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Houston, We Have a Software Problem

chrisd posted more than 11 years ago | from the dept.

Space 331

An anonymous reader writes "The computer system that launches the Space Shuttle is an old, but important, computer system. It is built from mid 70's technology and features SSI chips like 7400's...which are getting hard to find. It has 64k of memory and no room to repair any software bugs. NASA started the CLCS project in 1996 which uses state of the art computer languages, OO methodologies, and hardware. Everything that you could actually hire people off the street for. However, NASA is in a budget crunch with the Space Station cost overruns. It is looking to trim costs to keep the Space Station going. There are stories about CLCS getting cancelled here and these guys say its already cancelled."

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They misread Bill Gates (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217662)

640K ought to be enough for anybody, not 64K !

Penis is good for you! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217667)

Like hell this is FP!

I love the cock.

Re:Penis is good for you! (-1, Troll)

CrndrWaco (598076) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217711)

you can bet one thing is for sure. there a whole lot of cock at the /. compound!!!

formal party (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217670)

black tie and all @ your moms house



It has 64k of memory (3, Funny)

Semi-Psychic Nathan (563684) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217671)

But I thought 64k should be enough for anybody...

Easy Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217673)

Hire Steve Buscemi and Bruce Willis.

Reservoir Dogs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217818)

No no no, hire Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, and Quentin Tarantino to steal some diamonds to fund the project.

No Names, Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217934)

That would be Mr. Pink, Mr. White and Mr. Brown [] .
Thank you.

Old 7400s'? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217674)

The G4 is [i]that[/i] old?! No wonder it's slow.

bugs? (0)

linuxtuba (301735) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217676)

no room to repair any software bugs

It had bugs...Dang, that's too bad. Of course, good software has no bugs, and anybody who says differently obviously has no idea what they're talking about. ;)

Time to upgrade eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217677)

Only 64K? Damn, I guess BIll Gates was right when he said that 640K ought to be enough for anybody...

the future? (2, Insightful)

brondsem (553348) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217679)

And what plans do they have to keep this from happening again in a decade?

Sorry if the article answers this, I can't get to it.

Why not simulate it? (3, Insightful)

null-und-eins (162254) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217683)

Given todays hardware, why you can't just simulate the old system if finding parts for repair becomes a problem. You would just run your old software on the simulated machine.

Re:Why not simulate it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217708)

Isn't the problem more one of hardware? Of course you could simulate the machine; but you'd have to
create real interfaces to whatever systems it controls.

Re:Why not simulate it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217726)

someone get the specs and do this open source.

Re:Why not simulate it? (2)

Steveftoth (78419) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217754)

I would think that requires rebuilding the whole thing anyway. So it might not actually improve it.

Also you have to ensure that the simulator has zero bugs, which means simulating the bugs in the original equiptment which their code depends on.

Writing a perfect software simulation of hardware is IMO a job as equally hard as just rewriting the original code.

It's not like they have millions and millions of lines of code, the original rom must to have been less then 64k or so. They just have to rewrite the code in a language that is more maintainable which machine code is not.

Re:Why not simulate it? (5, Insightful)

rodgerd (402) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217761)

Auditing the emulator and the host OS would be a problem - the code they've currently got has a very low rate of bugs, and has been extensively audited. NASA knows everything from the hardware up, exactly what the failure rate is and so forth.

Now, imagine you take modern commodity hardware (which changes periodically - look at how often Intel silently release new steppings of their CPUs). You're not going to have a guarantee of consistency there. You're going to have to boot an OS off it - and even the simplest RTOSes are still much, much bigger than the whole platform currently. Then you need an emulator. Then you need the system. And the only problem you've solved with all that work is the unavailablility of the old hardware - you still have a old machine language on a tiny platform which can't be easily extended for new functionality.

Re:Why not simulate it? (5, Insightful)

WasterDave (20047) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217923)

This is a very pertinent point that appears to have been lost on the initiators (and now burger flippers) of the replacement-launch-thingy project.

What they have, right there, is one spectacularly reliable piece of software. I suspect it's significantly more bug free than even the microcode in a modern processor, let alone the companion chips, bios, operating system, and virtual machine for some god awful p-code language (not that I'm naming names here).

