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343 comments

Ah. (5, Funny)

toQDuj (806112) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355903)

So that's where the minus sign should have gone, I knew I dropped it somewhere!

and an Obligatory Pratchett Quote:

Hex's pen was scratching across the paper.
Ponder glanced at the figures.
` ..., these figures can't be right!`
Ridcully grinned again. `You mean either the whole world has gone wrong or your machine is wrong?`
`Yes!`
`Then I'd imagine the answer is pretty easy, wouldn't you?` said Ridcully.
`Yes, it certainly is. Hex gets thoroughly tested every day` said Ponder Stibbons
`Good point, that man,` Said Ridcully.

B.

Question answered! (5, Funny)

LackThereof (916566) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355905)

The $110 million DART mission was meant to test whether robots can perform some of the tasks astronauts currently must do.

Well, we answered that question. Mission accomplished!

damn! (0, Redundant)

esmrg (869061) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355909)

forgot to carry that negative sign again

Oops! (1, Offtopic)

robbiedo (553308) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355987)

Oops! I took down email servers down on three contintents due to a DNS error back in the day. Oops! For the curious it was a contract job for for a division of a large Japanese company, and there was some confusion on resposibilities for the DNS servers However, they like real apologies when someone screws up. They were actually planning to have me go on a corporate jet to Japan to apologize profusely to the company CEO. My boss told them to go do something very difficult to themselves. American arrogance at its best!

That's no crash... (5, Funny)

calexontheroad66 (975611) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355910)

it's a successfull hit, now let's build that missile defense system.

Re:That's no crash... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15356135)

You'll have to stop pinching headlines from Fark first...

DART (4, Funny)

Shifty Jim (862102) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355911)

Well... Maybe they shouldn't have painted a giant bullseye on the side of the satellite.

DART: 50 points
NASA: -110 million dollars

Oops. (0, Troll)

Mjr. Mayhem (959030) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355912)

"Investigators blamed the collision on faulty navigational data that caused the DART spacecraft to believe that it was backing away from its target when it was actually bearing down on it."

The lesson learned? Don't hire Microsoft to program your space endeavors.

Let me be the first to say.... (3, Funny)

haeger (85819) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355916)

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

No, but seriously, this is sad. It takes us farther away from what I'd like to see in a car, namely a self-steering one. I'd prefer one that detects an oncoming truck as oncoming and tries to get out of the way.

.haeger

Re:Let me be the first to say.... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15356151)

what I'd like to see in a car, namely a self-steering one
They're called Taxis. Seriously, i'll be here all week.

Re:Let me be the first to say.... (1)

crashelite (882844) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356277)

i see it all now... the news report... "auto pilot car was going along the road and suddenly went into oncomming traffic and accelerated 5 times its speed into the front end of a tractor trailer".... "auto manufacurer has no comment but the air bags did deploy killing the driver instantly" (i hate airbags if you couldnt tell)

I knew it. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15355917)

Female drivers at NASA!

Oddly familiar (5, Interesting)

Brushen (938011) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355918)

Where have I heard that before?

From Challenger:

"Engineers at Morton Thiokol (manufacturer of the solid rocket boosters) knew that the temperatures were outside of the design range of the O-rings. They strongly objected to the launch, but were overruled by senior Thiokol management."

From Columbia:

"In a risk-management scenario similar to the Challenger disaster, NASA management failed to recognize the relevance of engineering concerns for safety. Two examples of this were failure to honor engineer requests for imaging to inspect possible damage, and failure to respond to engineer requests about status of astronaut inspection of the left wing."

From DART:

"Investigators also raised issues with the mission's management style, saying that lack of training and experience caused the DART design team to shun expert advice. They also found that internal checks and balances were inadequate in uncovering the mission's shortcomings."

Re:Oddly familiar (0, Troll)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355936)

It's the job of critics and engineers to say things like that constantly and then land a newspaper deal when (if) it happens.

