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Probe Crash Due to Misdesigned Deceleration Sensor

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the for-want-of-a-nail dept.

Space 374

squirrelhack writes "Seems as though the Genesis spacecraft was able to launch from earth, travel through space, avoid aliens, and cruise back into the atmosphere to be caught by stunt pilots waiting patiently with their helicopters. Alas, the brakes didn't work because a sensor was designed upside down.

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374 comments

MASTER CHIEF DIES IN HALO 2!!!!!!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539294)

Leaked copies of Halo 2 on the warez scene reveal that MASTER CHIEF DIES IN HALO 2!

That's right!

Leaked copies of Halo 2 on the warez scene reveal that MASTER CHIEF DIES IN HALO 2!

That's right!

Re:MASTER CHIEF DIES IN HALO 2!!!!!!!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539360)

You are a sad, pathetic, dickless human being if you have nothing better to do but lie in wait for new /. articles to appear just to post FP shit like this. Go fuck yourself you cracksmoking worthless piece of scumfucking retard goatse posting pimplefaced mommy's basement 733t r0x0rz5!!!!11!!!! fuckbag.

(Sorry. It's been a long week.)

Re:MASTER CHIEF DIES IN HALO 2!!!!!!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539401)

ahahah lol, you worte teh "goatse" !!!

Re:MASTER CHIEF DIES IN HALO 2!!!!!!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539486)

K3WL.

--
w4r3zd00d

There is a bright side (5, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539299)

Look on the bright side. The craft was not a complete loss, and it was the first probe to successfully test the Interplanetary Superhighway [wikipedia.org]. (Article with pictures [nasa.gov]) Now that we know the IPSHwy works, we have the capability to launch cargo ANYWHERE in the solar system.

The primary limitation is the maximum weight we can get to the Earth/Moon Lagrange points. Once at the L-points, the cargo pretty much travels one gravity slingshot to the next with nearly no fuel expenditure. This could be a massive boon for sending Interplanetary mission cargo, especially when staging manned missions!

The only down side is that the IPSHwy is simply too slow for manned travel. Not too bad of a tradeoff, however, when you consider the amount of mass that can be more easily staged at Mars in advance! It's certainly reasonable that we could have a complete microsat network at Mars before a human ever sets foot there. Services that could be provided include:

- Mars GPS system
- Deep Space Network [wikipedia.org] Uplink
- Satellite Radio Communicators for landing teams
- Detailed mapping and emergency surveillance of problem areas

In short, we could have a complete technological infrastructure on Mars before we risk anyone's life going there. It wouldn't have to be like the moon mission. We could go to stay.

Re:There is a bright side (2, Funny)

plover (150551) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539329)

We could go to stay.

Well, you can, anyway. "Batman, off the island!"

Re:There is a bright side (2, Informative)

bsd4me (759597) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539403)

The primary limitation is the maximum weight we can get to the Earth/Moon Lagrange points. Once at the L-points, the cargo pretty much travels one gravity slingshot to the next with nearly no fuel expenditure.

If anyone is interested, I believe this is also known as a soft orbit transfer. IIRC, this technique was inveneted to rescue a mission that had suffered a pretty catastrophic failure.

Re:There is a bright side (4, Interesting)

DigitalRaptor (815681) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539513)

In conjunction with a Space Elevator [thingsdreamed.com] this would be a great way to get rid of our radioactive waste.

Fill a large container with radioactive waste, send it up the elevator, tow / launch it to the nearest lagrange point, and send it down the superhighway.

When it gets to it's exit, thrusters fire and it flies directly into the sun. No more radioactive waste.

Re:There is a bright side (0, Troll)

johndeeregator (549310) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539586)

Did Al Gore invent that, too?

Re:There is a bright side (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539617)

the only thing al gore invented was your mom!!!1!one!!eleven!!!

Re:There is a bright side (4, Funny)

schon (31600) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539626)

Now that we know the IPSHwy works, we have the capability to launch cargo ANYWHERE in the solar system.

