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Mars Climate Orbiter AWOL

Hemos posted about 15 years ago | from the houston-we-have-a-problem dept.

Science 114

Moose2000 writes " The BBC reports that NASA has lost contact with the Mars Climate Orbiter. If it doesn't get back in touch, it's not just the immediate science stuff lost - it was supposed to stay in orbit as a communications relay for future missions too. " Communication has been lost for almost 3 hours now, it appears - so there's still hope. Update: 09/23 01:36 by H :It now appears that a steering problem may have caused it to crash into the planet.

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Re:Rose tinted news feed (1)

JPelorat (5320) | about 15 years ago | (#1665221)

Sorry to be crude here, but this is such a strange analogy, I have to make it:

Sure, NASA only immediately reports good news - you'd tell your friends the instant you got MCSE certified, but you wouldn't call them up and tell them you just shit your pants... but if you were forced to relay bad news like NASA ultimately is, you'd at least try to change pants first, right? So it wouldn't be totally humiliating...

NASA was trying to get the comm feed back, so no, they didn't trumpet their bad news instantaneously. That way lies a PR nightmare: We got it! We lost it! Nope, we got it again, wait, we lost it, nah, there it is, oh wait, gone, hang on, there it is!

Much better to say "We had some trouble, lost the feed, but we got it back again."

Re:On Future Missions (1)

BugMaster ChuckyD (18439) | about 15 years ago | (#1665222)

1. They still (at 12:20 Eastern) have not regained contact.

2. As has allready been pointed out the Mars Global Surveyor can also act as a relay.

3. the lander has a low gain attenna on it that it can use to communicate with Earth directly if needed.

Re:That's what they *want* you to believe... (1)

Yarn (75) | about 15 years ago | (#1665223)

If they create a microscopic black hole the damage is more likely to be done by that black hole 'evapourating' and causing a very big explosion.

Damn you Martians! (1)

crayz (1056) | about 15 years ago | (#1665224)

Stop screwing up our probes. They won't be able to see you anyway.

Doh - My Bad (1)

TheBashar (13543) | about 15 years ago | (#1665225)

Ooops, sorry. Article was slashdotted when I tried.


Kalak451 (54994) | about 15 years ago | (#1665226)

Uh, try reading it again, says right now that they believe that is in orbit but are trying to regain contact....they have not found it yet.

Re:What does this mean for the Polar Lander? (1)

Kalak451 (54994) | about 15 years ago | (#1665227)

i have read, on i believe that the polar lander has its own radio and will still be able to perform its mission, but not was well and will not be able to send back all the data it could if the relay was in place.

CNN reporting the orbiter could not survive (1)

Kalak451 (54994) | about 15 years ago | (#1665228)

Acording to CNN a human or software error sent the orbiter into orbit much to close to the surface for it have possibly survived.

Mars Observer UPDATE!!! (1)

khadzia (48907) | about 15 years ago | (#1665229)

Go here if you want to see a newer story about the mars observer on BBC 55000/455807.stm

Re:On Future Missions (1)

jafac (1449) | about 15 years ago | (#1665230)

Your clock is 6 minutes slow.

"The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."

Re:IT'S LOST :( (1)

Watcher (15643) | about 15 years ago | (#1665231)

Just saw this myself. Damned shame. Not good timing either, with the Congress eying the money going into NASA like a bunch of beggers on the street. Combine this with the Shuttle fleet being grounded until November at least, and it really does not bode well for NASA's ability to lobby for further funds for at least another couple years. I do hope this does not go down as human arrogance like Observer was. On that one JPL opened a valve that was not supposed to be (the engineers even told them, but JPL knows best), and flooded the probe with fuel. They lit off the engine and *blam* no more probe.

Damned shame. We could have learned so much.

Re:What OS did it use? (1)

jafac (1449) | about 15 years ago | (#1665232)

Too bad I blew all my moderation points yesterday.

"The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."

Next orbiter will be 2001 (1)

floatmoon (91308) | about 15 years ago | (#1665233)

looks like the climate orbiter really crashed, we have to wait until another 2 years for next mars orbiter. Hopefully polarlander's onboard radio is good enough to send back useble data. "The next Michal Dell" zheng

expensive roman candle (1)

quux26 (27287) | about 15 years ago | (#1665234)

It looks like the surveyor has been lost. I don't know how to feel about this one. I'd like to see everything go private, but this still sucks. Those guys at NASA really work their asses off.