Re:Oddly familiar (3, Insightful)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356123)

Bullshit!

Why even bother with engineers if that is your attitude? Why bother having projects at all? Let's just funnel money directly into defense and aerospace contractors' pockets, and make it easier for them to pay off the politicians. It'll be a whole lot more efficient, and, in cases like the shuttle, won't lead to any loss of life.

I've posted this link [virtualschool.edu] elsewhere, but it bears repeating.

And WTF is a "newspaper deal"?

Re:Oddly familiar (4, Insightful)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356200)

It's the job of critics and engineers to say things like that constantly and then land a newspaper deal when (if) it happens.

Did you happen to read those quotes? It points out the disconnect between the engineers who design the system and build, and know what it is and isn't capable of, and the PHB management that is bowing to pressure from above in rushing things into production without adequate regard to safety or overlooking the safety objects of the engineers. Columbia and Challenger were direct results of management looking at something pointed out by engineers and blatantly ignoring the facts, under pressure to keep the shuttle running.

BTW, this isn't the 1920's, so anybody getting a "newspaper deal" is in for a rude shock when they get the check.

Re:Oddly familiar (4, Insightful)

FTL (112112) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355984)

If an engineer makes a mistake, it's the job of the manager to have in place a system whereby the mistake is caught. Engineering failures which reach the light of day are also managment failures. Management failures are management failures. If something happens, no matter how it happened, it's always going to be a managment failure.

So yes, you are right. It's always the manager's fault. By definition.

Re:Oddly familiar (2, Insightful)

It'sYerMam (762418) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356097)

But what is the bigger cock-up: Deliberately ignoring the advice of your engineers, or not knowing that they themselves have cocked up? Surely the former - in the latter case, they have an excuse for not knowing.

Re:Oddly familiar (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356140)

Engineering failures which reach the light of day are also managment failures.

I think I know what you meant, but the way you wrote that could be interpreted as, "Engineering failures which reach the light of day are also managment failures in the cover up". A better way to put it would be, "Engineering failures which aren't discovered and corrected are also managment failures.

The reason that it is important to point out this difference is because we've already seen management cover up or sweep under the carpet engineering failures. We've also seen pressure to do so come from the politicians and the contractors (who have the politicians in their pockets).

Re:Oddly familiar (2, Insightful)

massivefoot (922746) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356001)

Management -never- seem to know what the hell they're doing. Companies seem to make the constant mistake of believing that you can manage something you know nothing about. Take the following example. I know a guy who used to work in computing and electrical engineering, in around the 60s, 70s, so pretty primitive stuff. Apparently at the time it was common to approximate integrals electronically by building up a charge on a capacitor over some time, representing the range of the integral, with the current behaving as the function to be integrated. He had to try and explain this concept to a member of senior management one day. The first question he was ask was "what the hell's an integral?".

Re:Oddly familiar (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15356037)

what the hell's an integral?

Re:Oddly familiar (1)

massivefoot (922746) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356124)

Think of it as a sum of infintely many infitesimal terms. You'd normally use it to find the area under curves, masses of bodies etc. Basically, it's absolutely essential for electronics (or indeed any form of engineering).

Re:Oddly familiar (1)

basingwerk (521105) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356147)

> I know a guy who used to work in computing and
> electrical engineering, in around the 60s, 70s, so
> pretty primitive stuff.

> Apparently at the time it was common to approximate integrals
> electronically by building up a charge on a capacitor over some
> time, representing the range of the integral, with the current
> behaving as the function to be integrated.
It's not all primitive - this is usually done in analog 3-term PID controllers. Where electonics cannot be used due to environment restrictions, pneumatic bellows (!) are often used to model integral action. > He had to try and explain this concept to a member of > senior management one day. The first question he was ask > was "what the hell's an integral?". I know what you mean - you'd have to teach him calculus before he'd understand.