So now when I travel, instead of the airline sending my luggage to another city, it can end up anywhere in the *solar system*. Yeah, that's just what we need!

It seems ... (3, Insightful)

Sonic McTails (700139) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539303)

... that human error can happen even in the most expensive projects.

Re:It seems ... (5, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539473)

... that human error can happen even in the most expensive projects.

Because no matter how much money you spend you can't buy perfect humans, and to err is human.

To correct error is engineering.

Once upon a time some 'wires' in my brain got crossed and I actually picked up a hot soldering iron from the wrong end. Have you ever had that experience where you realize you're about to do something terribly, terribly wrong, but the impulse has already been sent and you can't stop it?

I hate when that happens.

But I only did that once. Pain is a great teacher. One might almost come to the conclusion that that's what it's there for.

So the next probe will have the sensor absolutely correct and working. They'll have to come up with brand new ways to mess things up.

Just like I do.

KFG

Re:It seems ... (4, Interesting)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539529)

Have you ever made a mistake that hurt so much you knew you'd never make that mistake again? And when it came around next time, you made so much effort to not make that mistake that you ended up making a completely different mistake?

Mistakes happen, as you say. As is commonly accepted my many software developers, software has bugs.

The parent notes that mistakes happen in even the most expensive projects. I think it's more likely to happen in complex (and therefore expensive) projects.

Re:It seems ... (2, Funny)

c_oflynn (649487) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539510)

Man, you are wasting your talent here on Slashdot. With such super-sleuthing abilities, no mystery would be too great for you!

Re:It seems ... (1)

xSauronx (608805) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539563)

thats not insightful...human error is always going to happen. it just *sucks* more in expensive projects.

I wonder if the sensor-installer guy got fired....maybe it was Homer.

Nasa Guy: Homer, you installed the parachute sensor backwards and the probe crashed!

Homer: D'oh!

This stuff is EXPECTED (5, Insightful)

Amsterdam Vallon (639622) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539309)

I wish POLITICIANS would stop judging accidents with NASA and spaceflight in general as "wastes".

It's NOT a waste. Research REQUIRES failure. SUCESS requires failure.

One step at a time, my fellow scientists and engineers. One step at a time.

Re:This stuff is EXPECTED (5, Insightful)

turbotalon (592486) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539537)

Yes, sucess requires failures, but not of this kind!! Imagine if in the early days of cars they had spent millions of dollars researching and designing the latest carburator, then installed it BACKWARD.

We expect failures like "Hmm we didn't know there would be THAT much particulate matter in space, look at all those holes!", not "oops, got that backwards!!" or, "oops, forgot to convert to metric!"

"It's always the little things that get me, I always get a fscking decimal point wrong or something!" --Michael, Office Space

Not expected... tolerated (4, Insightful)

handorf (29768) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539551)

But we know things like this already. Failure is fine if you learn from it.

What did we learn? Um... accelerometers only work in one direction... if you install them backwards, things don't happen right!

We tolerate mistakes if we have to make them, but this one (like all the recent Lockheed Martin screwups on work for NASA) appears to be stupidity.

Re:This stuff is EXPECTED (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539596)

Based on NASA failure rate for the past several years they have had a stunning success at screwing up.

Well it turned out to be a win win situation ... (5, Funny)

Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539312)

The scientists got their samples and the public got a cool crash video

wtf (-1, Redundant)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539316)

The article doesnt say it's a design error.

They installed the switch backwards.

Yeah (3, Informative)

bsd4me (759597) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539342)

I read the same story here [yahoo.com] earlier today, and it also says that it was installed backwards.

Re:wtf (4, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539343)

You didn't read the article very well. It says that the specs said the part should go in backwards. From the article:

The sensors, which are estimated to be less than an inch (2.5 centimetres) wide, were apparently installed in a circuit board in the wrong orientation - rotated 180 from the correct direction. But the problem stemmed not from the installation but the design, by Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Maryland.