My .02
Quux26 []

My .02

Time Zones (1)

challen (89545) | about 15 years ago | (#1665235)

Crossing all those millions of miles obviously put the probe a bazillion time zones ahead of us. The resulting navigational error was simply the result of unforeseen Y2K problems of course!

Whoo. (1)

Boolean (15853) | about 15 years ago | (#1665236)

Well, we sci-fi fans must be having fun with this one. We've lost contact with this while orbiting Mars. I mean, MARS. You know, the planet that is most likely to sustain life? I don't know about you but I'm going home early and hiding in a bomb shelter for at least a week. I think Geeks in Space had something with their theory. Let the Krull invasion begin.


spectro (80839) | about 15 years ago | (#1665237)

First they got the Russian ones...
Now this?

I say, let's send them a nuke. If it don't blow the marcians surface then we know somebody else is out there.

Re:Whoo. (1)

penguinicide (73759) | about 15 years ago | (#1665238)

" I mean, MARS. You know, the planet that is most likely to sustain life?" I always thought earth was the most likely to sustain life.

How do they know it was too low? (1)

Freakazoid (3498) | about 15 years ago | (#1665239)

I haven't seen mention in any of the articles how NASA actually knew that the MCO passed too close to Mars. Does anyone have an explanation for how they could have gone from thinking it might have been a little off course to being sure it must have come in 100km too low? Seems fishy to me.

Re:What OS did it use? (1)

slickwillie (34689) | about 15 years ago | (#1665240)

They used VxWorks on the first Mars landing mission (the one that worked beyond all expectations). I wonder if they switched to WinCe? Maybe they got a deal on a bunch of old Pentiums, you know the ones where 2+2 = 3.9991.

Re:What OS did it use? (2)

Kartoffel (30238) | about 15 years ago | (#1665241)

I'm guessing it ran embedded software on double- or triple-redundant systems connected with good old 1970-era MIL-STD-1553 busses. Whatever it was would have to be radiation hardened.

In the spirit of 'lighter-cheaper-faster' I wouldn't be surprised if NASA already has a standardized hardware layout for all these next generation mini-probes.

The 1553 bus is _everywhere_ in space. It's even going to be on the ISS. Fortunately the crew will have a wireless LAN and IBM Thinkpad 760's (with Solaris & Win95) as well.

"lose" not "loose" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665242)


Eh? Where? (2)

Paul Crowley (837) | about 15 years ago | (#1665243)

The link to the real time telemetry seems to indicate that the probe is still unreachable. The FLORIDA TODAY link says the same (and it seems to be updated very rapidly). Can you provide a URL?

Re:Astronomy Now Site (1)

JPelorat (5320) | about 15 years ago | (#1665244)

57 satellites and I still can't get the dad-blasted Playboy Channel! Yow!


Re:Link to real time telemetry (2)

A well known coward (2835) | about 15 years ago | (#1665245)

Gino wrote:
> here is a link to the real time telemetry
> of the orbiter.

Oh great. Now we're about to slashdot the orbiter! ;)

On Future Missions (1)

Hrunting (2191) | about 15 years ago | (#1665246)

They found the probe, but still, facts need to be pointed out.

First off, the loss to us now would have been much greater than the loss would've been in the future. Not only would we lose the climatological data, but we'd also lose the Mars Polar lander, which may be our best bet for finding water on Mars.

As for use in future missions, there's only one possible mission that it would be used as a relay for (in 2003, I believe) and even then, it wouldn't be a primary tool, but a backup in case the main transceiver goes down in orbit. The mission is only scheduled for a 3-4 year life span, so any use after that is purely speculative.

Safe Mode?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665247)

No wonder it's unresponsive, it's running Windows!

Somebody had to say it.

Re:Link to real time telemetry (1)

puppet (27092) | about 15 years ago | (#1665248)

The telemetry just switched from offline to safe mode using the older communications system. This is a demonstration of why backups and redundancy are important! Now if only my wife could understand this logic!

Time for DS1 (1)

Enoch Root (57473) | about 15 years ago | (#1665249)

This is exactly why Deep Space 1 was created: it sounds to me as if the reason Climate Orbiter is lost is a very small error. With an AI in that satellite, the correction would have been trivial.