Re:Oddly familiar (4, Informative)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356218)

I know what you mean - you'd have to teach him calculus before he'd understand.

Not really. Just tell then it's the area under a curve, or the volume under a sheet. Even the most pretentious manager will be able to grasp that.

Re:Oddly familiar (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356156)

I would hope that most of the layers of management at NASA had taken calculus in college.

I think that the mistakes that typically get made (and not corrected) at NASA are due to upper management and political pressure, both internal and external. To people at that level, political realities seem to take precedence over physical reality.

NASA engineers aren't stupid. They're the best of the best.

Re:Oddly familiar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15356296)

Yeah right, not when it comes to software. Most engineers are idiots that should stick to working on the hardware and let people that actually know how to write software work on the software. Every engineer is a wannabe programmer and more and more projects are using complex software that an engineer has no business working on.

Anti-Sat Weapon Test? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15355920)

Is this a Anti-Sat Weapon Test?

~AC

Classic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15355922)

Way to go NASA!
Nobody liked that satellite anyway.

First application (4, Funny)

RM6f9 (825298) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355926)

Not hampered by engineering degree, can tell difference between "toward" and "away from" - will work for same 6 figure salary previous position holder was receiving...

Disband NASA (0, Troll)

Jaruzel (804522) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355928)

Yet again NASA prove that they should no longer be in charge of the western worlds space exploration. This is another example of why the private sector should be allowed prosper with it's own plans and designs. As the X-prize has shown, NASA is a dinosaur and should either be put down or evolve by embrace privately funded initiatives.

-Jar.

Re:Disband NASA (2, Funny)

AxminsterLeuven (963108) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356073)

NASA is a dinosaur and should either be put down or evolve by embrace privately funded initiatives.
Or maybe they should just upgrade to the latest version of Microsoft Office.

Re:Disband NASA (5, Insightful)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356211)

Unfortunately, the faulty design was due to the screw ups of a private contractor, so there goes your "private sector" argument.

Re:Disband NASA (5, Insightful)

xoyoyo (949672) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356233)

Snore. And out come the free enterprise loonies. The only trouble with your argument is that free enterprise is already perfectly able to indulge in space exploration and, well, hasn't. You can rent time on a launch pad, you can rent space in a rocket. There are many excellent engineering companies who can build more or less any satellite or other space craft you want. But there's no return on doing anything more ambitious than communications satellite. What exactly is the private sector going to do with a Mars probe, say? Sell ad hoardings on the side? (Didn't Beagle II do this?) It's better to regard what NASA and ESA do as a public infrastructure project rather than as competition for private enterprise. The work NASA is doing (mostly competently) is more like building the channel tunnel than a profit-based business. We tried building the tunnel through the private sector, but Eurotunnel has been bailed out by the giovernment and the banks so many times that it's actually ended up costing us far more than it would have done if we'd done it the old fashioned way, even assuming the usual obscene project over-run costs of a public project.

Re:Disband NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15356287)

The private sector *is* allowed to prosper with its own own plans and designs, it's just that scientific research is absolutely worthless to it and as such it has no interest in spending money for it.

lolbertarians

They don't call it... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15355939)

Kennedy Space Center for nothing! hahahaha... omg what a bunch of drunks!

Oh boy (1)

uberchicken (121048) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355944)

How crushed would you feel watching all that happen from so far away, and being utterly helpless?

It's bad enough with regular software, but someone somewhere is having a huge Homer "DOH!" moment..

I feel for ya..

Re:Oh boy (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356228)

How crushed would you feel watching all that happen from so far away, and being utterly helpless?

Less crushed than the satellite, I'd imagine.

Seriously though, exploration is often accompanied by mistakes. The important thing is that they can analyse the problem and fix it; what I find depressing is the doubt NASA's culture is geared to that at the moment.

