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The Software Behind the Mars Phoenix Lander

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the distant-robot-friends dept.

Mars 152

chromatic writes "Imagine managing a million lines of code to send over seven hundred pounds of equipment millions of miles through space to land safely on Mars and perform dozens of experiments. You have C, 128 MB of RAM, and very few opportunities to retry if you get it wrong. O'Reilly News interviewed Peter Gluck, project software engineer for NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander, about the process of writing software and managing these constraints — and why you're unlikely to see the source code to the project any time soon."

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128MB? (0, Redundant)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143123)

No one could need more than 640 K of Memory

Re:128MB? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24143239)

/ You seem to be trying to make a joke \
| would you like me to:                |
|  o Help me come up with new jokes    |
|  o Help me bash Bill Gates           |
|  o Help me spell Microdollarsignoft  |
|  o No thanks, let me keep making     |
|     a redundant ass of myself        |
\   P.S.: **** open sores             /
     \
      \
       \     ____
        \   / __ \
         \  O|  |O|
            ||  | |
            ||  | |
            ||    |
             |___/
--
cpu0: Microsoft Clippium ("GenuineClippy" ChromedMetal-Class). Paperbinding, lockpicking, fish-hook-hack support.
template greedily stolen from this guy: http://slashdot.org/~ClippySay

Re:128MB? (1)

Miguel de Icaza (660439) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143583)

who modded this flamebait? I always enjoy the paperclip posts.

Re:128MB? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24143699)

Microdollarsignoft should be Microdollarsignsoft

Re:128MB? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24143825)

Micro$soft?

Good job.

Re:128MB? (0, Redundant)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143431)

How can a first post be modded redundant?

P.S. TFA is Slashdotted

Re:128MB? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24143741)

>How can a first post be modded redundant?

Because it's a lame joke? Hell, it's based on an anecdote that is apocryphal at best.

As such, it was barely funny the first few hundred times around...

Captcha: befits

As in: "A redundant modding befits your first post".

Millions of lines? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24143135)

How many lines of code can 128 MB of RAM hold and what is the average 'line' for C?

Re:Millions of lines? (4, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143329)

Well, of course, the proper response to your query is "it doesn't work like that" or "neither are a good metric" or something, but that's a big boring, so let's consider an empirical result.

liblink-grammar.so.4.3.5 is 616129 bytes. It is built from 23289 lines of code. So that's about 26.4 bytes of code per line.

So 128 MB of RAM can hold about 5,084,005 lines of code :)

Re:Millions of lines? (1)

drspliff (652992) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145501)

Although it doesn't necessarily need to be in ram all at the same time, it could be mapped from ROM or other storage, presuming a 32bit address space you could "use" ~162,688,160 lines of code.

These numbers are complete bullshit of course :)

Re:Millions of lines? (3, Insightful)

neokushan (932374) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143491)

For legacy reasons that have just sort of stuck, the maximum line size in C is often no more than 80 characters long, although plenty of people ignore this unwritten "rule" these days.
I'd say you can safely assume that each line is around 80 characters, though, as a lot of lines will use very few.

But it's all irrelevant as I doubt they'd bother transmitting the entire source code to Mars when they can just compile it into a good ol' binary that's probably a hundredth of the original source code's size, if not more.

You know (5, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144401)

if they wrote it in perl, it would only be 1 line.

Re:You know (5, Funny)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144559)

Yes, but it would use the unholy letters of the dark lord himself, and bring death and destruction upon any man who gazed upon its ghastly source.

Re:You know (1)

Grave (8234) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144815)

But what about the Martians who might gaze upon it?

Re:Millions of lines? (1)

Abalamahalamatandra (639919) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144811)

As long as it's not running Gentoo - but we know it's not because it's had the cycles free to send a picture back.

I keeeeed! I keeeeed!

