes of random scrubbing is the best you can do. As the paper says, "A good scrubbing with random data will do about as well as can be expected". This was true in 1996, and is still true now.
Source: http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/secure_del.html [auckland.ac.nz] , emphasis added.

A good general explanation is given by the RCMP (what the hell mounties have to do with computers, like most of Canadian society, is entirely beyond me) http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/tsb/pubs/it_sec/g2-003_e.pdf [rcmp-grc.gc.ca]

If you have the practical need to nuke a drive, used DBAN: http://dban.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

Re:Yup... (4, Funny)

jlindy (1028748) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328540)

What are proper deletion techniques?
7 pass DoD... 35 pass Gutmann for the truly paranoid.

Re:Yup... (1)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328380)

I think this is a valid question. I'm looking to trade in a computer (and keep the HDD inside) to increase the resale value. There seems to be conflicting information and the 40 over-write techniques, depending on the drive, algorithm etc. might not erase all the information. This seems to be, in part, because even when erased the head might not overwrite the same spot the data was on.

That said, I usually chuck out HDDs after I give it some serious abuse and a couple of wipes using some software. I'm not confident its erased though.

Re:Yup... (1)

Devout_IPUite (1284636) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328642)

If you do a reasonable scrubbing of the drive with random data, the FBI can still tell what was on it before. The person who buys your computer will likely not have the same forensics teams at their disposal that the FBI does though, so to a common individual, that data is gone.

Re:Yup... (3, Insightful)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328722)

This is not actually true. Any ability to read data once the entire disk has been overwritten with random data a single time is purely theoretical -- no forensics or law enforcement group can succeed in practice.

Re:Yup... (2, Insightful)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 6 years ago | (#23329122)

[citation please]

Re:Yup... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23329146)

This is not actually true. Any ability to read data once the entire disk has been overwritten with random data a single time is purely theoretical -- no forensics or law enforcement group can succeed in practice.
Do you have anything to back that up?

Specifically: Any ability to read data once the entire disk has been overwritten with random data a single time is purely theoretical. Oh yeah? What theory? ... no forensics or law enforcement group can succeed in practice. Again, source?

Why was this modded Interesting otherwise?

Re:Yup... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23329132)

If you overwrite your old data with all-zeroes or ones or even maybe a repeating pattern, the FBI just might be able to recover it.

If you overwrite it with random data, it's purely theoretical. No one has even demonstrated it in a lab.

Re:Yup... (1)

Devout_IPUite (1284636) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328394)

Actually, once you finally see the picture you might say "Actually, that doesn't look too bad". I mean, the drive is still in one piece, straight, and devoid of any knife wounds. I'm sure you could make it look worse and still have it recoverable by the FBI.

Re:Yup... (5, Informative)

VMaN (164134) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328430)

Here is a picture for you:

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=hard-drive-recovered-from-columbia&sc=rss [sciam.com]

I'm pretty sure it's the one from the shuttle..

Re:Yup... (5, Informative)

Raineer (1002750) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328564)

Here is a picture for you: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=hard-drive-recovered-from-columbia&sc=rss [sciam.com] I'm pretty sure it's the one from the shuttle..
Thanks! And from that image it does not appear anything happened to the platters.

Re:Yup... (5, Funny)

dAzED1 (33635) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328704)

nothing happened to the platters...with the exception of the violent crash (head-to-platter damage) and, more importantly, the extreme heat.

Short of that though, yeah - platters were just peachy.

Re:Yup... (1)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328570)

Yes, that first picture is the one from the article, and it actually answers a question I posed in my earlier post because the second picture is of the platters. The platters, other than some dust, look remarkably intact. Given the overall good condition of the platters, it's not that impressive that they could recover the majority of the data, although the fact that they got 99% of it (from your link) is pretty cool.

What about the temperature of re-entry? (5, Insightful)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328736)

I'd say that's the part that makes this impressive. Re-entry is known to be pretty darn warm. And heat will scatter magnetic domains. Heat up a magnet - it's not a magnet anymore.

Either this HD was in the center of a ball of stuff and didn't get very hot, or Seagate has some seriously awesome engineering going on.

