Mars Lander Fault - Not Enough Memory

Discussion in 'NZ Computing' started by Rupert, Jan 28, 2004.

  1. Rupert

    Rupert Guest

    From the Washington Post

    Spirit began acting up last week, when it stopped sending data and began
    rebooting its computer, eventually resetting it about 130 times. At one
    point, the rover thought it was the year 2053, Miss Trosper said.
    To tame Spirit's computer, engineers temporarily disabled its flash
    memory. Engineers believe they gave Spirit too little random-access memory,
    or RAM, to adequately manage its file-packed flash memory, which is similar
    to the memory used by digital cameras to store photographs.
    Cutting off the flash memory eased the burden on Spirit's RAM and ended
    the rebooting loop, Miss Trosper said.

    http://washingtontimes.com/national/20040127-104152-4223r.htm

    You would think that given the price of RAM these days that they could have
    packed it to the gunnels with the stuff - I can't believe that it's a whole
    lot different than the regular PC stuff - albiet well shielded and probably
    well tested for low temperatures.
    Rupert, Jan 28, 2004
    #1
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  2. Rupert

    -[Myth]- Guest

    On Wed, 28 Jan 2004 20:34:15 +1300, Rupert wrote:

    > From the Washington Post
    >
    > Spirit began acting up last week, when it stopped sending data and began
    > rebooting its computer, eventually resetting it about 130 times. At one
    > point, the rover thought it was the year 2053, Miss Trosper said.
    > To tame Spirit's computer, engineers temporarily disabled its flash
    > memory. Engineers believe they gave Spirit too little random-access memory,
    > or RAM, to adequately manage its file-packed flash memory, which is similar
    > to the memory used by digital cameras to store photographs.
    > Cutting off the flash memory eased the burden on Spirit's RAM and ended
    > the rebooting loop, Miss Trosper said.
    >
    > http://washingtontimes.com/national/20040127-104152-4223r.htm
    >
    > You would think that given the price of RAM these days that they could have
    > packed it to the gunnels with the stuff - I can't believe that it's a whole
    > lot different than the regular PC stuff - albiet well shielded and probably
    > well tested for low temperatures.


    and the pictures it would be handling would not be very big at all, my
    512mb chip which would take up next to no space could hold thousands of
    them
    -[Myth]-, Jan 28, 2004
    #2
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  3. Rupert

    Evil Bastard Guest

    On Wed, 28 Jan 2004 20:34:15 +1300, Rupert wrote:

    > Engineers believe they gave Spirit too little random-access memory


    Did they write the code in Java?
    ;P
    Evil Bastard, Jan 28, 2004
    #3
  4. Rupert

    ~misfit~ Guest

    Evil Bastard wrote:
    > On Wed, 28 Jan 2004 20:34:15 +1300, Rupert wrote:
    >
    >> Engineers believe they gave Spirit too little random-access memory

    >
    > Did they write the code in Java?
    > ;P


    Yes, according to Nathan.
    --
    ~misfit~
    ~misfit~, Jan 28, 2004
    #4
  5. Rupert

    techie Guest

    On Wed, 28 Jan 2004 02:25:55 -0600, -[Myth]- wrote:

    > On Wed, 28 Jan 2004 20:34:15 +1300, Rupert wrote:
    >
    >> From the Washington Post
    >>
    >> Spirit began acting up last week, when it stopped sending data and
    >> began
    >> rebooting its computer, eventually resetting it about 130 times. At one
    >> point, the rover thought it was the year 2053, Miss Trosper said.
    >> To tame Spirit's computer, engineers temporarily disabled its flash
    >> memory. Engineers believe they gave Spirit too little random-access
    >> memory, or RAM, to adequately manage its file-packed flash memory,
    >> which is similar to the memory used by digital cameras to store
    >> photographs.
    >> Cutting off the flash memory eased the burden on Spirit's RAM and
    >> ended
    >> the rebooting loop, Miss Trosper said.
    >>
    >> http://washingtontimes.com/national/20040127-104152-4223r.htm
    >>
    >> You would think that given the price of RAM these days that they could
    >> have packed it to the gunnels with the stuff - I can't believe that
    >> it's a whole lot different than the regular PC stuff - albiet well
    >> shielded and probably well tested for low temperatures.

    >
    > and the pictures it would be handling would not be very big at all, my
    > 512mb chip which would take up next to no space could hold thousands of
    > them


    Yeah, but what about all the spam? I bet that's their problem.
    techie, Jan 28, 2004
    #5
  6. Rupert wrote:
    > You would think that given the price of RAM these days that they
    > could have packed it to the gunnels with the stuff - I can't believe
    > that it's a whole lot different than the regular PC stuff - albiet
    > well shielded and probably well tested for low temperatures.


    Depends on the CPUs driving it. You can't use RAM like that unless you can
    address it (32-bit CPU), and your CPU is fast enough to drive the timings
    that the RAM wants. You also need to sacrifice enough IO pins to drive the
    RAM.

    Cheers,
    Nicholas Sherlock
    Nicholas Sherlock, Jan 28, 2004
    #6
  7. Mark wrote:
    > Also, asking about programming the robots he said straight C is used (This
    > is circa 2001 so it might have changed). He mentioned that again C was used
    > as C++ required more powerful chips to execute properly and more powerful
    > chips (read Pentium etc) heat up too much and require more oxygen (work) to
    > keep them cool.


    Funny you should mention this... I read somewhere that the last Intel
    CPU verified for operations in Nasa was the 486... I found it hard to
    believe, but interesting none the less.