Pleasepleaseplease don't make this push back the space program a few years! Failure is part of the space program, but the stupid Senators think they're wasting US money when a probe is lost; it's not wasted money, it's an investment for the successes that come from learning from those errors.

Well; there's still hope. Let us pray the patron saint of Space Flight.

"There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

Aricebo no help this time (1)

AstroJetson (21336) | about 15 years ago | (#1665250)

When SOHO got lost they used the Aricebo radio telescope to find it by bouncing radar beams off of it. However, that won't work this time around because Mars is currently near -24 degrees declination, which is outside of Aricebo's coverage area.

The folks in the space program are some of the most resourceful people in the world and excel at thinking outside of the box. Let's hope they come up with something creative once again.

Re:IT'S LOST :( (1)

Boolean (15853) | about 15 years ago | (#1665251)

We could have. Maybe that's the problem. All the secret societies of the world are coming out of the woodwork. I suspect the Illuminati, but I wouldn't put it past the CIA either. I mean, these are the people that have been hiding the existence of aliens for years now.

Re:Heh Funny?!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665253)

There is something seriously wrong with the moderation system here. "Maybe the aliens got it" is scored up for being funny by some dweeb with no sense of humor. Maybe I'm missing something because I do not see anything funny at all in that.

Re:Whoo. (0)

Boolean (15853) | about 15 years ago | (#1665254)

Just found out about the re-gain of contact with the Mars Orbiter. Don't believe it. We'll never see that thing again. It's a cover up. They know its been stolen by the Krull and we are paying them to spare us. Why do you think NASA needs all that extra money? Embezzlement my ass. The know and fear the Krull. I'm gonna go back into my bombshelter now if you don't mind.

Re:Whoo. (1)

Boolean (15853) | about 15 years ago | (#1665255)

Just found out about the re-gain of contact with the Mars Orbiter. Don't believe it. We'll never see that thing again. It's a cover up. They know its been stolen by the Krull and we are paying them to spare us. Why do you think NASA needs all that extra money? Embezzlement my ass. The know and fear the Krull. I'm gonna go back into my bombshelter now if you don't mind.

What about raw data. (1)

They_Call_Me_Spanky (83478) | about 15 years ago | (#1665256)

The "LIVE TELEMETRY" data you can get off their site is in the form of a GIF. It would be nice if we could get that stuff in HTML. I would like to make a screenscreen display, graphically, of that data.

Too bad.

Use for the seti (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665257)

In the CNN article they complained that finding the satellite is damn hard because of all the bacground noise. You have to know precisely where to direct the radio telescope. Now we are tracking aliens using the SETI project. But could it be made to work to find the missing satellites? Then there would be some real use for our CPUs.

Finding missing satellites sure seems a lot more practical than burning my CPU to search for some nonexistent extraterrestrial life.

Regards AC

JPL / CNN Says Climate Orbiter Toasted (2)

bailpossum (87980) | about 15 years ago | (#1665258)

They said it was 15 miles low of it's minimum altitude, when it fired it's orbital insertion motors, and looks to be a complete loss. er.04/

aaaaaaaaargh! (1)

tuffy (10202) | about 15 years ago | (#1665260)

"You blew it up! Damn you! Damn you all to hell!"

But seriously, now how long do we have to wait before another orbiter arrives? Talk about frustrating...

No wonder... (1)

BlueSpark (31578) | about 15 years ago | (#1665262)

It was on day 286 of its mission...

Political fallout will kill RTGs :-( (4)

Tackhead (54550) | about 15 years ago | (#1665264)

It appears as if MCO entered orbit "too low", and burned up in the atmosphere. (85km minimum survivable altitude, ~60km expected altitude of probe). Doesn't this sound like something you've heard people worrying about before?

Scientific Reality:The ability of Mission Control to save a "too low" probe during an Earth flyby, (with the probe within a few light-seconds of the transmitter), is a hell of a lot higher than the ability of Mission Control to save a "too low" probe near Mars, (i.e. at a distance of many light-minutes). Thus, the probability of an MCO-style worst-case scenario happening to an RTG-based probe on Earth flyby (I don't recall even the most ardent eco-dude worried about the Venus flyby :-) is still negligible.

(You'll also note that I'm assuming, deliberately and incorrectly, that the dispersal of Cassini's plutonium in Earth's atmosphere would be the catastrophe the anti-nukes told us it would be. It wouldn't. Before they were banned, above-ground nuclear weapons tests had already dispersed many Cassinis' worth of plutonium into the atmosphere, and we're still alive.)