Re:Yup... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23328584)

And the 2nd picture on the site (click "next") shows the platters. A bit dusty, but largely intact. So probably not the most spectacular recovery effort ever.

Re:Yup... (5, Informative)

onescomplement (998675) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328826)

I've used OnTrack numerous times and they really know their stuff. I know there are other recovery services out there but these folks have earned my business.

Basically, you pay a bench fee to get the drive examined, and then they send you the costs for recovery - for a desktop HD $500-$1500 depending on the problem. The cool part is that they send you a manifest of the recoverable files/directories so you can make an informed decision.

And they _can_ perform miracles. Including dealing with bent platters. Just depends on what you want to pay.

I must say it's been a great instructional tool for people who've neglected backups. They become wild operational militants after these episodes.

Just remember that the ONLY way to ensure data cannot be recovered on a HD is to raise the drive temp past the Curie Point for the magnetics. (A charcoal BBQ works really well for this. Just pull the electronics and wrap the drive in heavy foil unless you like the smell of roasted phenolic.)

Even if you "format" a drive it means that the waveforms coming off the heads can be interpreted as a certain, predictable value - but also remember that at root, it's an analog system and so artifacts from the prior contents are around, it's just a question of finding and interpreting them... That's why the DoD and other "erase" things are so comprehensive. Trying to obliterate all artifacts.

Fastest /. effect ever ! (1)

UberHoser (868520) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328226)

Seriously. We are talking less than a min here.

Re:Fastest /. effect ever ! (2, Insightful)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328258)

Seriously. We are talking less than a min here.

At least the pic of the server [blocksandfiles.co.uk] is still intermittently retrievable!

Re:Fastest /. effect ever ! (2, Informative)

gatzke (2977) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328294)

Opened it in about 30 tabs and a few loaded...

Most amazing disk data recovery ever

It was one of the most iconic and heart-stopping movie images of 2003: the Columbia Space Shuttle ignited, burning and crashing to earth in fragments.

Now, amazingly, data from a hard drive recovered from the fragments has been used to complete a physics experiment - CXV-2 - that took place on the doomed Shuttle mission.

Columbia's fragments were painstakingly and exhaustively collected. Amongst them was a 400MB Seagate hard drive which was in the sort of shape you think it would be in after being in an explosive fire and then hurled to earth from several miles up with a ferocious impact.

The Johnson Space Centre workers analysing the shuttle crash sent it off the CVX-2 (Critical Viscosity of Xenon) experiment engineers, who sent it on to Kroll Ontrack in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to see if the data, any data, could be recovered. For researcher Robert Berg and his team it was the only hope, a terribly slim hope, of salvaging significant data from the experiment looking at Xenon gas flows in microgravity.

The Kroll people managed to recover 90 percent or so of the 400MB of data from the drive with its cracked and burned casing. Now, a few years on, Berg and his team have analysed the data and reported the experiment and its results in the April edition of the Physical Review E journal. These showed that, rather liked whipped cream which changes from a fluid to a near-solid after being whipped or stirred vigorously, the gas Xenon change its viscosity from gas to liquid when similarly treated in very low gravity. The phenomenon of a sudden change in viscosity is called shear thinning.

It was a highly complex experiment needing prologed and detailed analysis of the data on the hard drive to discover the shear thinning effect. But it, like the drive, was eventually found. So ends a twenty-year research project and in doing so helps bring to a finish the dreadful story of the Columbia Space Shuttle mission.

Re:Fastest /. effect ever ! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23328354)

Great, so it was you that finished off the server. gatzke effect. Not really got the same ring to it.

Re:Fastest /. effect ever ! (3, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328418)

http://i29.tinypic.com/6h2vll.jpg [tinypic.com]

Data recovered from Seagate drive in Columbia shuttle disaster

posted on 06 May 2008 20:05
Most amazing disk data recovery ever

It was one of the most iconic and heart-stopping movie images of 2003: the Columbia Space Shuttle ignited, burning and crashing to earth in fragments.

Now, amazingly, data from a hard drive recovered from the fragments has been used to complete a physics experiment - CXV-2 - that took place on the doomed Shuttle mission.