Re:wtf (1, Interesting)

Mad Martigan (166976) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539490)

The sensors, which are estimated to be less than an inch (2.5 centimetres) wide, were apparently installed in a circuit board in the wrong orientation - rotated 180 from the correct direction. But the problem stemmed not from the installation but the design, by Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Maryland.

I caught that too. What I don't understand is what was wrong with the design. Is the crash investigation team saying, "Yeah, the sensors were designed wrong, but, huh, check it out, they were installed backwards too, but that doesn't matter" or what? It seems like them (the sensors) being in backwards would be a big deal, but the article seems to imply that the design flaw was the only relevant mistake.

Anybody have any idea what the flaw was or why the sensors would still work when installed backwards?

Re:wtf (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539519)

Yeah, the sensors were designed wrong, but, huh, check it out, they were installed backwards too

No, not quite. They're saying that the manufacturer designed them to be installed backwards on the circuit board. i.e. The assembly guys did everything right (it probably only fit one way), but Lockheed-Martin screwed the pooch.

Re:wtf (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539564)

I think it means that they were installed such that they pointed the wrong direction, but that was because the drawings said to install them that direction. The designers screwed up, the installers did their job correctly based on a bad print.

I'm a designer, it makes sense to me. I have to be careful that my work is right, and hope that if I do make a mistake, someone catches it, and doesn't just build to print.

Re:wtf (3, Funny)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539364)

Second (or third if ya count the dropped sattelite at Goddard about 18 months ago) screwup by Lockheed on a recent NASA project. Knowing NASA, they'll likely give LockMart a bonus for that performance ;)

Re:wtf (1)

yohan1701 (779792) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539372)

The sensors, which are estimated to be less than an inch (2.5 centimetres) wide, were apparently installed in a circuit board in the wrong orientation - rotated 180 from the correct direction. But the problem stemmed not from the installation but the design, by Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Maryland.

Crappy article really first they said there where installed incorrectly then they said no the where designed backwards

read the article first dude. (1)

Anonymous Luddite (808273) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539415)



From the article:
But the problem stemmed
not from the installation but the design, by Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Maryland. /SNIP


also:
"They still have to find out why that
design error was not caught," says Savage.

RTFA (1)

KingFatty (770719) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539435)

But, the article *says* it's a design error.

It says so in the title of the article, and the very first sentence of the article.

RTFA.

"Genesis crash linked to upside-down design

Sensors to detect deceleration on NASA's Genesis space capsule were installed correctly but had been designed upside down, resulting in the failure to deploy the capsule's parachutes."

Re:wtf (2, Funny)

rusty0101 (565565) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539465)

Design error: implementor installs the switch as it was designed, which was backwards.

Implementation error: design was correct, but the implementor reversed the polarity of the switch.

Remember Murphy's law is not 'Whatever can go wrong will.' it is 'Whenever there are two possible ways to implement something and one of them will result in a catastropic result, it can be certian that someone will configure things that way.' (paraphrased.)

In this case the report is that there were two possible ways that the switch could be installed by the implementor, one of which would result in the catastrophy that was wittnesed. (And the designers are saying it was that implementation.)

Post event analysis will say 'Yes, it was implemented incorrectly. Our recomendation is that the design be improved to prevent future implementations this way.'

The claim is that the design was correct, had things been implemented 'as designed'. The recomendation is that the design be improved so that an incorrect implementation is less likely to happen in the future.

-Rusty

Re:wtf (1)

Tenebrious1 (530949) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539469)

They installed the switch backwards.

Then, shouldn't the switch have been triggered by *acceleration* and fired the chute right after takeoff?

Re:wtf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539581)

I would argue that a switch that can be installed backwards IS a design error. If it's mission-critical, make sure that someone can't screw up the mission with it.

To err is human... (5, Funny)

freeze128 (544774) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539323)

But it takes a rocket scientist to really screw things up.

Re:To err is human... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539424)

According to Dave Letterman, these days you don't have to be a rocket scientist to be a rocket scientist.

Mirror? (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Luddite (808273) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539325)


anyone? This post is only minutes old and the site is already borked.