The question that should have been asked is "how can we make a sustainable process for making extremely reliable control computers?". How to go about cutting custom silicon, tiny os's etc. How to save the happy tax payer hundreds of millions of dollars by reselling these services to people making nuclear power stations, heart pace makers etc. instead of going shopping for big sun boxes.

Oh well, reality strikes again.


Re:Why not simulate it? (2)

Istealmymusic (573079) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217775)

There comes a time in every products lifetime when its time to start over, and I believe this is the time. In the 70s, we knew significantly less about good coding practices as today. GOTO was first becoming considered harmful. Procedural programming was on the rise. Object-oriented as a paradigm was beginning to take root.

With these considerations in mind, clearly simulating an old computer is a very backwards idea. bug-for-bug compatibility [] is not a positive effect.

Same as bug-compatible, with the additional implication that much tedious effort went into ensuring that each (known) bug was replicated.

Re:Why not simulate it? (3, Informative)

rodgerd (402) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217834)

Given LISP and (IIRC) Smalltalk both existed in the 70s, the world wasn't as primitive as you make out.

Besides, the use of modern programming buzzwords implemented by college kids sounds like the principal problem with this project...

Re:Why not simulate it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217886)

Given LISP and (IIRC) Smalltalk both existed in the 70s, the world wasn't as primitive as you make out.

Democracy existed a couple thousand years ago but the world was still essentially primitive.
Reread the last post - it doesnt say those cs aspects didnt exist.

Re:Why not simulate it? (5, Interesting)

io333 (574963) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217873)

There comes a time in every products lifetime when its time to start over,.

Exactly. And that includes the shuttle. It has never lived up to what it was envisioned to be and it is only going to become more costly and more failure prone in the future as every bit of hardware on that pig is already showing signs of fatigue.

There are many launch systems that cost far less per pound to throw things into orbit. The reasons we still have those monstrosities flying are political only, not technological or scientific.

Sure this is flamebate. (Gosh, getting rid of the old karma system is so LIBERATING!) But if we can discuss how some little bits of hardware in the shuttle are past their time, why can't we discuss the big bit?

Re:Why not simulate it? (2)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217782)

Remember that whatever machine you use to simulate it in needs the special connections and circuitry to interact with other parts of the ship. You can implement the software fine but how do you connect the engine, flappers, and sensors to it?

Re:Why not simulate it? (2, Informative)

perfects (598301) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217945)

Given todays hardware, why you can't just simulate the old system

You can't just buy a system from Dell and put it into the Space Shuttle. You can't use a Pentium, a modern hard drive, Linux, Windows, or Open Source anything.

As far as the hardware goes, everything mission-critical that goes aboard the Shuttle has to be ruggedize against incredible vibration, tested a thousand different ways to make sure that it can't be affected by exposure to vacuum/heat/cold/radiation/cosmic rays/etc., tested another thousand ways to make sure it doesn't interfere with other critical Shuttle systems... and on and on.

And a bug in the newly written software could cause not only the death of several astronauts, but potentially the loss of a Shuttle, a launch facility, and the ISS. Would you, under any circumstances, put your life, five other lives, and billions of dollars in the hands of software that you found in an Open Source project?

On your desk a "Fatal Error" isn't, really. But 60 miles up?

state of the art? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217684)

NASA started the CLCS project in 1996 which uses state of the art computer languages

there's nothing state of the art about C, its been in use for over 30 years. C# on the other hand is a real state of the art language.

This demonstrates the trend (0, Troll)

CmdrTaco (editor) (564483) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217695)

Unfortunately, this demonstrates the trend and growing problem in software development of bloated code. Just think about it, if a machine with 64k of memory could run the code necessary to control the launch of the space shuttle, it should be enough to do even the most complicated of tasks. The current memory requirements for most of the common Linux distributions is obscene. 32 MB, 64 MB, where will it stop? Of course, with this bloating horror of what we call "good" code, we lose a lot of the quality seen in software of yesterday. Give me my TRS-80, and I'll show you legendary software design.

Serious question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217723)

Is there a Linux that will install on a machine with only 640K RAM? I have an old 486 laptop that's only got 1MB RAM. Normally I use Debian, but it needs 12MB to install...