Political Reality:Unfortunately, the naive analysis, which is the only thing the media will propagate, and the only thing the politicians will understand - will read something like this: "We told you so! This is exactly what those eeeeeevil scientists said could never happen with Cassini! But we KNEW! We knew that NASA can't be trusted to fly its probes perfectly, but nobody listened to us! Well, yer gonna hafta listen now! MCO burned up in the atmosphere just like we feared Cassini would! We were right and the eeeeeevil scientists were wrong! Ban all RTGs now before NASA does this with an RTG-based probe in Earth's atmosphere!" And the politicians will obey the screaming hordes.

The loss of MCO is bad for Mars science, but not catastrophic, given the redundancy NASA is putting into its Mars program. Lots of small ships is better than one big ship. The political fallout from the preceding naive analysis of MCO's fiery demise, however, will be much longer-lived and carry a much higher price than the loss of one probe.

If we're lucky, it'll be limited to a ban on Earth flybys for any future RTG-based probes. If we're unlucky, it'll spell the end of RTGs altogether.

While you can easily explore the inner planets on solar power, and maybe even Jupiter if you're careful and advance solar technology somewaht, the mass penalty for larger-and-larger solar panels increases dramatically as you move away from the sun. If one of the side-effects of the MCO failure results in a ban on RTGs, we can basically forget about exploring the outer solar system for at least a generation (i.e. until we can come up with a better technology). That would be a major blow to space science.

Re:Heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665272)

I can confirm that. You read it here first. However, we have about a year before they arrive.

Re:Heh (0)

bscanl (79871) | about 15 years ago | (#1665273)

You're really funny.

Nevermind. . . (1)

Salgak1 (20136) | about 15 years ago | (#1665274)

NASA is back in contact. . .

Noooooooooooo! (2)

rde (17364) | about 15 years ago | (#1665275)

If it is gone (and I'm hoping fervently that it isn't), then we've got a lot to thank Deep Space 1 for.
The beeb lists four or five possibilities, and most of them could have been taken care of by the new technologies on DS1. If MCO did lose its way, it may be one of the last NASA craft to do so.
Let's just hope that it's only in safe mode.

Government Contracts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665276)

See what happens when Microsoft's government contracts get in the way? Bet the thing is BSOD all the way to Cygnus-X1...

First, Mars Observer disappears. . . (2)

Salgak1 (20136) | about 15 years ago | (#1665277)

Now Mars Climate Orbiter goes silent.

If it STAYS silent, there's a pattern forming that will bring the conspiracy theorists out of the closet.

Still, contact was lost AFTER a engine burn, just as Mars Observer disappeared after a scheduled burn. It's been theorized that Observer blew up, due to a design fault. Let's hope that it just went into that "safe mode", and not that our probe design teams need a major re-working. . .

Link to real time telemetry (4)

Gino (32932) | about 15 years ago | (#1665278)

I hope they manage to re-establish contact... Moments like these are the worst, racking your brains thinking of ways how to solve the problem, wondering what went wrong.

Anyway, for those interested, if they do manage to make contact again here is a link to the real time telemetry [] of the orbiter. the pricking of my thumbs,

Rose tinted news feed (2)

Sanity (1431) | about 15 years ago | (#1665279)

Yeah, strange that it was the Beeb that reported it missing, not NASA's news feed! I guess that is only for good news.


I'm very upset (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665280)

Damn, how will I plan for my next Mars picnic, then? :-(

Incompetent eejits (1)

axolotl (1659) | about 15 years ago | (#1665281)

It seems this happens with every other probe they send up. Given that they could still contact the Voyagers when they were way out past Neptune[0], is it really too much to expect that they should be able to stay reliably in touch with something a mere ~40 million miles away?


[0]OOI, is Neptune still the furthest planet out, or has Pluto's wacky orbit taken it out past Neptune again?

Cheap bastards! (0)

DrSpoo (650) | about 15 years ago | (#1665282)

Thats what you get for not spending some real money on space projects. We all know that if government doesn't spend at least 10 times what something should cost on the open market, then its bound to be a failure. Wake up boys, NASA is no different! Spend an extra few million for the testing cycle at least, sheesh. And switch from Linux to Windows 2000 Datacenter SKU with a 4 billion user licence. That oughta cost a pretty penny.