Re:Mirror? (2, Informative)

ottergoose (770022) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539402)

Genesis crash linked to upside-down design
17:18 15 October 04
NewScientist.com news service


Sensors to detect deceleration on NASA's Genesis space capsule were installed correctly but had been designed upside down, resulting in the failure to deploy the capsule's parachutes. The design flaw is the prime suspect for why the capsule, carrying precious solar wind ions, crashed in Utah on 8 September, according to a NASA investigation board.

The sensors were a key element in a domino-like series of events designed to release the parachutes. When the capsule - which blazed into the atmosphere at 11 kilometres per second - decelerated by three times the force of gravity (3 Gs), the sensors should have made contact with a spring.

"It's like smashing on the brakes in your car - you feel yourself being pushed forward," says NASA spokesperson Don Savage.

The contact should have continued as the capsule peaked at a deceleration of about 30 Gs. Then, when the capsule's deceleration fell back through 3 Gs, the contact would have been broken, starting a timer that signalled the first parachute to release.

"But it never made the initial contact because it was backwards," Savage told New Scientist.

Wrong orientation

The sensors, which are estimated to be less than an inch (2.5 centimetres) wide, were apparently installed in a circuit board in the wrong orientation - rotated 180 from the correct direction. But the problem stemmed not from the installation but the design, by Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Maryland.

They still have to find out why that design error was not caught," says Savage. The mission's Mishap Investigation Board will continue to investigate the problem.

"This single cause has not yet been fully confirmed, nor has it been determined whether it is the only problem within the Genesis system," says the board's chairman Michael Ryschkewitsch. "The board is working to confirm this proximate cause, to determine why this error occurred, why it was not caught by the test programme and an extensive set of in-process and after-the-fact reviews of the Genesis system."

So far, Savage says, the design flaw does not seem to be shared by NASA's Stardust mission, which will use a similar parachute system to deliver samples of a comet to Earth in January 2006.

The $264 million Genesis mission launched in August 2001 to study the composition of the early Solar System, which is thought to be reflected in the solar wind.

Re:gmail invites (-1, Redundant)

mbonig (727002) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539351)

someone PLEASE mod this guy down out of existance!!!

Why? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539368)

Are you some kind of hypocritical censorship nazi? Dipshit.

Re:Why? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539474)

Only on Slashdot is wanting free speech considered a "Troll"

Re:Why? (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539609)

No, I think it's calling people nazis and "dipshits" that is considered a troll.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539629)

That is censorship, like it or not.

It seems that some people here just don't understand the concept of the free speech they want so badly.. The hypocrisy is amazing!

Re:Why? (1)

mbonig (727002) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539541)

no, I just want to make sure people who came to slashdot for content don't get suckered into seeing shit on a womans face when they think they're finally getting a gmail invite... it's deceptive, not free speech.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539554)

So you do promote censorship?

Good one, Hitler.

Re:gmail invites (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539425)

someone please teach this guy how to spell existence.

Nice. But it's all good anyway. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539348)

All of life is really like that. The only reason space mission failures are so spectacular is because everything is a one-of, and any mistake turns great success into a crater. The fact that these failures are the exception and not the norm is a testement to the expertise of all involved. It's their great skill that has allowed us to become so jaded :).

I was trying for comedy (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539362)

...and make some sort of Genesis joke but there just isn't anything funny at all about the damn group.

When told about its demise, Peter Gabriel responded with "So?"

Re:I was trying for comedy (5, Funny)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539405)

...and make some sort of Genesis joke but there just isn't anything funny at all about the damn group.

KHAAAAANNNNN!!!!

Re:I was trying for comedy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539530)

Who dunnit?

Enough! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539367)

Haven't we had enough stories about sensorship today?

once again... (0, Troll)

mbonig (727002) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539381)

... we see millions on top of millions go to a program that "failed" because of a simple design oversight. I sure hope whoever missed that gets fired!

Re:once again... (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539598)

I sure hope whoever missed that gets fired!

