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Cassini Geyser-Tasting a Bust

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the techno-ageusia dept.

Space 95

Maggie McKee writes "The Cassini spacecraft flew into the icy geysers erupting from Saturn's moon Enceladus on Wednesday in an attempt to figure out what they were made of, but a glitch prevented the probe from actually 'tasting' the plumes. An 'unexplained software hiccup' put the Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) out of commission. Ironically, new software designed to improve the ability of the CDA to count particle hits may be to blame. Mission managers may try to re-attempt the plume fly-through later this year."

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95 comments

We all know what this means (4, Funny)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753034)

There were alien bacteria in the ice samples, and NASA is covering it up by claiming that the probe didn't work.

Re:We all know what this means (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753062)

(I guess I should add </conspiracy-nuttery> so that people don't think I was serious.)

Re:We all know what this means (1)

_KiTA_ (241027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753494)

(I guess I should add </conspiracy-nuttery> so that people don't think I was serious.)
Too late, you already created a new conspiracy theory about the alien communists of Saturn's Moon Empire.

Re:We all know what this means (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753764)

That's no moon...

Re:We all know what this means (1)

Eddi3 (1046882) | more than 6 years ago | (#22762142)

That's an overused joke!

Re:We all know what this means (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 6 years ago | (#22762722)

You must be new here.

Re:We all know what this means (1)

trongey (21550) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753086)

My top-level sources say the "geysers" are actually EMP shields fired from cannons erected by the Titanian colonists on Enceladus.

Re:We all know what this means (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 6 years ago | (#22754382)

My top-level sources say the "geysers" are actually EMP shields fired from cannons


Not quite. These "geysers" are, in reality, crap being thrown out the back end of some large bug on Enceladus. These bugs have left the quarantine zone and are doing test firings under the different conditions of the moon relative to Saturn. Once they adjust for drift (heavy gravitational forces), they'll point their butts our way and we'll suddenly have to contend with "mystery" meteors coming our way.

Re:We all know what this means (5, Funny)

confused one (671304) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753266)

Or they got warned off...

Cassini: [message relayed from monolith] "All these worlds are yours except Enceladus. Attempt no landings there...."

Re:We all know what this means (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22753852)

No, Space probe is taking the rest of today off, has a hangover after tasting the Geyser

  'cause Enceladus is made of Selser Water, sours, and Billion year old wiskey, it makes fizzy Wiskey Sour Geysers

Re:We all know what this means (1)

call-me-kenneth (1249496) | more than 6 years ago | (#22754084)

You know, I like a nice over-used meme being given endless new twists as much as anyone. But please... enough with the "Attempt no landings", 'kay? Thank you.

Re:We all know what this means (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22755252)

So all these memes are ours except... oh, sorry. Forgot already.

Re:We all know what this means (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 6 years ago | (#22756408)

You have to admit, this time it was appropriate.

Re:We all know what this means (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22757126)

In Soviet Russia, no landings attempt you!

Re:We all know what this means (1)

ethanms (319039) | more than 6 years ago | (#22754160)

Cassini: [message relayed from monolith] "All these worlds are yours except Enceladus. Attempt no landings there...."

Curiosity and temptation supposedly ruined Eden when Adam and Eve decided to bite the apple...

So I have to wonder how long it took before some humans went over there to figure out what was so great... or some future-lawyers decided that orbiting w/ high powered telescopes and scanners was OK because they weren't landing... or maybe if they built ships that could hover a few feet from the ground it would be ok, because technically they aren't landing...

To stay on topic... my guess is that the "glitch" is just to give them time to analyze unexpected results... depending on the outcome we'll see a new pass supposedly happen next year.

Re:We all know what this means (1)

opti6600 (582782) | more than 6 years ago | (#22755076)

This was actually addressed in a later book by Clarke - I think it might have been 2061 (there were four books).

Basically, a bunch of Chinese astronauts got chased around by some giant vine-critter that came out of the ice. Read the book, the rest of the series is actually interesting.

Re:We all know what this means (2, Funny)

Curze (1166985) | more than 6 years ago | (#22755720)

That's crazy! Giant vine-critter is just going to be hungry again in an hour.