Re:Serious question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217732)

The smallest it will fit in is 4MB, and that's with a special low-memory kernel from Slackware. Usual "old" minimum was 8, but I see that has changed.

Re:Serious question: (1)

enderak (557146) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217747)

Minix will run more than happily on that.. :)

Re:Serious question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217868) ll-linux/

2 MB is the smallest I've ever heard of. Don't expect to use it for much more than a router or terminal. It is likely that you can find more ram for the old laptop somewhere. Most floppy linuxes try to make a 4 mb ram disk right off the bat and thus won't boot.

hey assholes (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217700)

bill gates never said "640K ought to be enough for anybody" -- it's an urban legend

Re:hey assholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217839)

Shut up Al Gore.

too much waste (0)

t0ny (590331) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217705)

I think as long as NASA is in charge of our space program we will continue to have myopic planning. Hopefully soon space will become privatized.

Lets put Rocketguy in charge of NASA!

They should make it open source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217712)

If they used Linux (which they could obtain Free as in beer and speech), and open sourced the space shuttle code, Open Source programmers from around the world could donate their time to the cause, and NASA wouldn't have to pay anybody. Plus, since it's open source, the code would be bug-free, and anyone would be able to contribute their fixes and additions. I'd love to see Open Source take "one giant leap" by a stronghold of support from NASA.

So... (1, Offtopic)

NetJunkie (56134) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217725)

Where do I get my own shuttle so I can test the code I wrote?

Re:They should make it open source---BWAHAHA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217797)

"since it's open source, the code would be bug-free"


Actually... (Re:They should make it open source) (3, Interesting)

Simon Carr (1788) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217891)

I was thinking this. Why don't they open some of the current code and some of the requirements they need to "the community".

Think of who space enthusiasts are and what a lot of them do; software and hardware development. In a budget crunch a good strategy would be to allow interested hobbyists to write some of the code, and then have NASA's boys peer review it.

Re:They should make it open source (1)

Lieutenant_Dan (583843) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217975)

Thank you for filling in for me. I had to rest the OSS flag for a while.

Or you could just... (4, Funny)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217714)

At some point it might be cheaper to give up on computers and just pilot the Shuttle by hand.

Re:Or you could just... (2)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217936)

Remember Space Cowboys....Flying brick eh??

Scope creep ? (0)

plierhead (570797) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217716)


current system has just 64K memory...

replacement system has been underway since 1996 - and 400 contractors will get the axe when its canned..

sounds like the "replacement" system might have suffered from a bit of scope creep ??

Scope creep! (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217738)

Well that's what you get if you hire 400 contractors to a nice cooshie government job

Re:Scope creep! (2)

rodgerd (402) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217768)

Nothing to do with the government. Pretty much every replacement of a so-called legacy system I've ever seen blows out the same way. Anyone who's seen replacement banking systems, SAP rollouts, you name it, will have the same experience.

Re:Scope creep! (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217778)

All of the people I know who work on that kind of project are contractory,
Banks, have to keep up with changing laws &co easy life job!

SAP systems, there are rate of change in business and accounting laws is high enough to keep you in a contract job for life.

NASA, we have a rectum (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217727)

'Twas the night before Goatse, when all through the house
Not a penis was stirring, not even with mouth;
The Giver was hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Goatse soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of anal-sex danced in their heads;
And Katz in his 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a fuck in the sack.

When up in my anus there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see Katz start to splatter.
Away to the bathroom I flew like a flash,
Tore open my anus and looked at the gash.

The moon in the glass had a vibrant red glow
Gave the lustre of sunset to my nutsack below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer!

With a little old driver, so lively and quickse,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Goatse.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, TACO! now, JAMIE! now, MICHEAL and TIMMY!
To the top of the ass! fronts to the the wall!
Now pound away! pound away! pound away all!"

As faggots that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with a hetero, mount the next guy,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of sex-toys, and Goatse pics too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The moaning and pawing of each little poof.
As I drew in my ass, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Goatse came with a bound.