DART (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15355952)

It was called DART. The NASA page [nasa.gov] has headlines like "DARTing Into Space" and "DART Seeks its Target: NASA launches a DART to target an orbiting bull's-eye". The DART has hit its target now, what's the problem? ;-)
Also, DART stands for "Demonstration for Autonomous Rendezvous Technology"; I'd say it hasn't been a particularly good demonstration now, has it? (Reminds me of the Windows 98 launch [google.com] (or oh, the recent CES [techweb.com] as well [com.com]).)
And notice from the article that this incident actually happened last year!

"That's no moon..." (0)

jdfox (74524) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355958)

"...that's a (boink!)"

Re:"That's no moon..." (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356065)

"Reply to: "That's no moon..." "...that's a (boink!)"

Scientific progress goes boink??

Re:"That's no moon..." (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356251)

Scientific progress goes boink??

It took years and hundreds of millions of dollars to replace "clunk". You don't think we can achieve Star Wars grade sound effect technology in space overnight, surely?

Crashing is normal (-1, Flamebait)

Mark Clegg (833186) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355962)

Isn't this standard NASA policy? After all, most of the recent MARS missions have been designed to crash rather than land. And then they wonder why they don't work afterwards....

Kennedy Space Center DART? (5, Funny)

dotslashdot (694478) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355963)

In a subsequent news conference, DART claimed it did not remember hitting on the target after being spaced out on AMBIEN, a method it used to help it sleep(500s) before its launch from Kennedy Space Center. DART claimed that it got several bytes to eat before drinking a cup of Java and collecting its garbage. Upon introspection DART agreed that, despite its name, hitting on the target showed little Class despite the size of its Package.

In a related story... (5, Funny)

dummyname12 (886454) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355971)

...NASA has finally set aside a portion of its budget for the hiring of a trombone player to lighten the mood after each disasterous miscalculation with a well-timed "waaah WAAAAAAAAH."

fembot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15355973)

everyone knows woman can't park

whoops (1)

Umbral Blot (737704) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355978)

I support NASA, but they have had a run of stupid mistakes lately. For example the whole meters to feet conversion problem. Yes everyone makes mistakes, I know, but NASA is supposed to be the best and the brightest. You would think that when dealing with such expensive equiptment they woulod check and re-check, and even methemtically prove the correctness of their programs. Sloppy programming from me or you on some spreadsheet app is bad, but not unexpected, but I have higher standards for NASA.

Could this be due to? (4, Interesting)

Don_dumb (927108) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355979)

Budget and time constraints?
I know it is fashionable to highlight the usual NASA-related budget cuts but a quote from TFA
Investigators also raised issues with the mission's management style, saying that lack of training and experience caused the DART design team to shun expert advice. They also found that internal checks and balances were inadequate in uncovering the mission's shortcomings"
This to me sounds like an underfunded team rushing to meet deadlines. Or were they just simply unlucky/inept?

Re:Could this be due to? (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356232)

Give this [patriot.net] a read. It doesn't say much about budget constraints, but it does point to a lack of testing on last minute changes due to the pressure to meet the launch date. Also, I think that reading between the lines a bit would indicate that there was a definite ept shortage on the team.

Queue the obligatory... (1)

grammar fascist (239789) | more than 7 years ago | (#15355992)

Queue the obligatory unit conversion jokes.

Being an ignorant Imperialist on this subject, I have to ask: are SI units in the opposite direction? I mean, when you convert from feet to meters, does it switch directions?

Or does, like, SI seconds = negative Imperial seconds?

Re:Queue the obligatory... (1)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356053)

10 feet =~ 3 meters
No signs changing or anything. Unless you happen to work at the magical kingdom of NASA ofcourse.

Re:Queue the obligatory... (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356244)

From the MIB report [patriot.net]:

In summary, the persistent, inaccurate, navigational information that caused DART's premature retirement resulted from a combination of: 1) an initial, unacceptable, calculated difference between DART's estimated and measured position that triggered a software reset; 2) the introduction of an uncorrected, erroneous velocity measurement into the calculation scheme; 3) a navigational software design that was overly-sensitive to erroneous data; and 4) the use of incorrect gain control in the calculation scheme.