What about the idea that the system where such a slip is attributed to the individual but not the production environment with all its facets is intrinsically flawed ?

CC.

Re:once again... (1)

mbonig (727002) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539640)

What about the idea that the system where such a slip is attributed to the individual but not the production environment with all its facets is intrinsically flawed ? nah, some scientist missed this design, other scientists missed it during checks... those scientists could have cost us (US taxpayers) millions on top of millions... I think they should get canned.

no such thing as... (1, Informative)

OneOver137 (674481) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539382)

'deceleration' Just acceleration in some direction. If it's opposite of what you define as positive, it's negative.

Re:no such thing as... (1)

cephyn (461066) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539452)

indeed. but its much more elegant to call it a "deceleration sensor" than an "acceleration in the opposite direction of current velocity sensor".

Come on! Practicality people!

Re:no such thing as... (4, Informative)

dartboard (23261) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539455)

This isn't a trick question on your high school physics quiz. Just because the term deceleration is not preferred because it is ambiguous does not mean that it doesn't exist. Maybe it's *acceleration* that doesn't exist!

From Dictionary.com:

3 entries found for deceleration.
decelerate Audio pronunciation of "deceleration" ( P ) Pronunciation Key (d-sl-rt)
v. decelerated, decelerating, decelerates
v. tr.

1. To decrease the velocity of.
2. To slow down the rate of advancement of: measures intended to decelerate the arms buildup.

v. intr.

To decrease in velocity.

Re:no such thing as... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539594)

Velocity is a vector quantity too. Put that in your dictionary.com and query it.

Upside Down? (2, Funny)

grunt107 (739510) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539393)

You'd think the siseneG would have been a tip off!

article-rip (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539460)

note-i only got online to avoid the annoying
telephone surveys which are more like political
advertisements, and even when you hang up the phone just keeps ringing, so for for such a great country

http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns9 99 96541
The World's No.1 Science & Technology News Service

Genesis crash linked to upside-down design

17:18 15 October 04

NewScientist.com news service

Sensors to detect deceleration on NASA's Genesis space capsule were installed correctly but had been designed upside down, resulting in the failure to deploy the capsule's parachutes. The design flaw is the prime suspect for why the capsule, carrying precious solar wind ions, crashed in Utah on 8 September, according to a NASA investigation board.

The sensors were a key element in a domino-like series of events designed to release the parachutes. When the capsule - which blazed into the atmosphere at 11 kilometres per second - decelerated by three times the force of gravity (3 Gs), the sensors should have made contact with a spring.

"It's like smashing on the brakes in your car - you feel yourself being pushed forward," says NASA spokesperson Don Savage.

The contact should have continued as the capsule peaked at a deceleration of about 30 Gs. Then, when the capsule's deceleration fell back through 3 Gs, the contact would have been broken, starting a timer that signalled the first parachute to release.

"But it never made the initial contact because it was backwards," Savage told New Scientist.

Wrong orientation

The sensors, which are estimated to be less than an inch (2.5 centimetres) wide, were apparently installed in a circuit board in the wrong orientation - rotated 180 from the correct direction. But the problem stemmed not from the installation but the design, by Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Maryland.

More on this story

Subscribe to New Scientist for more news and features

Related Stories

Genesis scientists analysing simulated samples
12 October 2004

Failed explosives caused Genesis crash
09 September 2004

Solar wind space capsule crashes
08 September 2004

For more related stories
search the print edition Archive

Weblinks

Genesis, NASA

Stardust, NASA

Lockheed Martin

"They still have to find out why that design error was not caught," says Savage. The mission's Mishap Investigation Board will continue to investigate the problem.

"This single cause has not yet been fully confirmed, nor has it been determined whether it is the only problem within the Genesis system," says the board's chairman Michael Ryschkewitsch. "The board is working to confirm this proximate cause, to determine why this error occurred, why it was not caught by the test programme and an extensive set of in-process and after-the-fact reviews of the Genesis system."