He was dressed as a furry, from his head to his feet,
And his clothes were all tarnished with urine and shit;
A bundle of sex-toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a hooker just flapping his sack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His ass cheeks like roses, his cock like a cherry!
His cute little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his scrotum as white as the snow;

The stump of a blunt he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and was a bit smelly,
He shook, when he wanked like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him beat off himself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings with smelly big turds,
He layed a big log right under my nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like a fucking great missile.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217730)

Exactly how are SSI (small scale integration) chips hard to find... The 7400 series is industry standard and everyone still makes them. Just look at Ti, Motorolla, ON Semiconductor, National Semiconductor, etc. Sure they're NOT the kind of building blocks you'd like to use now (espcially when you could use a microprocessor or FPGA) but they're not hard to find by ANY means.

Computers and aerospace are DEAD qjkx (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217731)

Didn't you listen? There are NO jobs there anymore. Give it up. Nothing will ever change. Just become nurses to help old people in nursing homes and watch college football. Technology is dead and will never come back. OP.

1: Prelude (-1, Offtopic)

Projectile (606313) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217733)

THE WOMAN IN THE RED CONVERTIBLE drove on an abandoned highway, one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a lit cigarette. Orange and red clouds of morning littered the otherwise barren horizon. Her weary eyes focused on the infinite fields of grass and wheat waving restlessly in the morning breeze.

She reached hastily for the button to retract the top, the aforementioned breeze caressing her coarse brown hair. The radio played softly.

"Let's go down the waterfall," it sang tirelessly. "Have ourselves a good time." She flicked ashes from the cigarette.

"It's nothing at all; nothing at all, nothing at all."

She threw her burning cigarette onto the road, hoping secretly that the pavement would catch fire, and then once again reached for the button. The top shut with a satisfying click. Oblivious of her destination, she depressed the accelerator to the floor, her automatic revving in response. Faster and faster she carelessly drove until the car could accelerate no further.

A small bridge loomed ahead. Much like her life, the river beneath it was perpetually stagnant. As she neared it, epiphanies inundated her mind. Everything -- what she must do -- became clear. Without hesitation, she jerked the wheel to the right, smiling in her ignorance. To this woman, the future was of no relevance. For those seconds, ignorant or not, she was alive. Then, after her brief moment of solace had passed, all was eternally still.

Common Problem (2)

NASAKnight (588155) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217741)

This is a common problem in big projects. The time it takes to design a system and then actually implement that system is so great, that by the time the sytem is complete, the hardware used to make that system is 'obsolete.' You can't just add more memory and speed, because then you'd have to go through and make sure that everything still works perfectly, and that would take so long as to make the current hardware 'obsolete.' The real problem here is public hype. You don't need 4 GHz and 40GB of memory to program the space shuttle, but if the public finds out that NASA only uses 64k, they will think NASA is behind the times, even though 64K is enough for the system. Of course, the space shuttle is already considered obsolete by some, and new sytems are being created, so don't fret much over this.


Re:Common Problem (1)

Libor Vanek (248963) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217766)

But you have to also count that such a obsolete HW it's also BIG and HEAVY - and that counts in space bussiness. Nevertheless - I think when you design such a system more modular and in Java (or C++) any future upgrade will be much more easier (how long do we use C/C++ and it still seems to be going on) - not I'm saying easier, not easy!

Re:Common Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217793)

Why isn't the linux kernel in C++?
Why try to do OOP is C when C++ takes all the nasty looking code away.
Was BeOS to slow or something?

Re:Common Problem (2)

NASAKnight (588155) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217804)

It's not the software that's a problem, it's the hardware. What if we want to update the hardware one day (which is what the article is talking about)? Well, let's assume we used a language that SHOULD be platform dependant in the first place. Do we assume the infalliability of the language implementors or do we test every possible thing and make sure it works with the new hardware? Well, this is space buisness, we're dealing in lives, of course we check everything, and that takes time, which was my point.

Re:Common Problem (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217896)

In cases like this, with lots of discrete logic, the software IS the hardware. I doubt much of this is a general purpose computer in the way you would think of it.