Re:We all know what this means (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 6 years ago | (#22754558)

"All these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landings there. And Enceladus, don't land there either. Or on Titan. And don't even think about Io. Phoebe is right out. In fact why don't you monkey bastards just stay on your own little rock and its moon. Damn kids mucking up the solar system..."

Re:We all know what this means (2, Funny)

savorymedia (938523) | more than 6 years ago | (#22754642)

Cassini: [message relayed from Cats] "All your base are belong to us. You have no chance to survive make your time."

This stuff doesn't bode well for software (1, Insightful)

Phat_Tony (661117) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753058)

It doesn't give me much confidence that we're heading towards applications and operating systems that won't crash anytime soon when we can't even get something this important right.

It really makes me curious about the whole software quality assurance program at NASA these days. I'd like to know what their procedures are for code writing, debugging, and testing, that we're spending millions to conduct this research and apparently missing our opportunities due to software bugs.

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (3, Informative)

Forrest Kyle (955623) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753160)

NASA is probably not entirely to blame. They contract out so much stuff, that a lot of problems are created by interoperability issues between hardware and software designed by different companies.

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22753224)

and blame nasa for coding everything they do in visual basic, tisk tisk.

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (2, Funny)

OTDR (1052896) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753242)

Note to self: Turn off Windows Automatic Update...

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (4, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753296)

Overheard in a NASA deep space probe software lab....

"It compiles! ship it!"

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (2)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753352)

Don't Tast Me Bro!

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (4, Interesting)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 6 years ago | (#22754396)

Yep, but exactly how do you do input validation on something like this. The best thing they could do would recreate a version of the Cassini EXACTLY on the ground with all known faults in its sensors and test all software on that. And you know what, mistakes would still happen, because its FAR away, and there is no way to test the real Cassini's sensors till after its already passed what it was supposed to sense.

validation is the wrong approach (1)

nguy (1207026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22758106)

Yep, but exactly how do you do input validation on something like this.

You put your finger on the problem: you cannot validate this kind of system. That's why the whole paradigm of software validation is wrong and won't work for mission-critical real-world systems.

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (1, Informative)

cavePrisoner (1184997) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753322)

Remember that NASA doesn't actually get very much funding given what is expected of them. If they had a military budget and they screwed up it would be a different story...

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22753522)

Remember that NASA doesn't actually get very much funding given what is expected of them. If they had a military budget and they screwed up it would be a different story...

How much should it cost? It's not like we have any competing space agencies in this country with which to establish a baseline.

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (2, Insightful)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753900)

Why are you ignoring the Japanese, Chinese, Indians, Russians, and Europeans for baseline comparisons? Not to mention our own home-grown private industries like Ball, Boeing, and Lockheed-Martin. Or perhaps you'd prefer the military (as the grandfather post suggest), which also flies spacecraft?

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (5, Insightful)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753476)

This is just one data point in a rather big history. At least they didn't confuse feet-per-second with meters-per-second; at least they didn't cause their CPU to thrash due to a radar being left on and overloading the interrupts. Also, this is the same organization that managed to put two quite-autonomous rovers on Mars and keep them rolling for, what is it now?, 4 years. When one of the rovers did have a software failure, and a really bad mission-killing one, they were able to debug it and update firmware OTA from light-minutes distance, on a machine that was only intermittently alive.

They screw things up, but they seem to do very well at fault-tolerance and recovery, and I think if I were in automated systems, I'd wanna be at NASA over anywhere else, period.

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (2, Insightful)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753746)

100% agree.
My sig explains the human factor quite well, what makes NASA engineers stand out above the rest is just how often they manage to carry on regardless.
In situations where normal people would give up they find a solution.

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22753980)

> (...) at least they didn't cause their CPU to thrash due to a radar being left on and overloading the interrupts (...)

  For the curious, this event occurred during the first moon landing of Apollo 11. You can find the transcripts of the event online. Pretty hair raising, once you read the details. Especially how they decided not to abort the landing, even though they didn't know the reason for all the error messages.

http://www.doneyles.com/LM/Tales.html [doneyles.com]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_Guidance_Computer [wikipedia.org]

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753530)

It's an ambitious mission.

Some people have a mindset that the software should be as reliable as the electrical or mechanical systems. Is that based on anything but wishful thinking? Getting the software right is the hardest part, just look at the history of failed space missions in the last couple decades.