So far, Savage says, the design flaw does not seem to be shared by NASA's Stardust mission, which will use a similar parachute system to deliver samples of a comet to Earth in January 2006.

The $264 million Genesis mission launched in August 2001 to study the composition of the early Solar System, which is thought to be reflected in the solar wind.

Maggie McKee

Blame game... (5, Interesting)

Jonah Hex (651948) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539408)

But the problem stemmed not from the installation but the design, by Lockheed Martin
So what kind of trouble is LM going to get into over this one, like most big money contracts I'm sure there is some kind of penalty for such a screwup. I'm not talking about firing the engineer or some Q&A folks, I'm talking about money returned to NASA.

Jonah Hex

Re:Blame game... (1)

Ancil (622971) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539641)


like most big money contracts I'm sure there is some kind of penalty for such a screwup.
You've never worked for government, have you?

Why does Lockheed Martin continue to get NASA work (5, Interesting)

handorf (29768) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539428)

Seriously. Correct me if I'm wrong, but THEY're the ones who:
Thought we still use Imperial for SPACE WORK (Mars Climate Orbiter IIRC?)
Recently dropped a sat because it wasn't bolted down when they moved it.
Now this.

Can I get like a billion dollars to fail repeatedly? PLEASE?

References (4, Informative)

handorf (29768) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539470)

Lest I get a bunch of "What are you talking about?" responses:

For them dropping the NOAA sat:
http://www.space.com/spacenews/businessmonda y_0410 11.html
(first link I found)

Climate Orbiter:
http://www.space.com/news/mco_report-b_9 91110.html

Re:References (2, Funny)

RollingThunder (88952) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539583)

A great one for the NOAA sat is here:

http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=102 99

This one has the pictures that are enough to make anyone wince and shake their head sadly.

Re:References (1)

handorf (29768) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539620)

Nice... thanks for the pictures... I hadn't gotten to see how truly beautiful this screw-up was.

Upside Down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539429)

because a sensor was designed upside down.

And I thought the idea of massive amounts of blood rushing to the brain causing heightened intelligence was only a myth.

Ass-umptions (2, Insightful)

Mark of THE CITY (97325) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539441)

All it takes is one ass-umption to make the great space systems contractor to look like an ass.

Of course, they usually do get it right, in near-heroic fashion. But didn't it occur to anyone to try this out by, say, building a unit without the science part, bringing it along on a pre-scheduled Shuttle flight, and de-orbiting it? (IIRC, design and test pre-dated the Coulmbia accident). That way, they get a real re-entry at low (for NASA) cost.

Hmm (3, Funny)

rnelsonee (98732) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539463)

From the article:
The mission's Mishap Investigation Board will continue to investigate the problem.

Oh, suuuure. MIB stands for "Mishap Investigation Board" now, huh? We're on to you, you governemnt spooks!

Murphy's Law? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539478)

Isn't this the same situation that resulted in the creation of Murphy's Law. They were doing acceleration tests on humans but they installed the sensors backwards so the tests were useless.

The original lesson they learned was: That if a design allows for a part to be installed incorrectly, then that part will be installed incorrectly (eventually, or maybe even the first time).

Just a little bit of history repeating.

Better than breaks on takeoff? (1)

matman (71405) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539488)

It's a good thing that the switch didn't attempt to detect acceleration as well (for some other purpose). It would could have been pretty disastrous (even more so?) to have the shoot fire during take off. :)

Murphy's Law, Long Version? (1)

Benanov (583592) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539489)

If there are exactly two ways to do something, and one of them ends in catastrophic failure, someone will do it that way.

Sounds like the original, where sixteen sensors for testing a g-force experiment were dutifully and methodically glued in place backwards.

--Benanov

Alphaware ... (5, Insightful)

dragondm (30289) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539498)

Sheeeeezzzz...

These kind of mistakes make me wonder. WHY does NASA *HAVE* to re-design every freakin' thing on every freakin' mission from the ground up every freakin' time?

We're flying alpha-test spacecraft.