Columbia's fragments were painstakingly and exhaustively collected. Amongst them was a 400MB Seagate hard drive which was in the sort of shape you think it would be in after being in an explosive fire and then hurled to earth from several miles up with a ferocious impact.

The Johnson Space Centre workers analysing the shuttle crash sent it off the CVX-2 (Critical Viscosity of Xenon) experiment engineers, who sent it on to Kroll Ontrack in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to see if the data, any data, could be recovered. For researcher Robert Berg and his team it was the only hope, a terribly slim hope, of salvaging significant data from the experiment looking at Xenon gas flows in microgravity.

The Kroll people managed to recover 90 percent or so of the 400MB of data from the drive with its cracked and burned casing. Now, a few years on, Berg and his team have analysed the data and reported the experiment and its results in the April edition of the Physical Review E journal. These showed that, rather liked whipped cream which changes from a fluid to a near-solid after being whipped or stirred vigorously, the gas Xenon change its viscosity from gas to liquid when similarly treated in very low gravity. The phenomenon of a sudden change in viscosity is called shear thinning.

It was a highly complex experiment needing prologed and detailed analysis of the data on the hard drive to discover the shear thinning effect. But it, like the drive, was eventually found. So ends a twenty-year research project and in doing so helps bring to a finish the dreadful story of the Columbia Space Shuttle mission.

[Chris Mellor, editor.]

Re:Fastest /. effect ever ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23328636)

This was a good day to have mod points.

If you're going to rate a post as "Redundant", please be courteous enough to check the time stamps first. The parent post was modded redundant because there is a higher post with the same information. But the posts were only 6 minutes apart.

If a post is redundant to another post that is an hour old, then yes, the later poster deserves to be modded down for not RTFF. But if multiple people post the same information within 10 minutes, that can't be avoided, and you shouldn't punish their reputation when they're trying to be helpful.

Modded +1 underrated, just to keep the guy's karma in tact.

Re:Fastest /. effect ever ! (1)

cadeon (977561) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328946)

Is that the right picture? The name of the file is "Challenger_drive.jpg" - but we're supposedly talking about a drive from Columbia-

Also that drive looks like awfully old technology- I know that doesn't mean much in government, but it looks like a drive that would come from Challenger... The corrosion looks like seawater corrosion, too, which would also indicate Challenger.

:( sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23329036)

Kinda sad that we've had enough spectacular shuttle failures to get them confused.

Zero Comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23328236)

Zero Comments and it's already throwing 500 errors. Jeeze.

I've had some drives crash on me, but.. (4, Funny)

catdevnull (531283) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328238)

I will probably never use the term "crash" to describe a hard drive failure again.

I'll bet Ontrack made a fortune off of this recovery, too.

Re:I've had some drives crash on me, but.. (5, Insightful)

theodicey (662941) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328454)

Actually, they probably did it for next to nothing, anticipating all the free press coverage they would get. This very "press hit" on slashdot is a good example of what they were aiming at. (Although in this specific case, they deserve the good press they're getting.)

Re:I've had some drives crash on me, but.. (5, Interesting)

joeytmann (664434) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:I've had some drives crash on me, but.. (5, Insightful)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328602)

"Actually, they probably did it for next to nothing, anticipating all the free press coverage they would get. "

Don't count on it. First off, they probably didn't even know if they could recover the data. Second, they would have no way of knowing for sure that NASA would release the information about them providing the data recovery services. Third, they very likely wouldn't have known whether or not the data (if recovered) would be used for anything in the future. Fourth, there are very strict rules about government agencies doing business where they don't pay for services, especially with potentially classified data on the drives.

I would bet very strongly that they got well paid for this recovery.

Re:I've had some drives crash on me, but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23329004)

...
Fifth, Profit!!!

Re:I've had some drives crash on me, but.. (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328678)

My mind saw a Spoonerism within about 1/2 second of reading the data recovery company's name:

"Troll on Crack"... ... damn Spooner, and my penchant for seeing Spoonerisms so quickly...

Good thing, too! (5, Funny)

greyspectre (1114091) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328242)

Their server is shooting flames as I type this, but they have the technology to recover their site!