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (2, Interesting)

MttJocy (873799) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753534)

To be honest I have to say it is disturbing how many millions have been wasted on projects to have been ruined by very simple glitches in software, sure this sort of analysis software is probably quite complex I don't know I didn't write it. But when millions of $CURRENCY is spent on a complex piece of hardware which has a single chance of success it's hardly like we get these probes back to reuse or anything that more care should be taken to ensure the software can do it's job otherwise it is a waste of money building all that expensive hardware, it's not like such mistakes are that infrequent.

However it is not like mistakes like this are just something that happens with NASA, the ESA's first launch of an Ariane 5 launch vehicle resulted in failure due to an issue where a 64 bit floating point number was being stuck into a 16 bit signed integer space within the vehicle guidance system causing it reportedly to attempt to make an extreme and unwarranted cause correction and ultimately end up breaking up with the loss of the launch vehicle and its payload of 4 Cluster Mission spacecraft [wikipedia.org] resulting in a total loss valued at US$370 million. - Ariane 5 Flight 501 [wikipedia.org]

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (2, Insightful)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 6 years ago | (#22754012)

So maybe the lesson here is "spaceflight is hard," and not "NASA sucks"? You're talking about writing software for custom-built hardware to do things that no Earth-based software has to do. And it's not like you can beta test stuff out like Mozilla does, either. If there's some obscure combination of hardware and software settings that will lead to a glitch, but everything is fine otherwise, it'll be damn hard to locate without spending many millions more for extremely extensive testing. There's a point of diminishing returns, perfection simply doesn't happen.

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (1)

darkonc (47285) | more than 6 years ago | (#22763900)

You think that a spacecraft should be as reliable as your household plumbing and electrical? Think again. On the way to the plumbing and electrical standards that we have now, there were a lot of homes that burnt down due to errors in design, or flooded out because some issue was overlooked --- and I'm sure that there are a couple of houses that: the only reason why they didn't burn down because of electrical problems was that the fire was put out by a leak from a plumbing problem.

Now, 100 years later, we think that we have most of the kinks out,

Actually, just this week, we had a plumber in to our place to move a sink. He used a 'new and improved' connector that resulted in the hot water line popping loose. Thankfully it was during business hours, and we were able to turn off the supply line before we had a massive flood.

We called his company up and they were able to come over and fix the problem in a couple of hours.

Spacecraft designs, on the other hand, don't have millions of beta-testers and a house call isn't possible when you're 200million miles away. That's why they spend millions of dollars testing their systems, and why they still sometimes fail. That's also why they like redundant systems -- so that, when the inevitable glitches do happen, there's at least a reasonable hope that the most critical functions won't be lost.

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 6 years ago | (#22765404)

Er, I think you're stridently agreeing with me, here.

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22755480)

Mistakes breaking things are a fact of life...sometimes it costs a lot of money, and it's far from limited to NASA or even engineering practices. You know that economic downturn that has been attributed to the housing market collapse? How do you think that happened? People made bad decisions about who to give loans to that cost not millions, but billions.

Your comment about millions wasted on a project that has a single chance of success isn't really relevant here, because Cassini so far has been a huge success. You're getting caught up on a bug that resulted in the loss of part of the data from a very complicated but tiny part of Cassini's overall, 5 year mission.

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (4, Insightful)

LMacG (118321) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753556)

Seriously? Somebody modified a program so that a system designed to do one thing could do something else and sent the modifications millions of miles across space on a radio link. There's probably not much chance of a three tier development/test/production environment here.

In the meantime, the overall Cassini project has already been incredibly successful; the happy little Mars rovers have gotten unstuck by virtue of some pretty good software hacks, but you, "Phat Tony", call into question NASA's procedures.

Seriously?

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#22755280)

Seriously? Somebody modified a program so that a system designed to do one thing could do something else and sent the modifications millions of miles across space on a radio link. There's probably not much chance of a three tier development/test/production environment here.

Indeed. And as another poster has pointed out, it's hellishly complicated with significant limitations (I.E. power, bandwidth). Not to mention (as no one has so far) it's a one-off one-of-a-kind system. OK, there are emulators and simulators, and engineering development boxen sitting around... But still, not much of an installed base to work from.