BTW, just kidding!

That's what they *want* you to believe... (1)

Stephen Williams (23750) | about 15 years ago | (#1665283)

NASA's news feed reports that they have regained contact with the probe.

We've got no proof of that. It's blatantly a coverup. The aliens have captured the probe, and NASA is putting out "everything is okay" misinformation.

Guess the aliens got bored with it :-)

No! They're experimenting with it and plotting our destruction right now! The world will end on December 31, 1999!

Re:Government Contracts (2)

Psiren (6145) | about 15 years ago | (#1665284)

Press F1 to continue...

There's never a damn keyboard in deep space when you need one is there! ;)

Re:Heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665285)

Must be the same guy moderated him down for being offtopic that moderated the other guy up for being funny. "Maybe the aliens got it" is about as funny as a rock.

Space online's status report updates... (2)

Gino (32932) | about 15 years ago | (#1665286)

Florida Today's Space Online [] is running a regularly updated journal for the orbiter. The last entry was made at 7:45 ETD, stating that no contact has been re-established yet... the pricking of my thumbs,

Re:On Future Missions (1)

kramer (19951) | about 15 years ago | (#1665287)

No, we wouldn't have lost Polar Lander. The Mars Global Surveyor is capible as acting as a backup relay in the event of catastrophic failure in the Mars Climate Observer.

Nuclear *reactors*? I think not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665288)

The Voyagers were not powered by reactors. They carried RTG's (Radioisotope Thermal Generators) which generate electricity from the heat released by the natural decay of a large lump of a suitable isotope (often plutonium-238). The difference is that a reactor produces, sustains and controls a chain reaction (neutron strikes atom which fissions and releases more neutrons), while RTG's use isotopes which release few if any neutrons and decay at their natural rate (thus requiring no control).

Tau Zero, still trying to get my comp set up - #$*&!! Windoze!

Them Martians had a ray gun! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665289)

From an old "Late Night" top ten list. Some others: > Guy at Radio Shack sold us the wrong batteries. > Satelite? What satelite? Anybody remember that list?

The importance of redundancy and backups (2)

anticypher (48312) | about 15 years ago | (#1665290)

Now if only my wife could understand this logic!

as well as your girlfriend and mistress do :-)

the AC

Black hole decay energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665291)

If the collision of two heavy ions creates a quantum black hole, you'll hardly notice the bang from the decay. If you could merge 2 atoms of U-238, you would have 476 nucleons of mass in it. There are roughly Avogadro's number (6.023E23) of nucleons in a gram, so that is about 7.9e-21 grams of mass. Converted to energy, that's only 7.1e-7 joules. It would make a visible flash, but it would be hard-put to damage anything.

Tau Zero, again....

What OS did it use? (1)

Che Guevarra (85906) | about 15 years ago | (#1665292)

What operating system was it using and can the martians use it to make a sweet beowulf cluster?

"In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded"
- Charles Golding, Big Bang Theory

NASA's faster cheaper better policy ? (1)

gb (8474) | about 15 years ago | (#1665293)

This is not good timing for NASA really. They were told to do missions faster, cheaper and better and so far it looks like they've got two out of three :-). Problem is it looks like Congress is keen to chop some budget and so they go for the stuff without political backing - i.e the faster, cheaper projects...

Bit of a bummer for all those PhD students who were expecting to do their thesis work on the back of it though.

Please.... (1)

solios (53048) | about 15 years ago | (#1665294)

Is it just me, or has everything we've aimed at Mars since the Viking mission somehow gotten lost along the way, fallen out of contact, or experienced technological malfunction? Coincidence or conspiracy?

Re:On Future Missions (1)

punkass (70637) | about 15 years ago | (#1665296)

Where is it?! Where is everyone getting this info from? Include links if you're going to tell us that it's been found...

Re:Heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665297)

My tax dollars hard at work. I love america. Its the only place where i have to pay for junk that gets lost and pays for all the criminals in jail to have a better home than myself.

NASA is LYING!!! (0)

Darksky (58431) | about 15 years ago | (#1665298)

It did NOT approach too low! The orbiter was SHOT DOWN!!!! The Invasion is coming!

Re:Political fallout will kill RTGs :-( (1)

Jonathan_S (25407) | about 15 years ago | (#1665299)

Speaking of RTGs IIRC the Apollo lunar orbiter module used an RTG for power, certainly it was a plutonium source. When Apollo 13 had to abort and return to earth in the RTG ended up reentering into the pacific ocean. They are designed to withstand significant impact without containment failure.