I just hope (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328254)

that blocksandfiles.com's server can be recover their files after this /. article. :P

Mounting Brackets (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328256)

Those are some serious mounting brackets holding that drive in place. Quarter inch bolts? That's ridiculous.

Re:Mounting Brackets (5, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328342)

I think when you're intending to launch something into space using a couple of giant rockets, you might be concerned about vibration shaking normal bolts loose.

As for the condition of the drive, it's hard to say. The exterior was obviously fried, but it was still basically drive-shaped, and from the picture it's impossible to say how damaged the platters were. If the outside was messed up but the platters were still intact, I would think recovery would be fairly simple. Would have been nice to include a picture of the interior of the drive, or maybe even multiple pictures as they took it apart.

Re:Mounting Brackets (1)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328616)

There's three pictures in total. One of them was of the inside of the drive and it didn't look scorched at all - there was some kind of metallic spray pattern on the inside but other than that the platters were still shiny and the ribbon cables undamaged.

It's more remarkable that the drive survived so well than it was to recover data off of it. New marketing gimmick for Seagate?
=Smidge=

Re:Mounting Brackets (1)

dAzED1 (33635) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328846)

did you...look at the same picture?

(looks at it again)

umm...ok, I have a healthy platter on my desk. The shuttle platter varies in colors - half the platter is black. None of it is shiny. Metallic spray? Looks more like ashes to me; probably from the little black sheet that often rests under the cover and acts as a gasket.

Re:Mounting Brackets (1)

Ford Prefect (8777) | more than 6 years ago | (#23329080)

umm...ok, I have a healthy platter on my desk.

For the record, this [hylobatidae.org] is what a healthy [hylobatidae.org] platter [hylobatidae.org] looks like.

Re:Mounting Brackets (1)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23329028)

There's three pictures in total. One of them was of the inside of the drive and it didn't look scorched at all - there was some kind of metallic spray pattern on the inside but other than that the platters were still shiny and the ribbon cables undamaged.

What's interesting about that pic [sciam.com] is the upside-down surface-mount chip sitting on the orange ribbon cable, and the matching (empty) solder pads underneath it.

I was about to speculate that the heat of re-entry melted the solder, but there's at least one are other surface-mount component immediately adjacent to the chip, and it's still attached to the same ribbon cable. (On the other hand, that small discrete part, likely a resistor or capacitor, would be more likely to adhere to the ribbon cable due to surface tension of the solder, which might not be the case for the heavier chip.)

On the gripping hand, maybe the photograph was taken immediately after the chip was desoldered using hot-air equipment. (Since it's upside-down and I don't have any pictures of hard drive internals handy, I'm not sure what the chip is, nor if there'd be any value in removing it. A flash device might hold useful data such as bad block maps and/or SMART-related drive operating parameters, etc...)

Re:Mounting Brackets (1)

MarcQuadra (129430) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328904)

They mention that it's mounted to a cold-plate. My guess is that without airflow (these experiments are in sealed canisters, not sure if there's normal air, nitrogen, dry air, or some other medium in there), there's not much opportunity for cooling. The thick bolts and metal might be to conduct as much heat away from the drive as possible.

It might not just be for the drive's sake, it's possible that this experiment was temperature sensitive as well.

I wonder if... (1)

Transplant (535283) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328266)

I wonder if Kroll Ontrack will be used to recover the hard drive from the web server that obviously just melted from the /. effect? Seems like a great way to drum up business!

Text of article (at least what I got) (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23328268)