Re:Millions of lines? (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143769)

Even if we assumed all of that code to actually be on the spacecraft, rather than including auxiliary systems, unit testing etc that never left Earth (something I would guess that they are including), there is no specific reason for all code to be loaded in RAM all the time. They need to have non-volatile storage. Even if it is damn slow and the images are compressed, an overlay/paging system could easily be used.

Huh. (0, Redundant)

FrameRotBlues (1082971) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143151)

128 MB? I thought 640K was more than anyone would ever need...

Re:Huh. (1)

FrameRotBlues (1082971) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143613)

I'll pull a bad reply to myself and say it sounds like they try to keep their updates less than 640K, however.

Great software! (1, Interesting)

brunokummel (664267) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143177)

Does it run on linux?

Re:Great software! (4, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143189)

Nope. VxWorks.

These questions and more answered in TFA.

Re:Great software! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24143371)

Nope. VxWorks.

These questions and more answered in TFA.

Pfft, get rid of VxWorks and load DD-WRT

Re:Great software! (4, Funny)

Durindana (442090) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143793)

you mean...

Answers to these questions and more, rendered inaccessible by /.

Re:Great software! (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144507)

Which of course, you can compile directly to Linux, thanx to VxWorks smart approach (unlike green river). Of course, if there is a place that I want VxWorks, this is it.

Nope, its written in C. (3, Funny)

deft (253558) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143353)

But you didnt read the article, you were more just hoping for a slashdot linux rally cry or something, werent you.

But if someone crys in a dark basement creepily lit by a monitor, does anyone here it?

Damn, i guess I did.

Re:Nope, its written in C. (1)

Kugrian (886993) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144397)

FTFA

Now, there's hardware built into the avionic system that if the software were to completely lock up like your PC might on occasion.

No, I run Linux. It doesn't do that.

[Laughs] Never ever?

Okay. Well, sometimes [Inaudible] or something.

Re:Nope, its written in C. (1)

deft (253558) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144753)

HE runs linux... not the spacecraft.

but thanks for the report on what he uses to send email and surf youtube. I was speaking about the spacecraft.

Re:Nope, its written in C. (1)

Kugrian (886993) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145097)

I musta missed that, taking the time to bold the questioners comments and all. I was making a play on the linux-never-crashes-for-anyone-ever, but too much wine might have attributed to my poor delivery. My apologies.

Re:Nope, its written in C. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24146203)

Thats OK...Too much Wine crashes my Linux too

Re:Nope, its written in C. (1)

CheeseTroll (696413) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146975)

I didn't realize Linux was a programming language?

Or is C an operating system?

Re:Great software! (1, Redundant)

rvw (755107) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143897)

Does it run on linux?

Well I'm glad it didn't run Windows for Workgroups 3.11, because then they wouldn't get any support anymore over there on Mars!

Imagine (-1, Offtopic)

t0qer (230538) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143253)

Managing a million lines of code that controls a device that will forever change how humanity views itself and the universe. No, the universe doesn't revolve around the earth. There is life out there, and there is no god.

Re:Imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24143437)

Managing a million lines of code that controls a device that will forever change how humanity views itself and the universe. No, the universe doesn't revolve around the earth. There is life out there, and there is no god.

You underestimate the religious people. God put any and all life in the Universe. The Universe was create by God and therefore any alien life is also God's children.

I will start one of the first giga churches that will preach to many planets and I will become the richest person in the Universe.

call me the Mule

wow, long article, here's the answer to the teaser (5, Interesting)

deft (253558) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143275)

basically, its because the code is part of a space vehicle regulated by international arms and trafficking laws. That means Joe Blow doesnt get it.

Sorry dude, you're Joe Blow. Unless you're reading this from a JPL/NASA'ish sort of place. Then you're just smirking.

===================

FTA:
Sort of on a different topic, I have a quote here. One of our editors talked to Frank Hecker from the Mozilla Foundation the other day.

Okay.

In that talk, he suggested that all software developed by the Federal Government should be released to the public domain or a very, very liberal open-source license. That's not even a copyleft license. Does the American public have any access to the source code currently on the Phoenix? Are there plans to make some of the source code available?