Re-usable modules anybody?? Heard of those? Standard designs? Sure, some parts are going to be different, namely the actual scientific instruments, but fer ghodssake an accelerometer?! WhyTF do we need to redesign that (its a weight, a spring and a switch, fer the love of pete) ?!!

-sigh-

Reminds me of ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539511)

that Farside cartoon with "School for the Gifted" or something.

Looks like a case of life depicting art.

Alpha Designer (1)

C_REZ (568254) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539520)

The person that lead the design probably had a personality that was so strong no one dared to question his work.

This way UP on most cardboard boxes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539548)

Thank god the laws of nature are not all symmetrical, otherwise we wouldn't be able to distinguish between idiots and geniuses.

Like a spring (1)

PrvtBurrito (557287) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539552)

When the capsule - which blazed into the atmosphere at 11 kilometres per second - decelerated by three times the force of gravity (3 Gs), the sensors should have made contact with a spring."It's like smashing on the brakes in your car - you feel yourself being pushed forward," says NASA spokesperson Don Savage.

Doesn't that mean that the parachutes should have deployed on take off? heh....

Same thing happened to Galileo entry probe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539559)

The probe Galileo dropped into the Jovian atmosphere had exactly the same problem, sensors installed upside down. They had a fallback of a system clock which would start the entry sequence when the expected time from release to atmosphere occurred. Not quite as accurate as positive detection of the reentry, but it clearly worked well enough to save the mission.

This flight should also have had a count down timer to "expected" time of atmosphere as a fallback.

Oh well....

On the bright side... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10539579)

It may have been backwards, but at least they used metric units.

They should have known! (4, Funny)

GMFTatsujin (239569) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539589)

You'd think they would have figured out that the braking switch was in backwards when they saw Genesis's airbags deploy at liftoff.

3... 2... 1... *PFOOF*

Happened to me too.... (1)

GillBates0 (664202) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539592)

but this was when I playing 'Moonlander' and accidentally mapped Up to the down arrow key and Down to the up arrow key.

Caused me many a lost mission and endless hours of frustration that night. These guys got lucky...

It just shows that you gotta test (5, Insightful)

shoppa (464619) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539608)

Testing of the assembly would have shown up this problem immediately.

Just like you should never write that code that cannot be tested (in the perfect world, every line would be executed during testing), you should never design a subassembly that cannot be tested.

It's a organizational attitude adjustment that's needed to put this into effect.

Symmetrical parts baaaaad (5, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539611)

I remember reading about an Apollo moon car issue where a core-sample clamp would not work because it was installed upside down. It ended up wasting about an hour of astronaut time. Parts designers should avoid symmetrical designs where things fit, or semi-fit, if misoriented. Design them with things sticking out so that it would not fit *at all* if put in wrong.

Learning (1)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539624)

The experiment was good because it test a lot of novel space flight theories so it wasn't completely a waste. However, the part failure that compromised the mission was old, established tech and should not have failed. Get rid of the contractors! They suck.

Redundant logic (4, Interesting)

Scorillo47 (752445) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539625)

A while back, one of the main things I admired NASA for was the redundant design concept. You just have a backup path for everything.

But recently it looks like they kind of dropped this concept, at least partially. Probably as a cost-cutting measure. The success of the whole mission now depends on the reliability of several single components, like the sensor in discussion.

BTW, did you know that a Mars Rover has a single CPU that carries out all the computation? I found this puzzling. Today, you add redundance in every piece of equipment - even in web blades.

mundane detail (1)

Wakkow (52585) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539634)

I must have put a sensor the wrong place or something. Shit, I always do that, I always mess up some mundane detail.

Michael B.
Satellite Design Group
Lockheed Martin

Murphy's law (1)

Sindri (207695) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539637)

This is exactly what Murphy's law predicts:
"The sensors provided a zero reading, however; it became apparent that they had been installed incorrectly, with each sensor wired backwards. It was at this point that Murphy made his pronouncement."
from the wikipedia article about Murphys law [wikipedia.org].
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