Data Recovered from Seagate Drive in Columbia Shuttle Disaster Most amazing disk data recovery ever Block and Files, May 6, 2008 http://blocksandfiles.com/article/5056 [blocksandfiles.com] It was one of the most iconic and heart-stopping movie images of 2003: the Columbia Space Shuttle ignited, burning and crashing to earth in fragments. Now, amazingly, data from a hard drive recovered from the fragments has been used to complete a physics experiment - CXV-2 - that took place on the doomed Shuttle mission. Columbia's fragments were painstakingly and exhaustively collected. Amongst them was a 400MB Seagate hard drive which was in the sort of shape you think it would be in after being in an explosive fire and then hurled to earth from several miles up with a ferocious impact. The Johnson Space Centre workers analysing the shuttle crash sent it off the CVX-2 (Critical Viscosity of Xenon) experiment engineers, who sent it on to Kroll Ontrack in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to see if the data, any data, could be recovered. For researcher Robert Berg and his team it was the only hope, a terribly slim hope, of salvaging significant data from the experiment looking at Xenon gas flows in microgravity. The Kroll people managed to recover 90 percent or so of the 400MB of data from the drive with its cracked and burned casing. Now, a few years on, Berg and his team have analysed the data and reported the experiment and its results in the April edition of the Physical Review E journal. These showed that, rather liked whipped cream which changes from a fluid to a near-solid after being whipped or stirred vigorously, the gas Xenon change its viscosity from gas to liquid when similarly treated in very low gravity. The phenomenon of a sudden change in viscosity is called shear thinning. It was a highly complex experiment needing prologed and detailed analysis of the data on the hard drive to discover the shear thinning effect. But it, like the drive, was eventually found. So ends a twenty-year research project and in doing so helps bring to a finish the dreadful story of the Columbia Space Shuttle mission.

Amazing data recovery! (5, Funny)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328318)

Wow! They recovered 400MB of data when all they had to work with was "500 Internal Server Error"?! Unbelievable!!!

Re:Amazing data recovery! (1)

Kenoli (934612) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328356)

They apparently had some piles of ash to work with too.

Preparing for slashdot effect (5, Funny)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328332)

So someone put together a story on spectacular hard disk failure, space shuttle, physic experiments and heroic success, and decided to host this on anything less than an industrial-strength web server? The only thing that could have made for a quicker or larger slashdotting would be if somehow it also involved big guns and Natalie Portman (with hot grits, petrified).

Seriously people. Show some foresight here. At least the editors should have shown some mercy.

Soooo.... anyone got a coral cache of it?

another link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23328346)


Here's another source
http://www.engadget.com/2008/05/06/hard-drive-recovered-from-shuttle-columbia-used-to-complete-expe/

More Links (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23328364)

Alternate feeds for the story:

http://news.softpedia.com/news/400-MB-Seagate-Drive-Survives-the-Columbia-Space-Shuttle-Disaster-84826.shtml
http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/194388/space-shuttle-hard-disk-survived-crash.html

Most amazing data recovery ever? (1)

mykepredko (40154) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328366)

I don't know if this would qualify for that simply because the article doesn't show what the platter(s) looked like after the accident. I'm sure the drive was under tremendous stresses, but I would be surprised if they significantly exceeded that of an aircraft accident followed by fire (and I know disks are recovered in these circumstances).

I'm not saying this to put down the skills of the data recovery team, just to say without seeing the condition of the platters with, ideally, pictures showing typical disks that come in for recovery that I wouldn't think that this would be an extreme case.

myke

workaround to get into this website to view it (4, Informative)

PhreakOfTime (588141) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328382)

Almost looks like the site is denying visits when the referer is slashdot.org. With the below method, I was able to read the full article with no problems.

To get in, simply copy the link in the story into a new browser window and hit enter to come into the site with no referers.

Hope this helps

Way to go guys (and gals) (4, Funny)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328420)

Now look what you've done [earthlink.net] . Wasn't it bad enough the shuttle burned up? Now you've gone and burned up the server trying to show us pictures of the mangled hard drive from the burned up shuttle.

Impressive... (1)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328426)

Link to TFA is a 404, and clicking the homepage link returns a 500, and there were only three posts when I clicked on the article.

Not worried about data recovery though; I make a point of using shred with -n 50 on the rare occassion that I would care if someone stole my hard drive. Other than that, most of my internet logins are stored in an encrypted kde wallet and that's good enough for me. I don't see anything on my computer as warranting an Ironkey that doesn't leave my person...

RAID (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23328434)

Perhaps in the future important space experiments should use RAID-1 or better? Would've gotten near all the data then.

Damn, that is one tough drive! (3, Interesting)

Rearden82 (923468) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

only 400mb? (3, Insightful)

name*censored* (884880) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328458)

Am I the only one who thinks that it's a little odd that they used a moving parts hard disk drive for such a paltry amount of data? (If it was solid state then it'd be a power of 2, not a round number). Surely even 2003stonauts could have managed to put together more than 400MBs in solid state, thus saving power, size and reliability?