Well, no. There are no plans to make that available. And one of the issues that we have is that our spacecraft are designated as subject to international trafficking and arms regulations. So even --

Crypto regulations in exporting and such?

Yeah. Yeah. I mean even though these are not military spacecraft, the technology used in them is space technology. And so the State Department does not allow us to release anything that we've done in terms of technical details to foreign scrutiny. Now, in fact as I said, we have a team of Canadians. The Canadians delivered our meteorology instruments, and we had to be very careful about our relationship with them and how much we could disclose to them.

Really?

Yeah. Yeah.

I can see that in applying control software, but how about the payload software?

Even the payload software -- in this particular case, remember that the payload software operates within the confines of the RAD 6000 that contains the spacecraft software. And although the newer versions of real-time operating systems allow you to compartmentalize better, the older ones are just global name space. So there really wasn't any way to allow them to provide software for the MET instruments. So we had to define an interface and build the software at JPL, and then do our integration testing. And we worked closely with the Canadians in terms of the integration testing and making sure that the software was going to do what they needed it to do.

Right.

But we could not actually release the source code to them.

Re:wow, long article, here's the answer to the tea (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143389)

This is basically the reason why space technology is so primitive. The science has been stifled for years by government regulations.

Re:wow, long article, here's the answer to the tea (4, Insightful)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143517)

It's a tricky balance though. Nuclear missile launch codes are also -- technically -- public property, yet I am not sure it'd be a good idea to release that in the public domain.

I think the way things are handled right now is the best we are going to get: basic science is open, applied scientific results are secret.

Re:wow, long article, here's the answer to the tea (4, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143541)

Neither the basic science, nor the applied science (aka engineering) is open.

The only reason any of us know the rocket equation is because it was invented before these laws were.

Re:wow, long article, here's the answer to the tea (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143731)

Nuclear missile launch codes are also -- technically -- public property, yet I am not sure it'd be a good idea to release that in the public domain.

Why not? I would think they'd be pretty useless without the rest of the stuff in the football and clearance through whatever other security protocols there are.

Re:wow, long article, here's the answer to the tea (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144009)

If you do it right, they'd be pretty useless anyway. Ensure that no two missiles use the same code, order the codes randomly in the document, and don't release the secondary document that provides the lookup table for associating a particular missile with code number 79 on page 5428. :-)

Your statement is flawed. (5, Insightful)

flattop100 (624647) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143545)

Space technology is not "flawed." It is rigorously tested to survive A)Lift off B)Months and years of dormancy C)Descent D)Operation on another planet millions of miles away, with minutes-long latency. Beyond that, it has to be tested time and again to make sure there are NO errors. If you computer at home freezes, you hit reset. Trying pushing the reset button on a Mars rover--let me know how that works out for you. Space technology is not primitive. It may seem simplistic, but that's to guarantee functionality. Read the definition of "mission-critical" and think about what you typed there. It's a little different that "recreational software development."

Re:Your statement is flawed. (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143719)

Umm.. not talking about software.. talking about space travel in general.

Re:Your statement is flawed. (2, Funny)

mystik (38627) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143737)

Well. They really can make the software as complex + bug ridden as they want.

They only have to make sure that the code that runs the robot that presses the reset button is bug free :)

Re:Your statement is flawed. (4, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143773)

I know exactly how to do that. I program Crestron systems remotely as well as some ham radio embedded stuff. Cresron gear across the country cant be reset without paying someone to do so, and an embedded PC in the norther wild of michigan on a tower that takes a weekend to go and fix are very much the same thing.

You check, recheck, and test on the copy system. you also build in fail safes so that if your upload fails, it reverts to the old code or fails to the loader so you can upload again.

Re:Your statement is flawed. (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144065)

You can't use out of band management on your ham gear? Or the PC/embedded system driving it?