As to the people suggessting C++ or Java, get real. I would sooner buy an MS product than trust my life to C++ or Java programming. Keep it simple. Also, I think it's a sad state of affairs when discrete logic chips are getting hard to find... how will people ever learn to build computers from scratch anymore? We will be in danger of losing basic knowledge to levels of abstraction, which is very dangerous indeed.

Re:Common Problem (2, Interesting)

cheeto (128748) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217926)

Actually, the old AP101 computers may have had 64k of memory (I don't recall). We upgraded those bad boys a long time ago to AP101S which have a whopping 256k. Who could ask for anything more.

FYI: That extra bump in memory allowed us to store the entire Entry program in upper memory so that in the event of a Trans-Atlantic abort, we wouldn't have to wait 20 seconds for it to load from the mass memory.

could any one of you (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217749)

bleeding heart liberals take the time to whip up some thing for NASA? Get the schematics. Build a parallel system, try it, if it fails, build another one. Surely we can emulate old technology with what we have now?

Give some thing back to NASA for a change instead of downloading all the pretty Hubble pictures for free all the time.

7400s hard to find? (5, Informative)

Istealmymusic (573079) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217755)

I don't know about everyone else, but when I was a kid I got a Radio Shack 300-in-1 electronic project kit for my birthday which came with a dozen or so 7400 chips. When I plugged one in backwards I just went down to my local Radio Shack [] and picked up a new 74LS00, which they had plenty of in stock all the time.

Certainly the 7400 series as a whole is still widespread and used in hobbyists kits, I'm not that old. Maybe the original 7400 is becoming obsolete, being replaced with the 74LS (low-power Schottkey) or CMOS chips? If then it shouldn't be too difficult to replace the TTL logic with CMOS logic, given a few adjustment levels in voltage, or they could use the TTL-logic and CMOS-logic in one compatible chips [] .

Of course, the 5400 series SSIs (small-scale integrated circuits) are preferred over the 7400s for industrial purposes, and as a plus they are completely backwards compatible. Why isn't NASA using those?

Re:7400s hard to find? (2)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217825)

You can cause a lot of problems by replacing a part in a working system with the manufacturer's new and improved part. Often the new part has faster outputs, which can change your PCB layouts from working to marginal.

Given the above, I still don't see why they would not reimplement the whole thing in a slightly newer logic family and requalify it.

Re:7400s hard to find? (5, Interesting)

mikewas (119762) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217878)

The 54 series parts were like the 74 series, but in a hermitically sealed case, 100% tested over a wider temperature range, and burned in to remove infant failures. For this application they used space qualified components. The same as 54 series parts, more stringent tests, and now the chips are also evaluated for radiation resistance. Any change in the design or production process and the 54 & space qualified chips must be requalified. What can happen is that a chip is produced to be fuctionally the same, but using smaller geometries, and now is more suseptiple to ESD and radiation.

CMOS chips, because of their high impedances, are notorious for ESD and rad sensitivity so they won't do.

With the reduction in military, aerospace, and space spending many manufacturers have dropped the 54 series and space qualified components. They haven't made any attempts to add replacements in their product lines.

When a part is dropped, the manufacturer usually informs the industry of their intent. You're given a date & price for a final order. the theory is that you can buy a lifetime supply of these parts. Industry isn't likely to but any more than they need to complete existing contracts plus a few spares, there's no guarenty that you'll get any more contracts to build items requiring these parts so these purchases will cut into your profits. Government procurment may buy additional components, but lack funding to really buy large quantities.

An opportunity is presented, and they will be taken advantage of. A distributer might buy some additional parts -- since the distribributer has several customers buying a particular part from him, his risk of being stuck with an unseable component is small.

After the final production run, the chip manufactorers will sell the documentation, tooling, and rights to make a chip. There are small manufacturers who buy these, all well as the out of date machinery to produce these parts. They can then make small production runs, sometimes under a hundred components, for a price. In addition, they might buy untested dice or wafers from the last production run. The untested & unpackaged componets are very cheap, so it's more affordable & less risky to buy and store these than the completed components.

So it is possible to still get the parts needed? -- at a price!

Re:7400s hard to find? (1)

inflex (123318) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217880)

The problem is that the shuttle doesn't use normal spec '7400' chips, their chips are usually radiation-hardened military spec chips. While your standard 74LS series are still easy to get, the higher spec ones are not.