But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15356008)

...where was Bruce??

Okay Fellow Brits! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15356013)

This is where we come in! :-)

[Nobody mention Beagle...]

From the "DART" link: (1)

CrazedWalrus (901897) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356034)

DART Seeks its Target
NASA launches a DART to target an orbiting bull's-eye.


Given the objective, I don't see the problem here. Way to go, guys!

mistaken beliefs of velocity (2, Funny)

MisterLawyer (770687) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356051)

"...mistakenly believed it was flying away from the satellite when it was actually moving 5 feet per second toward it, investigators found."

Same thing happened to me and the garage door when I was 14 years old backing my dad's Buick out of the driveway.

He didn't let me drive it again until I was 18.

NASA: Get rid of design by management (5, Interesting)

Morgaine (4316) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356059)

As long as scientists and engineers are cogs in an organizational structure in which management tells them what to do, they will often produce crap, no matter how many PhDs there are in their midst. This is the case even when those managers were once brilliant technical engineers and scientists, because perceptions and priorities change when you switch into a management role.

This little episode was just another in a long line of screwups, and it won't be the last under current organizational models. Doing technical things can't be done properly unless insightful scientists and engineers are free of constraints on their insight, allowed to bypass the directional controls that management so loves, uninhibited from pointing our core problems in fear of their careers, and totally unshackled from the demands of time management.

Yes, I know that most managers would call this "anarchy", but therein lies the problem: by eliminating that alleged anarchy, you are also sacrificing the best that people can offer, just to make your life easier. Well, perhaps it's stating the blindingly obvious, but making management's life easy is not central to exploring the stars.

NASA's problem is the same one that permeates all technical industries, but in NASA's case the mishaps are just very public. I don't expect anything to change, but there is no doubting what the general problem is.

Re:NASA: Get rid of design by management (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15356079)

Someone please MOD parent up 10000 points.

The Article Says it all (1)

NcF (847200) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356071)

I think the article might just say it best on this subject: (emphasis mine)
Investigators also raised issues with the mission's management style, saying that lack of training and experience caused the DART design team to shun expert advice. They also found that internal checks and balances were inadequate in uncovering the mission's shortcomings.
Although poorly worded, I do not believe that it's approiate to shun *any* advice on such a high-profile job.

Bullseye (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15356075)

That's worth 50 points in DART!

No wonder, really... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15356078)

This reminds me of another "infamous" incident [wikipedia.org] where some parts of the spacecraft (I think it were speed/distance sensors) mixed-up imperial and metric units... Poor coordination between the design teams anyone?

New Math Sucks! Let's Raise the Stakes! (1, Troll)

70Bang (805280) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356082)



We've got a history established where people taught -> new math -> students who taught -> new math -> students -> ... -> current engineers and we're seeing plenty of problems with meters|feet, up|down, left|right, top|bottom (whilst we're at it, let's just interchange all of the quark properties) with some very expensive toy$. This likely includes plenty of [relatively] smaller pricetag$ (yet still bad enough - on a scale of "defense contractor bad"). Ye, NA$A still wants us to throw money at them as though it's coming off of a broken photocopier which won't stop printing. ("We promise we'll use a few more decimal points and be more careful next time!") There's no accountability until so much money has been wasted it would produce such a clog in a pipe Roto-Rooter would rather go out of business than take on. Perhaps the only space activities can be those which have a human involved, even for token purposes? That seems to be the only time space-type activities are taken seriously.