Re:Your statement is flawed. (2, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146597)

Yes I can, if I go to the tower to connect to it. Although last time I disconnected all those wires because lightning uses those 200 foot wires coming down as antennas and destroys the computer running the digi. so right now you have to drive to the location, climb the tower, get the box, climb down, work on it, test it, climb up reinstall it and then climb down.

i'd rather make sure I get everything right and upload via 6 meters at 1200bps overnight from 30 miles away.

Apple should build space software (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24144533)

Just take OS X for example, it is far more secure, stable, fast and effcient than anything else out there. Why is it Apple engineers can come up with perfect software but NASA engineers cannot even convert inches to millimeters properly? Is it yet another case of useless government incompetence?

Reset button on a lander (1)

melted (227442) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144785)

it's trivial to implement. Just create a device that temporarily cuts the power periodically unless instructed to do otherwise by the computer. Voilà you got an automatic reset switch.

Re:Reset button on a lander (4, Informative)

Buran (150348) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145255)

It's called a dead man's switch and is implemented in rail locomotives, for example. A horn sounds a tone at (probably) random intervals and you must press a button within a certain amount of time or the engine is throttled to idle. Previously, you had to keep your foot on a pedal at all times but it was defeated by just putting a brick on it.

The idea is that if you're dead, you can't hit the switch, so the train you're supposed to be controlling will stop rather than plow through a stop signal at some later time and hit something or go off the track.

Re:Reset button on a lander (3, Informative)

ezzzD55J (697465) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145963)

It's called a dead man's switch and is implemented in rail locomotives, for example.

Dead man's switch for humans, watchdog timer for computers. TFA mentions the phoenix watchdog going off every 64 seconds.

Re:Your statement is flawed. (3, Insightful)

Kerkyon (584936) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144849)

Beyond that, it has to be tested time and again to make sure there are NO errors.

Well, no, not really. It's far more economical to ensure that the system can recover from serious errors and that errors are fixable, rather than try to assure zero errors. Mainly because the former is possible and the latter isn't.

If you computer at home freezes, you hit reset. Trying pushing the reset button on a Mars rover--let me know how that works out for you.

This is addressed in TFA -- the watchdog timer takes care of it; they're ubiquitous in high-reliability embedded systems.

Re:Your statement is flawed. (2, Informative)

coop0030 (263345) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144955)

If you computer at home freezes, you hit reset. Trying pushing the reset button on a Mars rover--let me know how that works out for you.

Actually, in the article, he basically stated that they essentially do have a reset button. The software pings the hardware every 64 seconds. If the hardware doesn't receive the ping on time, it resets the software to potentially resolve the error/lockup.

Now in the event that that doesn't work, we have a whole second set of avionics onboard. So the hardware will try to boot to the same side, and if the same side doesn't come up and start stroking the watch-stop timer, then it will swap to the other side and boot the first side.

Re:Your statement is flawed. (2, Informative)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145189)

Also, people often forget that by the time a probe or rover makes the news, many years have passed since the "feature freeze".
Years of design, testing, waiting for a launch possibility, travel.

Re:Your statement is flawed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24145759)

Trying pushing the reset button on a Mars rover--let me know how that works out for you.

Indeed they can. Go read the article.

Nah, space technology is just as junky as us. (2, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146989)

Dude, the lunar lander program crashed repeatedly on Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin right when they were trying to land on the moon. It was so bad, that mission control basically told them to ignore it and Neil went ahead and landed the thing really by the seat of his own pants. You really can't have a bug much more worse than that!

When you think about it, space software is probably the most unreliable software there is. I mean, it is a classic cathedral design, has only a handful of users, and so, yeah, they can do a lot of testing, but, they miss stuff. Look at how often they have to upload patches to the ship while it is in flight.

Re:wow, long article, here's the answer to the tea (1, Troll)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143637)

Funny but I would say that Phoenix is anything but primitive.

Re:wow, long article, here's the answer to the tea (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143757)

Hehe, by today's standards. Compared to the entire future history of space technology, we're still in the primitive phase.

Re:wow, long article, here's the answer to the tea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24144273)

Your assumption that we will progress even further is not an unreasonable one. But what if...