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (5, Insightful)

necro81 (917438) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753574)

These craft - their software, hardware, and the interactions between them - are so complex that there is no way to exhaustively test everything. It's complex enough that you can't even determine what an exhaustive test criteria would be. If we wanted exhaustive testing to ensure that nothing wrong ever happens, we'd never get anything off the ground. Mistakes happen, the unforeseen happens, and when communications take hours to go through, it is just plain hard. You live with it, correct mistakes as they happen, and make the best of it. They'll get a chance to try again. They have already logged tremendous amounts of data that couldn't have been gotten any other way - it's not like the whole $1.5b mission is a bust. This probe, the largest and most complex NASA has ever launched, has been operating continuously, with very few problems and no critical failures, for over a decade now.

NASA, in general, is a lot more stringent with its software than most organizations. If you would like to know more about it, you could start here [nasa.gov] .

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (2, Informative)

zullnero (833754) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753790)

Taxpayers complain about having to foot the bill for millions of dollars of research in something where the actual value to those taxpayers isn't properly explained to them. Government legislators get elected by promising to cut "pork barrel spending" to programs like NASA. Budgets get slashed, partisan hacks/beancounters get put into management positions at NASA. Quality assurance budgets get cut. Software quality goes down.

There you go. You can't have something that you don't want to pay for.

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (0, Troll)

Plugh (27537) | more than 6 years ago | (#22754100)

I love space exploration. That's why I want NASA and the ESA to close up shop.

By using tax money taken from entire populations to fund their work, they totally distort the market for competitive, market-based space exploration.

If multiple teams were competing against each other, I strongly suspect the quality of all subsystems -- including software -- would vastly improve.

Equally important, when there is a foobar like this one, the money lost would only be that of people who had VOLUNTARILY DONATED IT, not the money of every man, woman, and child in the taxed population.

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22758016)

> By using tax money taken from entire populations to fund their work, they totally distort the market for competitive, market-based space exploration.

What? There's a MARKET for space exploration?? ...oh, sorry, I forgot that "exploration" can mean "tourism"!

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (1)

Plugh (27537) | more than 6 years ago | (#22758856)

There's a market for tourism, yes, but there's also a market for pure research. Or at least, there would be if the tax-funded ventures of the central planners didn't crowd out everyone else.

There's a market whenever different people offer a product or service that people can freely choose to give miney to, or not. There is, for example, a market for charitable giving: my Salvation Army, United Way, my local soup kitchen, ...
(and that market, too, is massively distorted by the 800-lb gorilla called "government", that cannot go bust and get out of the way, because it's funded by tax dollars taken by force. The bastards!)

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (1)

clampolo (1159617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22754170)

I think the problem is people don't realize what an extremely difficult problem programming is. Perhaps it helps to state it mathematically: Given a mathematical specification of a program (i.e. we might say "Given N is positive, set x to the square root of N") it is not possible to construct an algorithm to construct a program from that specification (for the general case.) Furthermore, it is not even possible to tell, in the general case, whether there is even a solution.

So from a mathematical standpoint, programming is a difficult and creative process. And it's no surprise that it will always be buggy.

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (1)

Were-Rabbit (959205) | more than 6 years ago | (#22755000)

Eh? This one glitch sends you into a tailspin of not trusting software? You're a real "glass half-empty" kind of guy, aren't you?

Personally, I'd rather look at mind-boggling accomplishments that NASA has done, like those two little rovers on the Martian surface? You know, the ones that were supposed to last some six months and are now going on four YEARS?

Shit happens. The programming and design of anything in space is far beyond the abilities of most people, and I would bet yours as well. The chances of them catching every, single, possible bug is slim. We didn't capture the plume. Okay, fine. So, now NASA can live and learn from this.

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (3, Informative)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22757342)

It doesn't give me much confidence that we're heading towards applications and operating systems that won't crash anytime soon when we can't even get something this important right. It really makes me curious about the whole software quality assurance program at NASA.

Hold your horses, Tex. It says in the article that they tuned the software to better pick up such particles. They may have had a big choice to keep it the way it was and play it safe, or get fancy to pick up much more data. You don't know what decisions they faced and are thus judging prematurely.

