Feeds

Human error suspected in loss of Mars surveyor

Upgraded to oblivion

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

The disappearance last year of the Mars Global Surveyor may have been caused by human error. NASA says it is now checking to see whether the shutdown was triggered by someone back at mission control sending the craft the wrong message.

Although the space agency is investigating other possibilities, a dodgy software upload has emerged as the prime suspect as NASA embarks on a formal review of the situation.

According to reports, John McNamee, deputy director of solar system exploration at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has said that a preliminary investigation already highlighted bad software as a possible cause of the Surveyor's problems. He says a botched upgrade in June 2006 could be to blame.

The upgrade was supposed to improve that craft's flight processors, but instead, it seems to have instructed the craft to turn one of its cooling radiators towards the sun. Over time, this has overheated the battery, forcing the Global Surveyor into safe mode.

If a software glitch is confirmed as the cause of the craft's untimely demise, the investigation will then focus on why the bug was not spotted before the code was dispatched.

The Mars Global Surveyor has been in orbit around the red planet for over a decade, during which time it has sent back over 240,000 images of the planet's surface, contributing hugely to the breadth and depth of our understanding of Mars.

It lost contact with Earth in November 2006. Initially, NASA was hopeful that the craft would quickly come back online, but now Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, says that is unlikely.

"We're declaring it most likely dead. I doubt we will see it again," he told the Associated Press news agency.

He added that the agency would not declare an official cause of failure before the investigation is completed. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Software bug caught Galileo sats in landslide, no escape from reality
Life had just begun, code error means Russia's gone and thrown it all away
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
prev story

Whitepapers

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup
Learn why inSync received the highest overall rating from Druva and is the top choice for the mobile workforce.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.