Launch an astronaut (no monkeys or dogs), watch soomething happen, splashdown. It sounds like waste, but when someone's life is at stake, it seems to force them to keep their eye on the ballgame (not just the ball). Otherwise, they try to maneuver hardware as though it's a mechanical erector set-based gaming system shown at E3 with no consequences...they can just hit the [reset] button when they smurf up (aka "give us some more money so we can practice some more"). When it's just hardware, success amounts to lots of geeks & nerds jumping up & down, toastinig with double-strength kool-aid, then taking turns to run to the bathroom to stroke off. Besides, there are lots of people looking to hit space, and there'd be no dearth of volunteers to keep NA$A honest. When there's a risk (which there wasn't in this case), they'll be careful (not more careful). Think of it as akin to packing your own parachute. If you have something at stake, really at stake, you tend to be a bit more paranoid about your work.

This Island Earth (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356084)

"A robotic NASA spacecraft designed to rendezvous with an orbiting satellite instead crashed into its target."

NASA was able to extract the satellite that was deeply embedded into the ship's hull using the M.A.N.O.S. manipulator system. The extraction appeared successful until the M.A.N.O.S. manipulators let the satellite go free. In a Bugs Bunny'esque fashion, the satellite hovered for a moment before it suddenly plummeted into the Earth's atmosphere. NASA wouldn't reveal any details about which satellite had burned up in the atmosphere, but insiders have hinted that it was a powerful telescope.

Top Down Design? (5, Insightful)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356090)

One wonders if this failure is due to a design philosophy similar to the top down design [fotuva.org] that has doomed the shuttle.

From the Feynman report:

The usual way that such engines are designed (for military or civilian aircraft) may be called the component system, or bottom-up design. First it is necessary to thoroughly understand the properties and limitations of the materials to be used (for turbine blades, for example), and tests are begun in experimental rigs to determine those. With this knowledge larger component parts (such as bearings) are designed and tested individually. As deficiencies and design errors are noted they are corrected and verified with further testing. Since one tests only parts at a time these tests and modifications are not overly expensive. Finally one works up to the final design of the entire engine, to the necessary specifications. There is a good chance, by this time that the engine will generally succeed, or that any failures are easily isolated and analyzed because the failure modes, limitations of materials, etc., are so well understood. There is a very good chance that the modifications to the engine to get around the final difficulties are not very hard to make, for most of the serious problems have already been discovered and dealt with in the earlier, less expensive, stages of the process.

The Space Shuttle Main Engine was handled in a different manner, top down, we might say. The engine was designed and put together all at once with relatively little detailed preliminary study of the material and components. Then when troubles are found in the bearings, turbine blades, coolant pipes, etc., it is more expensive and difficult to discover the causes and make changes. For example, cracks have been found in the turbine blades of the high pressure oxygen turbopump. Are they caused by flaws in the material, the effect of the oxygen atmosphere on the properties of the material, the thermal stresses of startup or shutdown, the vibration and stresses of steady running, or mainly at some resonance at certain speeds, etc.? How long can we run from crack initiation to crack failure, and how does this depend on power level? Using the completed engine as a test bed to resolve such questions is extremely expensive. One does not wish to lose an entire engine in order to find out where and how failure occurs. Yet, an accurate knowledge of this information is essential to acquire a confidence in the engine reliability in use. Without detailed understanding, confidence can not be attained.

A further disadvantage of the top-down method is that, if an understanding of a fault is obtained, a simple fix, such as a new shape for the turbine housing, may be impossible to implement without a redesign of the entire engine.

Re:Top Down Design? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15356216)

This sounds like *nix vs. Windows design philosophy.

Bullseye (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15356094)

To summarize a satelite targeting robot called DART designed to intercept satelites, launched from Vandenberg Air Force base (un?)successfully knocket out the satelite it was targetting, and they wont release the investigative report because of international traffic in arms regulations. Hmm, sounds like a good result for the star wars weapons team.

luck? (1)

KeiserSoze (657078) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356098)

Unless there was only one variable at fault, the odds of a collision in space would be (for lack of a better pun) astronomical. So while they might have wasted money, at the end of the day the proverbial needle-in-a-haystack collision is well worth bragging about.