Re:only 400mb? (2, Insightful)

thermian (1267986) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328702)

The experiment, and all the hardware, would have had to be tested and verified as viable for use in the experiment. That would have taken at least a year, if not longer.

I would say it was likely the experiments exact hardware requirements were set in stone a year or two before launch. Flash drives are plentiful and reliable now, but may not have been deemed reliable enough at the time.

When it comes to space, tried and tested older equipment is better. Just ask the Russians.

Re:only 400mb? (2, Informative)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328716)

For precisely the reliability issue you bring up - most anything on the shuttle has to go through > 8 years of reliability testing - before it can go up. sooo... 2003-8 = 1995. They probably could have gone with something better than 400MB's - but in 1995 did you have 1/2 gig flash storage devices? Hell in 1995 did you have 1/2 a gig of anything?

Re:only 400mb? (1)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 6 years ago | (#23329108)

In addition, all space hardware usually needs to be radiation hardened. And while flash drives have shown to be astonishingly insensitive to mechanical damage, I have no idea who sensitive they are to radiation damage.

Re:only 400mb? (1)

Kyont (145761) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328768)

My thoughts exactly. I have a thumb drive from about 2003 that holds over 100 MB, and it was a corporate freebie! It is something north of $25,000US per kilogram to send cargo up in the shuttle. Seems like they could have used solid state storage and paid for it many times over in weight savings alone. But, I like happy endings.

Re:only 400mb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23328788)

NASA was buying 8086 processors off eBay in 2002 according to this article:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A0CE2DF1739F931A25756C0A9649C8B63

The Mars rovers are using flash drives AFAIK though.

Re:only 400mb? (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328860)

Why spend extra money on SSD when a mechanical drive will work?

Also, would they have been able to recover the data if they have used an SSD?

Re:only 400mb? (2, Insightful)

dAzED1 (33635) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328880)

it takes years before tech is put into the shuttle. The collection of tech was at one point very advanced, but the components themselves are tested for years.

Re:only 400mb? (2, Informative)

chile_addict (1278950) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328882)

The experiment relied on telemetry for most of the data. The hard drive capacity was sized to hold only the data between transmissions. According to the journal article written by the scientists: A total of 370 hours of data were recorded (no data rate specified) and 85% of the data had been telemetered before the accident. The recovery allowed them to get the majority of the rest.

Re:only 400mb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23329030)

On the other hand, I'm not so sure a flash drive would withstand that kind of accident. I would think flash drives are more susceptible to being damaged in a fire/explosion from the heat. Depending on how much extra protection you would have to use to protect the flash drive it might not be worth it. They may have "lucked out" by using the older technology in this case.

Re:only 400mb? (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#23329056)

I have to wonder if that contributed to the recovery. A modern drive, with a thousand times as much data, would probably have a lot more of the data damaged.

Wrong Shuttle or wrong image name? (5, Interesting)

Thornburg (264444) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328486)

If this experiment was on Columbia, why is the image called "Challenger_drive.jpg"?

Challenger was many years earlier...

Re:Wrong Shuttle or wrong image name? (2, Informative)

sxltrex (198448) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328970)

The data recovered was from an experiment. I'm pretty sure they didn't have much time to perform experiments on Challenger's last flight.

Re:Wrong Shuttle or wrong image name? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23329126)

Human error? The next Conspiracy fad? Both?

Try this article. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23328554)

Virgin article about the same thing, but not violated by /.

Yet.

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=hard-drive-recovered-from-columbia&sc=rss

Its not fair (1)

Layer 3 Ninja (862455) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328560)

Please contact the server administrator, webmaster@blocksandfiles.co.uk and inform them of the time the error occurred, and anything you might have done that may have caused the error. ...yeah, its our fault your server exploded...tee hee

More Informative Article at Scientific American (2, Informative)

coasterfan (1155915) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328566)

And the scientific article on CXV... (2, Insightful)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328908)

And, for anyone interested (and who has a subscription), here's the article in Physical Review E that describes the scientific experiment and analysis of the recovered data:
Robert F. Berg, Michael R. Moldover, Minwu Yao, Gregory A. Zimmerli Shear thinning near the critical point of xenon [aps.org] , Phys. Rev. E 77, 041116 (2008) doi 10.1103/PhysRevE.77.041116 [doi.org] .