The write stuff? (1)

big_debacle (413628) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217774)

There's an old Slashdot article that I couldn't find that pointed out this [] article about the code for the shuttle.

The implication in this article is that there few bugs in the code to start with (1 bug in 420,000 lines of code).

So was the first article bogus or this open source fantasy about flying a space ship?

Hey, O'Keefe, look what I found on SourceForge... (5, Funny)

Boss, Pointy Haired (537010) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217788)



Excellent. That'll save a few dollars. What's the development status?

"1 - Planning, sir"


Go manual... (1)

LucidBeast (601749) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217791)

Can't they just do it by hand? You know press that red button under that white glass plate and kaboom we have lift-off...

Or better yet have the astronauts just lift the clutch and step on it.

Re:Go manual... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217829)

It would suck if he stalled it....

Re:Go manual... (1)

LucidBeast (601749) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217861)

How true, didn't think of that and it's uphill too.

A Simple Solution (5, Funny)

NeuroManson (214835) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217800)

(1) Print up 50,000 numbered authenticity certificates...

(2) Break down the old mainframes until you have roughly 50,000 pieces...

(3) Sell it on eBay (or other auction sites) as space memorabilia, mention that the computer the parts came from were responsible for guiding the Apollo missions to the moon, etc and so on... The machines are SO obsolete now that the only way they could pose a security risk is by sending them back in time...

(4) Profit!

(5) Buy a nice little beowulf cluster, hire 20 Linux geeks and feed each of them $50 in dew and pizza in exchange for setting up the system...

(6) Use remaining funds to pay the Russian space agency to have a little "airlock accident" for that Nsync guy...

Re:A Simple Solution (4, Funny)

Anonymous DWord (466154) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217904)

In re: point number 6, I know you'll be sad to hear that 'N Sync guy's flight is no longer on. There was an article in the NY Times last Wednesday that made me laugh.

[Lance] Bass, of the pop group 'N Sync, had been training at the Star City cosmonaut complex outside Moscow; he was told today to pack his gear and leave after "failing to fulfill the conditions of his contract," a spokesman for the space agency told Reuters.
Adding insult to injury, the space agency said Mr. Bass, 23, would be replaced on the October mission by a cargo container.

Just Cancel the Shuttle Program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217808)

Manned space flight is unnecessary anyway. It's shameful how much money we spend putting a handul of overpaid pilots in space, so they can fix some pork-project telescope used by overpaid scientists to peep at blobs of light billions of miles away, when there are millions of people here on Earth who lack access to clean running water or nutritious food.

With the upcoming anniversary of 9/11/01, I think it's time for Americans to sit down and think long and hard about what's really important in this world.

Re:Just Cancel the Shuttle Program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217869)

Screw that! I want pork rinds

Re:Just Cancel the Shuttle Program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217893)

Knowing where the Earth, our Solar system, our Galaxy, and possibly the Universe came from may be the ultimate important question humanity as a whole needs to figure out. It's important to have science answer these questions, as opposed to speculation or religion, since those are the things that lead to things like Sep 11th in the first place.

Re:Just Cancel the Shuttle Program (1)

jameslore (219771) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217897)

Likewise, it's obscene that you are sitting at a computer commenting on this topic when you could be helping the aforementioned people.

At least the shuttles further knowledge; now America could do a lot more for developing countries by having really free trade (why does the world's largest economy keep helping out already big business?).

Re:Just Cancel the Shuttle Program (1)

jesco (598308) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217907)

Manned space flight is unnecessary anyway. It's shameful how much money we spend putting a handul of overpaid pilots in space, so they can fix some pork-project telescope used by overpaid scientists to peep at blobs of light billions of miles away, when there are millions of people here on Earth who lack access to clean running water or nutritious food.
And it is indeed shameful how much money you spend on unnecessary luxuries, like a car (use public transit instead), a TV (radio and/or newspaper do the job as well), a piece new clothes every months, fast-food etc. Not to mention the 200 billion dollars spent by the U.S. government for defense.

By all means I want everybody in this world to have a home, clean water and enough food to live comfortably. But your using world-poverty as an argument against scientific research is dumb (sorry, got no better word for it).