Re:IT'S LOST :( (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665300)

Damn this is getting freaky. How many more will the aliens destroy before one of them will survive?

Food for thought: the orbits of Mars two satellites are rather strange. Some say they're not natural ones.

Re:On Future Missions - BBC News Analysis (1)

Paradox !-) (51314) | about 15 years ago | (#1665302)

Really good and quick "caveat emptor, we'll be okay" analysis of the unfortunate happenstance at BBC News. [] I highly recommend it.

Not aliens eating our ships, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665303)

but fake loss of them to cover up something they found.

They are still there. They are just lying.

Gee, Thanks...Re:I wonder where Orion was... (1)

StefanJ (88986) | about 15 years ago | (#1665305)

...for ruining my day again. :-)

It's pathetic how far that dork is sticking his head out to preserve his dippy cities-on-mars thesis.

Re:Polar Lander will be OK. (1)

Gog_Magog (14833) | about 15 years ago | (#1665308)

Part of the reason NASA is sending several satillites(Climate Explorer and Surveyor)is to have a little redundancy. Polar Lander can use the antenna of Mars Global Surveyor to relay info back to earth. In addition, Polar Lander will have an orbital component which can relay I believe.

Astronomy Now Site (2)

Bucko (15043) | about 15 years ago | (#1665309)

The latest breaking news on the Mars Orbiter can be found at Astronomy Now [] .

It's got to be Elvis. Not only did the Mars Observer "disappear" in early 1993, but the Soviets/Russians had two spacecraft fail (and disappear) just the year before.


uh huh... (0)

zonker (1158) | about 15 years ago | (#1665310)

yeah right... you're working for them aren't you?


Cosmic Misunderstanding? (3)

Dave Muench (21979) | about 15 years ago | (#1665311)

I don't suppose NASA painted a picture of a Dove on the side of it, did they?


Psiren (6145) | about 15 years ago | (#1665312)

Unless I misunderstood the whole karma thing, moderated comments don't get you karma. Moderated moderations do. Is that right?

Re:Incompetent eejits (1)

Erich (151) | about 15 years ago | (#1665313)

Pluto (as of a few months ago) is the farthest planet out. Before then for the course of several years it was neptune.

The Voyager probes had some nice things that the mars probes don't... huge budgets and nuclear reactors, especially.


Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665314)

Please continue sending your crunchy satellites on a bi-annual schedule. This corresponds nicely to our feeding and breeding schedule. Failure to comply would be bad.

*Big Martian dude out.*

Re: It's Pluto you fool ;-) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665315)

In 1979 the Solar System became a bit mixed up. That's when Pluto, which travels in a highly elliptical orbit, temporarily moved closer to the sun than Neptune. Every 248 years the two planets swap places and for about 20 years Pluto becomes the eighth planet and Neptune the ninth. This topsy-turvy situation was rectified last Thursday, Feb. 11, when Pluto crossed Neptune's orbit and became the ninth planet once again.

http://es91-se .htm []

...although you really should have looked it up yourself!

BTW - is that a Glasgow "eejit" or a Ren & Stimpy "eejit"? ...

Re:Incompetent eejits (4)

gorilla (36491) | about 15 years ago | (#1665316)

Once the probe is launched, the most dangerous time is when it's manouvering - an engine can blow up, or disorient the probe so it looses contact with it's base stations, so the distance isn't really relevent at all, it's more to do with the number of course corrections required.

Obviously, it requires a much more precise heading to get into orbit around a planet than to simply flyby, and consequently the Martian probes require more course corrections than the Voyager probes did.

Also, and this factor cannot be forgotten, Voyager dates from NASA's "rich" time, when they could spend billions of dollars on a probe. These modern probes have had an order of magnitude less money spend on them. This means less redudancy, less testing, and therefore less reliablity.

Pluto is again the furthest planet out. It passed outside of Neptune's orbit last year.

I wonder where Orion was... (1)

revnight (8980) | about 15 years ago | (#1665317)

I bet Richard Hoagland is going to love this.