Remember, the instruments weren't originally designed for such, so they may have had to "get creative". There's always risk in exploration.

NASA has some of the best QA practices ever invented:

http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/06/writestuff.html [fastcompany.com]

However, it takes time and money. I doubt the Geyser team had much time, for this pass-by is relatively recent in the probe plans.
 

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22757802)

I have worked with NASA's IV&V location in W.V. and it is surprising that the testers of the code do not get the entire projects they are testing and do not have the build tools to test the code as well.

Re:This stuff doesn't bode well for software (1)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | more than 6 years ago | (#22758216)

It's really not a surprise. Remember the Mars probe? The whole meters/feet gig? I somewhat expect failure on the part of NASA in the first go-round. Hell, when they launched the first shuttle after Columbia, I was shaking my head wondering about the poor souls who accepted the mission--although, I guess that wasn't really a true first-run, just the first after trying to bring in a damaged craft...

Hmm (0, Redundant)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753066)

Ironically, new software designed to improve the ability of the CDA to count particle hits may be to blame.

Wouldn't it have been better to get a less accurate count than no count at all? I wonder if they did sufficient regression testing or if they rushed the patch out the door. It almost sounds like they were getting greedy.

No, of course I haven't RTFA yet! I'm eating lunch and trying to work! I'll get to it.

Re:Hmm (2, Informative)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753126)

There wasn't anything mentioned about the software beyond what the summary said, so we are left to speculate. Unless someone who works on the software is around here, you're not gonna find an answer other than maybe the stock "NASA sucks these days" that has become so prevalent since the shuttle's problems.

I'm just hoping everything goes right the next time around. It's going to be much closer and we "should" get the data we've been searching for.

What's with NASA and software? (1)

robinsonne (952701) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753098)

Wasn't there a "problem" with the software for the recently added Dextre also? Where it just wouldn't turn on?

By the time multi-million dollar pieces of equipment get into space, I expect software issues should be already forseen and taken care of. Yeah I know, tight schedules, pressure from above... Vibration, overheating, and other "environmental" causes should be the only real obstacles NASA should be facing once they're off the ground.

Re:What's with NASA and software? (1)

EricB504 (1256040) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753302)

They now are thinking it wasn't the software but a temporary power cord.

from the article on cnn:

"Canadian engineers initially suspected the trouble could be with a timer, and they created a software patch to fix it. But Pierre Jean, Canada's acting space station program manager, said experts now believe the problem stems from a design flaw in the temporary cable that is supposed to provide power to Dextre until it is fully assembled."
I agree with you that they should have tested this thing more thoroughly.

Re:What's with NASA and software? (1)

AJWM (19027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22754474)

experts now believe the problem stems from a design flaw in the temporary cable

I've got to wonder, how hard is it to design a power cable, even one meant to operate in space? I mean, fabrication flaw perhaps, although that should be caught in testing. But design flaw? We've had fifty years experience designing stuff to work in Earth orbit; what's up with that?

Re:What's with NASA and software? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22756040)

Until you've worked on one and had it break in ways you've never expected, you really can't appreciate it. Trust me, I've been there.

In my case (non-NASA) it's a bundle of sensor wires that connects to a moving part. The part rotates a total of about 20 degrees, back and forth and the cable is attached to it. The darn wires keep breaking over time, even on a mundane earth application, with decent size 20 AWG wire, and plenty of slack. And this is a production wiring harness, not a temporary one like they're talking about on DEXTRE. It's hard enough to even reporduce the problem reliably, much less figure out a solution.

In all likelihood, they did test it, but somewhere in between shipping it from Canada to Florida, stuffing it in the shuttle, shaking it around like rattle while under 3 g accelleration from launch, pulling it out of the shuttle with a robot, and letting it sit through a few cycles of 400 degree+ day/night temperature swings in space, something changed from the test conditions.

Re:What's with NASA and software? (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753954)

NASA didn't even write most of the flight software for Cassini until it was launched. (So I've been told, this was before my time on the project.) If you think about it, it makes sense: you don't even know if the spacecraft is going to make it into Earth orbit, let alone to the target. Why spend millions writing the stuff that you don't have to until you are pretty sure it'll make it.