Re:luck? (1)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356284)

Yep. There was. A single bit, direction of speed vector. Same as in the original Murphy's case, accelerometer working backwards.

It comes as no surprise... (1)

bobdotorg (598873) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356110)

... that the project name for the orbiting satellite was Balanced Orbit Autonomous Rondezvous Drone.

More info... (5, Interesting)

jginspace (678908) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356127)

This all happened on April 15 2005. A better write-up here: http://www.space.com/news/060516_dart_mishap_updat e.html [space.com]. And here's the Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DART_(spacecraft) [wikipedia.org]

The satellite it crashed into was defunct. From Wikipedia: "The goal was to develop and demonstrate an automated navigation and rendezvous capability in a NASA spacecraft. Currently, only the Russian Space Agency and JAXA have autonomous space craft navigation.".

Interesting snippet: "NASA has said the official 70-page report will not be publicly released because it contains sensitive material protected by International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)".

This was planned as a "high-risk*, low-budget" mission and I'm sure they learned a lot. (* I suppose high-risk in terms of likelihood of meeting up with the target, not of collateral damage.)

Welcome to the Land of Total Incompetence (1)

hardcorejon (31717) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356130)

Citing security concerns [space.com], the full 70 page accident report was not released. But even the censored 10-page summary [space.com] is pretty damning. Complete public report is here:
http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=20605 [spaceref.com]

Some gems:
...examination of raw test data and performance of independent tests of some flight components by the government insight team were defined by NASA project management to be "out-of-scope."
...
In DART's case, the lack of adequate risk management contributed to a zero- fault tolerant design and inadequate testing that resulted in an insufficient collision avoidance system, among other things....


Ah, only the best and brightest in software engineering for our tax dollars...

- jonathan.

NASA should put funding into testing (1)

anzev (894391) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356138)

Taking a look at list of bugs for space exploration [wikipedia.org] and particuallry things like Mars Climate Orbiter [wikipedia.org] I wonder how NASA could make so many mistakes in their software. It seems that no mission actually goes as planned without a computer glitch that is mission-threatning.

In contrast to, for example, the Shuttle, which has had only a few computer failures, and none of them fatal, it's hard for me to understand why they pay so little attention to testing these systems. I mean, maybe there are no lives at stake, but that doesn't give them the right to forget about testing it and probably letting some junior programmer write the algorithm. Then we get stupidities like:

String s = new String("");
if(a == "some text comparison")

... and the likes of. Or someone forgetting the metric conversion, I mean, hello, that should be checked! The software should have run first inside a simulator run! Only then should it be deployed onto the device.

Shouldn't have named it DART (1)

jsse (254124) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356144)

"The inaccurate perception of its distance and speed ... prevented DART from taking effective action to avoid a collision," the summary said.

Next time, DUCK!!!1!

Ah, acronyms! (1)

rubicon7 (51782) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356145)

DART: "Demonstration for Autonomous Rendezvous Technology"

---

ARROW: "Automated Ruination of Rather Old Warbird"

JAVELIN: "Just Another Very Expensive Lesson In Navigation"

BULLET: "Bravado is an Unfortunate Liability, Limiting Effective Targeting"

Old news (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15356182)

This is actually year old happening. News is that Nasa finally made public report about it.

Shines so much I'm blinded... (2, Interesting)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 7 years ago | (#15356241)

My favourite quote is from NASA's NASA "Darts" Into Space [nasa.gov] [RealMedia video, sorry] video on the DART mission home page:
DART is NASA's shining example of technology that will move the Agency towards safer, more reliable and affordable access to space.
It could well have done that, if only it had worked.

Man... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15356249)

and I thought my first time was awkward *sheepish grin*

REM (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15356294)

In dutch REM means brake.

If you believe , they put a man on the moon, (** MAN ON THE MOOOOOOOOOOON **)....
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