Aha! (1)

drwiii (434) | about 15 years ago | (#1665318)

Well THAT explains it [] ...


punkass (70637) | about 15 years ago | (#1665319)

Where the hell is it, Lewbowski? We gonna cut off yo' Jshonson...


raykt (32445) | about 15 years ago | (#1665320)

moderated comments also affect your karma.
but his Karma is going negative because his comment was a misleading lie, which is why the comment is already moderated down.

Dodging.. (1)

Wah (30840) | about 15 years ago | (#1665321)

..the martian AA guns ain't easy either.

IT'S LOST :( (3)

Enoch Root (57473) | about 15 years ago | (#1665322)

From Florida Today Space Online [] :

NASA's decade-long program to explore Mars likely suffered a major setback today with the loss of the Climate Orbiter spacecraft dispatched to understand the Red Planet's weather. Space agency officials just announced at a news conference that the satellite may have plunged into the Martian atmosphere due to a catastrophic navigation error. Ground controllers had expected the craft to pass 140 or 150 km above the planet's surface during the closest approach as MCO entered orbit around Mars this morning. However, for some reason not yet known, MCO appears to have made the closest approach at 60 km. NASA says it suspects 85 km to be the minimum altitude that the satellite could have survived. Given that fact, optimism that MCO is still alive and orbiting about Mars is now rather low. But further attempts will be made to contact the satellite until it becomes completely clear MCO did indeed crash.

A "Tiger Team" has been formed to determine how the navigation error occurred, whether it was spacecraft, software, human error or some other factor that caused the mishap.

Ah, shit.

"There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

Re:Incompetent eejits (1)

Sloppy (14984) | about 15 years ago | (#1665323)

The distance from us isn't what's important -- it's the distance from the Martian guns that really counts. Shooting at the V'ger ships at that range would take incredible marksmanship, whereas these probes to Mars are sitting ducks.

Have a Sloppy day!

Re:First, Mars Observer disappears. . . (1)

Benabik (31932) | about 15 years ago | (#1665324)

I'm expecting a message from Mars soon...


Who says Clarke got all the details right?

Supposed to loose contact (1)

TheBashar (13543) | about 15 years ago | (#1665325)

Hey guys, this is no biggie. If I understood that last story about the probe that was posted here it clearly stated that we were supposed to loose contact. The final commands given to the probe were instructions to perform aerobraking orbits around mars. The first aerobraking orbit (due today) was supposed to take it around the far side of mars and out of radio contact for a good while. I think this loss of communication is all part of the plan.

Re:Aricebo no help this time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665326)

I just hope they don't get too creative -- it's going to ruin a lot of crops if they decide to tilt the Earth's axis in order to aim radars at Mars.

What does this mean for the Polar Lander? (1)

Philageros (57698) | about 15 years ago | (#1665327)

Does anybody know if this screws up the Polar Lander mission? I read that the Orbiter was to be used to relay data back to Earth from the Lander on the Mars surface, but though I assume the Lander can operate independently if need be I haven't been able to find info on this yet on the Nasa sites.

Re:Supposed to loose contact (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665328)

Why don't you _read_ the subject matter in question before shooting off your mouth? Just an idea. . .

We are sorry... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665329)

Your 30 Day trial just finished. Please register this control software. ;-)

Re:That's what they *want* you to believe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665330)

Yeah the world will end on New Years Eve when they create that microscopic black hole in a physics lab in New York which will grow exponentially and swallow the Earth, the Sun and the rest of our solar system.

Re:Incompetent eejits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1665331)

I thought Mars is about ~122 million miles from Earth right now. That's a little more than 3x your 40 million miles guess. A significant difference. --nitpick

Safe mode (2)

Jade (15828) | about 15 years ago | (#1665332)

From the article: Engineers hope that the spacecraft has entered a "safe mode" with its internal computer executing commands designed to put it back into normal operation.

Damn, our space program running on Win95?

Where did you get this? No contact at 08:55 ETD (3)

Gino (32932) | about 15 years ago | (#1665333)

I would love to believe that they've regained contact. But according to all my news sources they've not yet managed to do so! The latest update I have from Space Online [] is time stamped at 8:55 ETD and the news is still NO contact!

Moderators please! Don't give unfounded news items such a high score. The AC didn't even give a link to his news source! the pricking of my thumbs,

Should read: 08:55 EDT (1)

Gino (32932) | about 15 years ago | (#1665334)

Apologies for the typo, should of course read 08:55 EDT!

I am on GMT myself... the pricking of my thumbs,

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