Now, what you're personally complaining about is an update. A patch, if you will. Are you saying that NASA should never update software to improve performance on multi-decade missions?

Tasting flaw? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22753106)

Can we introduce the same flaw into the domain-registrars so domain-tasting doesn't work either?

glitch prevented probe from tasting the plume (3, Funny)

Alsee (515537) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753152)

Tastes like.....

chicken.

-

Re:glitch prevented probe from tasting the plume (1)

AikonMGB (1013995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753214)

But how does the probe even know what chicken tastes like? Maybe it really doesn't, so anything it tastes that it doesn't recognize it decides tastes like chicken..

Aikon-

Re:glitch prevented probe from tasting the plume (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753334)

"Now how did the machines know what Tasty Wheat tasted like, huh? Maybe they got it wrong. Maybe what I think Tasty Wheat tasted like actually tasted like, uh ... oatmeal or tuna fish. That makes you wonder about a lot of things. You take chicken for example. Maybe they couldn't tell what to make chicken taste like which is why chicken tastes like everything!" ---Mouse, The Matrix.

Re:glitch prevented probe from tasting the plume (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22753452)

(probe tastes chicken)
"Mmm, tastes like Enceladus plumes."

Re:glitch prevented probe from tasting the plume (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 6 years ago | (#22755412)

But how does the probe even know what chicken tastes like?

All taste gauging systems are calibrated on chicken.

Re:glitch prevented probe from tasting the plume (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#22755366)

Yum, chicken enceladus.

Re:glitch prevented probe from tasting the plume (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22757378)

Tastes like.....chicken.

Enceladus does resemble a big cracked egg [wanderingspace.net] (Saturn in background).
       

Yeah, this happens all the time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22753154)

Perhaps it is uncomfortable being tasted until after it has had a shower.

i think cassini is running windows (-1, Flamebait)

OrochimaruVoldemort (1248060) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753216)

don't quote me on it. it is possible, and if it's true, that is why it failed (maybe they should use SuSe or Ubuntu next time).

Re:i think cassini is running windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22760484)

Dickhead

Irony? (2, Funny)

JshWright (931399) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753240)

I'm not sure I see how a software upgrade causing a "software hiccup" is an example of irony. Maybe I'll try that on my boss sometime... "No, that's not a regression... That's an ironic hiccup"

I blame Iraq (1)

VoltCurve (1248644) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753250)

If we'd simply had exterminated the rabble, we would have more $$$$ for our fancy moon licking spaceships

So, the geyser tasting was a bust? (1)

Huntr (951770) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753278)

Did the Cassini probe at least get a steak [steakandbjday.com] ?

Software (1)

rijrunner (263757) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753332)


    This isn't the first time that software changes have caused problems. Software change freezes should be in place prior to certain mission segments to allow for this sort of problem to be sorted out prior to when it goes live. At least it did not result in vehicle loss.

Re:Software (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753784)

the Cassini sensors and computers are not that much like the embedded computer in your car engine. Perhaps the situation that triggers the bug only happened during the flyby and never before during the trip. Exploring Saturn's icy moons is hardly routine operations.

But, to some extent, I must agree. Events like this present an opportunity to improve testing and simulation. Perhaps when they get what went wrong, processes will be improved and things like this one do not happen again.

Hmmm (2, Funny)

Beefslaya (832030) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753364)

Ctl+Alt+Del

Task Manager to kill the hung process.

Sheesh... DUH.

Doomed to fail (2, Funny)

Icarus1919 (802533) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753376)

You should always ask before you try tasting a bust - last time I got slapped in the face. And probing? Hoo boy.

Re:Doomed to fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22753944)

et ees laugh-tastic!

In other news (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753698)

In a related story, Slashdot Editors accidentally allowed the correct use of the word "ironic" to appear in a story which made it to the front page of the geek-oriented web site.

Asimov's 3 laws (1)

contraba55 (1217056) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753714)

Sounds like a robot defending itself.