Sure, astronomics/astrophysics have no immediate use in our daily life, but the ideas, concepts and discoveries are useful in many more application-oriented research.

This called 'basics research'.

Re:Just Cancel the Shuttle Program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217956)

all of you clowns above me have just fallen for one of the oldest trolls in the slashdot book

Re:Just Cancel the Shuttle Program (1) (568173) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217963)

Yes, we should cancel the high tech gov't programs wherein the vast majority of what we all use today has its origins, if not conceptually then made practical by application. Oust those wasteful mid-level enginners and scientists with 1.5 kids and 2.0 mortgages and a college tuition bill. Instead give their money to unemployable gin-swilling bastard factories and their 6 children by 5 different absentee males. That's the wise inventment for the futute of this country, not some silly technology like transistors, lasers, radars, radios, pumps, optics, computers, or jet engines. While we are at it, we can eliminate the Defense Dept also. Surrender half the country to Mexico, and the other half to Canada. Just think of all the free abortions and needles you could buy with that!

They need to change the horse not the jockey (5, Insightful)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217812)

Let's face it; the Space Shuttle is obsolete- it's 30 year old technology barely warmed over. It's completely failed all of the main design goals; NASA told congress that they were aiming for costs as low as $500/kg and 5 nines reliability- they're currently at about $20,000/kg and only 2 nines reliability. These are not small issues. Missing the target price by forty times is an enormous gap.

In fact, the Saturn V was able to launch 4x as much for about the same cost. It could probably have launched most of an ISS in a single launch, and tacked on more sections in 2 or 3 more launches.

It's amazing how it even works because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217817)

Newer Cell phones have more power.

Re:It's amazing how it even works because... (1)

LucidBeast (601749) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217844)

Nah, I can't get three times 2,174,286 Newtons of thrust out of my Nokia... Stuff about engines []

Not thinking smart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217826)

They are not thinking too smart.
If they don't trust an emulator why then take their gates and chips ... put the logic into a netlist... fire up Cadence or another tool and burn a custom chip that is their original machine reduced to one nice chip. Now hire a ME to put it into a compatible case and you are off to the races.

Emulate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217830)

If a bunch of kids can hack up an emulator for every damn architecture under the sun with stuff like MAME and MESS, why can't NASA just emulate the stuff on a modern system. Save them tons of money too.

Attention NASA Folks (1)

rtblmyazz (592071) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217836)

You can get 7400s at Newark Electronics here [] . Hurry, I think they have only 10 million left in stock.... I they run out I have a couple in my junkbox.

Good Riddance! (1)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217841)

If they think they can improve quality and robustness of the system by implementing it in "new" languages, use OO techniques, make it 100x as large (and use 1000x the resources), and hire people off the street (html coders anyone?) to do it, they're obviously in for a disaster.

Oh come ON guys!!! (5, Funny)

nettdata (88196) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217848)

It's not like this is rocket science!

Oh, wait....

Re:Oh come ON guys!!! (2)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217917)

Yeah, but you're forgetting that rocket science isn't rocket science anymore ;-)

This is how you launch the shuttle (2)

thelinuxking (574760) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217853)

It has 64k of memory and no room to repair any software bugs.


Space-Station cost overruns (4, Insightful)

wfmcwalter (124904) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217865)

However, NASA is in a budget crunch with the Space Station cost overruns

Just what is the space station actually for?

  • it's an expensive way to get second-rate microgravity
  • it's a rotten, wobbly astronomy platform
  • no-one is allowed to experiment with low-G sex (given the Russians' new found capitalistic streak, it's a wonder we've not seen any low-G porno yet - or maybe I'm just not in the loop on that)
  • despite what the conspiracy-theory boys say, it'd make a crappy spy satellite and a worse orbital weapons platform
  • there's only so many interesting things we can find out about how spiders make webs in freefall
  • it's not even an efficient way for the US government to prop up the Russian government

The money spent on this (and the space shuttle) could be spent on real science and could get a thousand off-the-shelf spaceprobes to interesting places.