Re:wow, long article, here's the answer to the tea (2, Informative)

deft (253558) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144161)

I was told that the reason space craft run on very old perating systems is not because of the ideas you're thinking, but because old operating systems have basically no unknown quirks. They are having anything unknown pop out.

the actions the have to undertake are just fine on old tech, because OLD = PROVEN in alot of cases.

Re:wow, long article, here's the answer to the tea (0, Flamebait)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144427)

Libertarians should take up diving as a sport. And PLEASE leave your regulation of your air supply behind.

If info == arms, RMS == fourth amendment? (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143629)

Effectively, the US gov't is saying that information/human knowledge (or at least, some information) is a weapon. That would make Stallman's position that everyone deserves access to all human knowledge somewhat analgous to the Fourth Amendment, no?

Weird!

Re:If info == arms, RMS == fourth amendment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24143937)

Effectively, the US gov't is saying that information/human knowledge (or at least, some information) is a weapon. That would make Stallman's position that everyone deserves access to all human knowledge somewhat analgous to the Fourth Amendment, no?

Weird!

So does Stallman's position that everyone deserves access to all human knowledge require obtaining a warrant before search and seizure?

Or did you get your amendments mixed up again?

Re:wow, long article, here's the answer to the tea (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144793)

basically, its because the code is part of a space vehicle regulated by international arms and trafficking laws. That means Joe Blow doesnt get it.

Even if you did get it, what the hell would you do with it? It isn't like you could borrow a snippet here for the video codec you are writing or post a snippet on the forums there to help someone with the chat program they are writing. Even just reading it straight out is going to be like studying hieroglyphics because you don't have all the hardware specs for the devices being controlled, etc. etc... Unless you're writing some pretty sophisticated device drivers, the mix of hard and soft real time in code like this is waaaay outside of what the vast majority of coders will ever work on.
 
It's cool and all to have source code to study and learn from, but the code to something like Phoenix strikes me as little more than digital Viagra.

Re:wow, long article, here's the answer to the tea (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145907)

Actually the source code would probably not be very instructive, even if was released, due to strict rules set down in the JPL code requirements (no use of dynamic memory for example) that would make the programs largely unsuitable for re-use in other projects or, at the very least, a poor example of how to write efficient code (no malloc, pointers, or other associated language features).

Related? (1)

azior (1302509) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143337)

a related story? http://developers.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/06/06/2333206

Not like the olden days (4, Interesting)

Average (648) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143343)

I'm curious how many old kinds of code we're still communicating with. FTA, Cassini is ADA-based. I know the Voyager craft are in FORTH (my first programming love).

Re:Not like the olden days (1)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143593)

Don't forget the Oldest Kind of Code [wikipedia.org]

Re:Not like the olden days (4, Informative)

frieko (855745) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144999)

I wouldn't call Ada obsolete. C is only good because a lot of people know C and lots of COTS parts are C. But you can't beat Ada if you need a language that was built from the ground up for mission-critical reliability.

Re:Not like the olden days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24146185)

I'm building a PDP-11 for a nuclear reactor.

Why unlikely to see the source? (1)

exley (221867) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143373)

Maybe because it's freaking NASA?

Re:Why unlikely to see the source? (1)

Waste55 (1003084) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143683)

I believe its that this is also due to the fact this is often the contractor's propriety code.

Even if it wasn't ITAR restricted, you wouldn't see the contractors releasing the code so that they can re-use, re-sell, and re-profit.

Re:Why unlikely to see the source? (4, Informative)

rk (6314) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143861)

NASA releases all kinds of code. As an example, many people in the space science community rely on SPICE from JPL's Navigation and Ancillary Information Facility, and you can play from home [nasa.gov] . I think the newest version of Celestia [shatters.net] has a CSPICE interface to get extremely accurate planetary positions and spacecraft pointings into it.