In the article, they mention a bit about the data recovery:

During the mission, the apparatus recorded 370 h of data, of which 85% were downlinked for real-time analysis. Fortunately, the hard disk drive was recovered from Columbia's debris in a condition that made 99% of the data available for analysis.
Also quite interesting is an off-hand comment they make about the sample cell they used:

Seven months after the Columbia disaster in 2003, the meniscus height was remeasured in the recovered sample cell...
This suggests that in addition to getting the hard drive (and the data off the hard drive), the Columbia debris search also found the sample cell for their experiment, which allowed them to make some additional measurements for their data analysis. This is also quite impressive!

The data-recovery aspect is quite interesting. So is the fundamental science. They had to run the experiment in micro-gravity to eliminate the density stratification that occurs for any liquid or gas subject to gravity. Shear thinning [wikipedia.org] is a well-established and fairly well-understood phenomena in "complex fluids" (e.g. mixtures of solvents and polymers, like paints, lubricants, etc.); but it is quite interesting to have measured the effect in a pure one-component atomic gas. It's hard to imagine a simpler fluid, and yet it exhibits this interesting viscosity effect!

I'm glad that this scientific experiment was salvaged from the otherwise tragic final mission of Challenger.

Warranty? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23328710)

Good thing the hdd has a 60 month warranty. NASA can save $75 after Ontrack is done.

Erm... picture says 'challenger drive'... (1)

thrill12 (711899) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328724)

...not Columbia drive. It seems this is about another tragic shuttle incident, but not about the Columbia... Would also explain the 400MB drive capacity...

Re:Erm... picture says 'challenger drive'... (2, Informative)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 6 years ago | (#23329034)

Uh, 400 megabyte 3.5" hard drives in 1983? I don't think so...

Link to xenon experiment's extract (5, Informative)

jdmonin (124516) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328760)

For anyone curious about the actual experiment whose data was recovered:

The abstract for the science experiment is at http://link.aps.org/abstract/PRE/v77/e041116 [aps.org] (or in the table of contents issue is http://scitation.aip.org/dbt/dbt.jsp?KEY=PLEEE8&Volume=77&Issue=4 [aip.org] ).

"We measured shear thinning, a viscosity decrease ordinarily associated with complex liquids, near the critical point of xenon. The data span a wide range of reduced shear rate ... The measurements had a temperature resolution of 0.01 mK and were conducted in microgravity aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia to avoid the density stratification caused by Earth's gravity."

Re:Link to xenon experiment's extract (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328810)

Are you involved? I remember the original CVX flew on TAS-1 about a decade ago on a Hitchhiker I was involved with. The CVX assembly was done mostly with the engineers who were in (what was then) 720.

Re:Link to xenon experiment's extract (1)

jdmonin (124516) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328942)

No, just a curious observer; I found it by googling the journal name in the blocksandfiles article, and digging from there.

Data Replication (2, Insightful)

Spudster (875838) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328778)

I'm somewhat amazed that a vehicle as well connected as the shuttle doesn't mirror its data to the ground controllers. In the event of a failure, an alternate copy of the data would exist and millions of dollars worth of experimental data wouldn't be at risk. On-track does however rock (Until you get the bill)!

so which was it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23328808)

1st article says 90%, 2nd says 99% and third says 85% of the data was recovered...am I supposed to take an average? And the softpedia article trying to compare a shuttle accident to a hard drive shredder is just ridiculous. The "science and tech" media has just sunk a little lower....

Warranty Void (4, Funny)

winphreak (915766) | more than 6 years ago | (#23328960)

"Product warranty is void if any seal or label is removed, or if drive experiences shock in excess of 350 Gs"

How hard did it hit? (2, Interesting)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 6 years ago | (#23329022)

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...

Maybe adds a little more meaning (2, Interesting)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#23329038)

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.
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