Cool Images (1)

volcanopele (537152) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753856)

We did get some cool images, you know. Not as many as most flybys (blame Saturn blocking the Sun for two hours starting three minutes after closest approach), but still some very neat ones. http://ciclops.org/view.php?id=4865 [ciclops.org] This mosaic highlights the cratered terrain of Enceladus' north polar region. In addition, it should two areas on much younger terrain: Samarkand Sulci (which cuts through the crater terrain, disrupting craters along its margins) and youthful terrain on Enceladus' leading hemisphere (which has very sharp margins with the cratered terrain).

One Instrument Failed! (3, Informative)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 6 years ago | (#22753858)

OK, lookit. There are about a dozen instruments on Cassini. One (1) failed to return data on this pass. Yes, this pass was good for CDA, but it isn't the only instrument. It isn't even the only one that can sample the plume in situ. INMS, RPWS, MIMI, and CAPS all come to mind as candidates to give us useful information (INMS in particular can help clarify composition). All of these returned their data from what I've heard. (And no, that's all I can say until those teams want to speak up.)

CDA's failure is unfortunate to be sure, but it isn't catastrophic. Could the entire news media please stop sensationalizing this?

Re:One Instrument Failed! (1)

volcanopele (537152) | more than 6 years ago | (#22754416)

The RPWS instrument can also provide us a good estimate of dust counts in the plume as it passes through by measuring the plasma generated from dust impacts on the spacecraft. Add that with the INMS measuring gas composition in the plume, and I think it is a bit of a stretch to say that Cassini "failed" to taste the plume emanating from Enceladus' south polar region. Cassini's flyby in October 2008 has a very similar profile to Wednesday's encounter. CDA will be able to repeat its measurements during that encounter.

I can haz plumes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22753950)

Om Nom Nom Nom Nom -- Cassini spacecraft

Cassini Geyser-Tasting a Bust (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22754132)

The Lesson Is: Never Try

additional fly-bys were already being planned (1)

sighted (851500) | more than 6 years ago | (#22754190)

"Mission managers may try to re-attempt the plume fly-through later this year."

This pass was just the first of several that were already planned for this year. The next is slated for August, and another for October. The August pass will focus on visual data, and the October pass on particle analyzers. There's additional official info [nasa.gov] from NASA as well.

Unexplained hiccup... (1)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | more than 6 years ago | (#22754304)

Unexplained hiccup... The rest of the probe's parts are running a Linux kernel, but this probe is running Windows CE. Must have been the blue screen of space.

The results are in.... (1)

gnuman99 (746007) | more than 6 years ago | (#22754346)

"Guys, that geyser on Enceladus ... it was just a fart"

So the probe was trying to taste a water plume... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22754352)

and had a hiccup. Must've gone down the wrong pipe...

ZING!

What's with all the comments about NASA? (2, Informative)

DarrenR114 (6724) | more than 6 years ago | (#22754400)

Last I checked, Cassini was an ESA (European Space Agency) project.

I think there are quite a few Slashdotters who need geography lessons.

Re:What's with all the comments about NASA? (3, Informative)

volcanopele (537152) | more than 6 years ago | (#22754446)

No, Cassini is a joint NASA/ESA project. The Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) was provided by ESA.

Re:What's with all the comments about NASA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22756546)

Nope, Cassini is a NASA mission; the Huygens probe was the ESA part.

Flyby-vid (1)

Peter Lake (260100) | more than 6 years ago | (#22757018)

Here's a cool video of the Enceladus-flyby compiled using Cassini's latest images. It shows the flyby from Cassini's POV - approach, closest passing and outbound phase: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5PqLPU2VA4 [youtube.com]

definitely not a bust! (1)

paulscottanderson (1257428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22770294)

Calling this a bust is completely unfounded; if you just read the comments being made by the Cassini team itself...

http://blogs.nasa.gov/cm/blog/Enceladus%20Flyby/posts/post_1205608134918.html [nasa.gov]

Paul

________________

The Meridiani Journal
a chronicle of planetary exploration
web.mac.com/meridianijournal/ [slashdot.org]

Re:definitely not a bust! (1)

paulscottanderson (1257428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22770616)

I meant to note that the Cassini team is also hinting at some exciting findings to be announced withn the next couple weeks or so, at the link I had just posted. All of the instruments, except the CDA, worked perfectly during the flyby.

Paul
___________
The Meridiani Journal
a chronicle of planetary exploration
http://web.mac.com/meridianijournal [mac.com]
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