Re:Why unlikely to see the source? (2, Informative)

exley (221867) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143967)

I stand at least partly corrected then... Although still not sure they would release code like what is running the Mars lander. On the other hand, what would anyone do with that code if it was available? I suppose there could be some homebrew interplanetary lander projects out there... :)

And for anyone else initially confused and unwilling to click links, the reference to SPICE in parent's post isn't about the circuit simulator!

Huh? (4, Informative)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144201)

Maybe because it's freaking NASA?

What's that have anything to do with it?

NASA has an OSI approved license:

It could probably be easier to find NASA software, and I doubt this particular software would ever be released, but there's lots of NASA software that's been released:

There's issues because much of NASA stuff is done as part of grants, and so it's officially owned by the academic / research institution that won the grant ... as such, there might be other NASA funded code that's out there, that you don't know is NASA code... at least one program (AISRP [nasa.gov] ) has started a place to collect software by grantees.

I've been to NASA workshops where there's plenty of code that's being written where people would LOVE to have their software find a broader audience. At the last one, we had an hour debate on if we were allowed to release code as GPL, as that'd place restrictions on the use of the code (that derivative copies have to be open), which should not be done as the software was developed w/ federal money and as such citizens should be free to do whatever they want with it. I think someone was assigned to talk to NASA's legal department and find out what we had to do to release our code.

Re:Huh? (1)

cstdenis (1118589) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144707)

Just release it under BSD license.

Re:Huh? (1)

AMuse (121806) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145761)

I'm super excited to see NASA's opensource work getting exposure, so don't take my nitpick the wrong way -- just wanted to put the fact out in the open that the NAS (NASA Advanced Supercomputing) is actually at Ames. It has its own tertiary level DNS space as a major resource but the facilities are in the same place.

This is NASA, Not NSA (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144561)

NASA releases lots of items. For example, they were the ones that did the original network card drivers for Linux.

And to be honest, even the NSA releases a fair amount of OSS. Keep in mind that they have 2 missions.

How hard can it be? (4, Funny)

Dex5791 (973984) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143445)

Just open the existing code base for the previous lander and cut&paste.

All i wanna do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24143585)

..is slap a nerd from here to Mars. That doesnt mean one hard slap either. That means we are both on a ship and i am slapping him the whole way.

Canadians! (3, Funny)

vimm (1300813) | more than 6 years ago | (#24143603)

FTFA

We have a team of Canadians... we had to be very careful about our relationship with them... how much we could disclose to them

In soviet canada, mars probe software discloses you?

Please Send Soviet Russia: +1, PatRIOTic (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24143721)

to liberate United Gulags of America [youtube.com] from repressive presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama.

Cordially,
K. Trout

First up, I'd switch to metric (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24143791)

Those ones using pounds and miles have a tendency to plow into the surface at terminal velocity.

Um, right (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24143845)

So how much of that 128MB does the VBRUN60.DLL take?

Re:Um, right (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24144377)

So how much of that 128MB does the VBRUN60.DLL take?

The same amount it takes on Earth.

lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24144433)

good one man

My eyes, they burn! (5, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144327)

What a horrible interview.

WHen interviewing someone, you don't tell them what they know, you ask them.

An example:
"That's not a really beefy embedded board actually. It's what, thirty-three megahertz?

Yeah. That's â" yeah.


About 128 megabytes of RAM?


That's right.

I imagine that produces some interesting challenges, getting all of that software to run together on that board while also having it land on the planet successfully.
"

Painful.

Re:My eyes, they burn! (2, Insightful)

rho (6063) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144575)

But just think how smart and well-informed the interviewer sounds!

I stopped reading halfway through. Useless interviewer leads to useless interview.

Because it is open source to begin with? (1)

moteyalpha (1228680) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144381)

Is the reason they hide it is to conceal the fact that it was originally open source code and they just copped it to use for this since they were not up to the task. Might sound conspiratorial but I have seen my work stolen to be incorporated into computers for the military and they even left my back doors in there. That is not some fantasy of mine. I have one of the battlefield computers with my code in it and it is because they went to mil. surplus and not destroyed like they were supposed to be. A military contractor can save money by stealing code from anybody and never worry about being sued for stealing it.