I suppose getting rid of Lance Bass would have made it worthwhile, but even that's not going to happen anymore (unless /.ers constribute to a paypal account for this purpose...)

roses are red
violets are blue
the Russians have satellite laser weapons
so why can't we too?

Re:Space-Station cost overruns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217887)

There is a low-G porno out there that was filmed in the vomit comet. Can't remember the name off-hand.

More shuttle development? (5, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217867)

The code in the Shuttle's launch system is old? The entire Space Shuttle is old. I'll bet a lot of slashdotters don't even remember the Columbia's maiden voyage.

I'm not one to replace things that are working fine, but as I understand it, newer designs could be a whole lot cheaper to operate. So I wonder if pouring more into the Space Shuttle program is the best thing to do.

I'm not saying "let's throw out the space shuttle" but it bothers me that there's apparently nothing in the works with a decent shot at replacing it any time soon. It seems the field of space exploration is becoming antiquated.

Easy solution (3, Funny)

broken (1648) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217870)

Hire John Carmack to do the job. He's into rocketry so he gets to learn more about the whole thing, you get a kickass system, and he may even do it for free.

The guy's so good he may do a better job than a bloated team of 400 contractors.

It has to happen sometime (1)

Post-O-Matic (603617) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217874)

You can't keep rig-upgrade all the time. Finding wierd solutions like emulators and buying old hardware.

Will they write an emulator 70's hardware in 2100 too ? Probably not. They point where you upgrade the whole system has to come at some point. Might as well do it now. At least now those chips aren't that old compared to 20 years from now, when NOBODY will know how to deal with them.

Though I don't envy the poor guys who'll have to rewrite that code...

Re:It has to happen sometime (1)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217949)

But that will replace *working* and *tested* technology with something that *might* not work or have really minor unforeseen bugs that will screw up a few dozen launches.

Especially if the new-and-improved code/system is bigger and more complex than the original.

I think it's better to emulate 70's rock solid and robust code than to create a new buggy version that does the same thing - but has OOP and a few other IT acronyms in its description.

7400 (1, Redundant)

AlgUSF (238240) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217876)

I have a bag full of TTL 7400 chips left over from my undergraduate logic design class!

No money? (1, Insightful)

ryochiji (453715) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217882)

It's kind of sad how NASA's running out of money when the military gets so much money. Personally, a government that can keep a space shuttle fleet up to date and flying would give me a better sense of security than a government that's eager to go to war. But maybe that's just me.

7400? (2)

Decimal (154606) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217885)

They need a cheap replacement for a 7400? No problem! I have an old 7800 they can have for free. I'll throw in some 2600 games that it can play - StarMaster & Missle Command, that should get them back into orbit in no time, right?

64k. (1, Redundant)

DarkHelmet (120004) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217888)

It has 64k of memory and no room to repair any software bugs

But 64k should be enough for everybody!

7400 chips are hard to find, huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217905)

These chips are NOT hard to find. Name=296-1723-5-ND

Re:7400 chips are hard to find, huh? (1)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217964)

They're only interested in the super-expensive custom made 7400 chips, that are supplied by their approved contractors.

I wouldn't be surprised if they spend a few millions on getting a few of those chips.

It's the deep-pocket-NASA, their contractors have subcontractors (and those have sub-sub-contractors). With them, nothing is plain and simple as going to Radio Shack and getting supplies.


Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217920)

Maybe Lance Bass could offer up a solution?

OO?!!!!! (1)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217927)

Surely OO is a bit risky for such a thing. They should be looking at Pascal or something. Isn't that what some nuclear power station use? or Fortran?


djupedal (584558) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217944)

NASA has been underdelivering for decades and now someone wants to throw another bandaid on the wound?

Why are we talking about cysts and lesions when the carcass has no head, legs or arms?

Plenty of Room to Fix Bugs (1)

cheeto (128748) | more than 11 years ago | (#4217952)

I can't remember how much core we have left, but rest assured that we have plenty of room to fix bugs. And since we are in the process of replacing the display system with one that does most of its own processing, we are freeing up a large amount of data and code space.

Keep in mind that our patches are usually measured in 16 bit half-words in the single digits.

Re:Plenty of Room to Fix Bugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4217970)

Why don't you emulate the environment under Linux?
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