Re:Because it is open source to begin with? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24144759)

What was the back door?

--Iran

Thank god for ITAR (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144483)

While in a lot of places ITAR can actually hurt us, this is actually helping us. A log of this software would be useful to countries to help them develop precision guidance systems for their missles. As it is, Iran uses GPS to help with their system, and a another dead reckoning system. Apparently, Iran is looking to add in Beidou as it becomes available (overall, clinton pretty good, but his china policy was a disaster). Even China would use this code.

How about: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24144555)

4-bit, bit-slice CPU
4k RAM
~14k tops data rate for the top transfers, and about 200k total on-board storage. And a couple Libraries-of-Congress of data to take, every 20 minutes (don't ask about the other downlinks Can't tell you.) We did it about 1980. In space. I wrote the Fortran/assembly64 code. They were so pissed off when I required an additional couple one-shot chips to shuffle the data to the xmitter, that they made me do the orbit re-calcs to make up for the additional ounce of spacecraft weight. Showed them--sat in one afternoon. And gave the lecture.

NASA needs to Grow Up! (0)

Hackerlish (1308763) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144581)

Too bad O'Reilly didn't sweet talk them into open sourcing it; It could have been O'Reilly's first animal book with a xenophobe on the front. Unfortunately here's the governments stupid answer on open-sourcing it:

"Well, no. There are no plans to make that available. And one of the issues that we have is that our spacecraft are designated as subject to international trafficking and arms regulations. So even â" ((Crypto regulations in exporting and such?)) Yeah. Yeah. I mean even though these are not military spacecraft, the technology used in them is space technology. And so the State Department does not allow us to release anything that we've done in terms of technical details to foreign scrutiny. Now, in fact as I said, we have a team of Canadians. The Canadians delivered our meteorology instruments, and we had to be very careful about our relationship with them and how much we could disclose to them."

I mean, Sheesh. So don't release the crypto-keys, dumbass. As for the rest of it, if anyone else wants to build their own mars space probe, all the more power too them. Government works aren't covered under copyright anyway. This is some petty-minded mulberry patch guarding by NASA. Try and see the bigger picture, guys. That's your job after all.

hello.c (5, Funny)

xx_chris (524347) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144633)

#include void main() { printf("Hello Mars\n"); }

128MB of RAM?!? (1)

Me-The-Person (852147) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144683)

I throw away hardware better than that! (For the greenies, please read "recycle" instead of "throw away".)

I wouldn't waste my time... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24144877)

...using something as error prone as C. And neither did JPL, originally. You might find this an entertaining read.

http://www.flownet.com/gat/jpl-lisp.html

Misleading summary (2, Interesting)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144959)

I suppose it's inevitable that the summary of a Slashdot article is inaccurate, but in this case it's highly misleading. The code in the Phoenix Lander has nothing whatsoever to do with getting it to Mars. The Spaceprobe Navigation Package (Are they still using MOPS and TRAM, I wonder? After all, they were good enough for Voyager I and II.) run on mainframes at JPL, in Pasadena, and course corrections are sent from their to the space craft. This is because the same programs doing the navigation for Phoenix can be used at the same time for other missions, instead of wasting valuable memory (and the energy needed to run them) on putting a separate copy of the program on every, single probe.

And what a constraint C must be (1)

heroine (1220) | more than 6 years ago | (#24144981)

No million line API's to conform to. No overlooked, hidden RFC on page 3000 of the latest standard revision from Sony. No implementing everything twice. Peter Gluck, software manager, must be a huge asset with the C language obstacle. Software management triumphs again.

you FAIL 1t... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24146731)

Anonymous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24147051)

Am I the only one who, out of the whole article, read
"the hardware has to be stroked every 64 seconds"???

So thats the secret! If a windoze box locks up, dont hit it!, stroke it....very softly

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