    --
    Dave Hall
    http://Dave.net.nz
    We have Hangman, Pacman, and Space Invaders
    T.N.O. - Dave.net.nz, Jan 28, 2004
    #7
  8. Rupert

    paul Guest

    "T.N.O. - Dave.net.nz" <> wrote in message
    news:bv9309$pumbt$-berlin.de...
    > Mark wrote:
    > > Also, asking about programming the robots he said straight C is used

    (This
    > > is circa 2001 so it might have changed). He mentioned that again C was

    used
    > > as C++ required more powerful chips to execute properly and more

    powerful
    > > chips (read Pentium etc) heat up too much and require more oxygen (work)

    to
    > > keep them cool.

    >
    > Funny you should mention this... I read somewhere that the last Intel
    > CPU verified for operations in Nasa was the 486... I found it hard to
    > believe, but interesting none the less.


    don't they use old reliable technology, rather than new, fast technology?
    paul, Jan 28, 2004
    #8
  9. paul wrote:
    >>>Also, asking about programming the robots he said straight C is used
    >>>(This is circa 2001 so it might have changed). He mentioned that again C was
    >>>used as C++ required more powerful chips to execute properly and more
    >>>powerful chips (read Pentium etc) heat up too much and require more oxygen (work)
    >>>to keep them cool.

    >>Funny you should mention this... I read somewhere that the last Intel
    >>CPU verified for operations in Nasa was the 486... I found it hard to
    >>believe, but interesting none the less.


    > don't they use old reliable technology, rather than new, fast technology?


    probably, but it seems odd given the age of the Pentium series of
    CPU's... Havent they been proven enough? Couldn't they just run them
    slower to cause less heat(if thats the issue as suggested above).

    --
    Dave Hall
    http://Dave.net.nz
    We have Hangman, Pacman, and Space Invaders
    T.N.O. - Dave.net.nz, Jan 28, 2004
    #9
  10. Rupert

    L33T Guest

    L33T, Jan 28, 2004
    #10
  11. Rupert

    AD. Guest

    On Thu, 29 Jan 2004 02:21:30 +1300, ~misfit~ wrote:

    > Evil Bastard wrote:
    >> On Wed, 28 Jan 2004 20:34:15 +1300, Rupert wrote:
    >>
    >>> Engineers believe they gave Spirit too little random-access memory

    >>
    >> Did they write the code in Java?
    >> ;P

    >
    > Yes, according to Nathan.


    Nope. A bunch of the visualisation tools that manipulated the raw data
    back on earth were written in Java though.

    The embedded systems on the rover were done using VxWorks from Wind River
    - http://www.windriver.com/marsrover/index.html.

    I don't even think Sun's Java license lets you use Java on spacecraft
    anyway :)

    Cheers
    Anton
    AD., Jan 28, 2004
    #11
  12. Rupert

    AD. Guest

    On Thu, 29 Jan 2004 07:34:56 +1300, Nicholas Sherlock wrote:

    > Rupert wrote:
    >> You would think that given the price of RAM these days that they could
    >> have packed it to the gunnels with the stuff - I can't believe that it's
    >> a whole lot different than the regular PC stuff - albiet well shielded
    >> and probably well tested for low temperatures.

    >
    > Depends on the CPUs driving it. You can't use RAM like that unless you can
    > address it (32-bit CPU), and your CPU is fast enough to drive the timings
    > that the RAM wants. You also need to sacrifice enough IO pins to drive the
    > RAM.


    And the fact that the RAM was possibly custom specified and bought 10
    years ago probably ruled out browsing pricewatch to order a gunnel packing
    amount of the stuff online :)

    Cheers
    Anton
    AD., Jan 28, 2004
    #12
  13. Rupert

    steve Guest

    paul wrote:

    >> Funny you should mention this... I read somewhere that the last Intel
    >> CPU verified for operations in Nasa was the 486... I found it hard to
    >> believe, but interesting none the less.

    >
    > don't they use old reliable technology, rather than new, fast technology?


    Yes...because by the time they design and launch a spacecraft, the
    technology in the design can be several years old.

    The space shuttles originally ran on computers less powerful than an IBMPC
    XT.....an Intel 8088 at 4.77Mhz. That 'new' Intel 8088 came far too
    late....as the shuttles were designed in the mid/late-1970s. :)
    steve, Jan 28, 2004
    #13
  14. Rupert

    Mark Guest

    Hi, a friend of mine actually did some programming for NASA and specifically
    for some of the space robotic projects. He made an interesting point that
    they try and minimise the amount of chips on the robots due to (if nothing
    else) the increased heat that each chip can generate. Due to there being no
    oxygen in space keeping the chips cool is quite hard hence the minimum
    number of chips :)

    Also, asking about programming the robots he said straight C is used (This
    is circa 2001 so it might have changed). He mentioned that again C was used
    as C++ required more powerful chips to execute properly and more powerful
    chips (read Pentium etc) heat up too much and require more oxygen (work) to
    keep them cool.

    Cheers
    Mark, Jan 28, 2004
    #14
  15. Rupert

    techie Guest

    On Wed, 28 Jan 2004 14:27:44 -0600, AD. wrote:

    > On Thu, 29 Jan 2004 02:21:30 +1300, ~misfit~ wrote:
    >
    >> Evil Bastard wrote:
    >>> On Wed, 28 Jan 2004 20:34:15 +1300, Rupert wrote:
    >>>
    >>>> Engineers believe they gave Spirit too little random-access memory
    >>>
    >>> Did they write the code in Java?
    >>> ;P

    >>
    >> Yes, according to Nathan.

    >
    > Nope. A bunch of the visualisation tools that manipulated the raw data
    > back on earth were written in Java though.
    >
    > The embedded systems on the rover were done using VxWorks from Wind
    > River - http://www.windriver.com/marsrover/index.html.
    >
    > I don't even think Sun's Java license lets you use Java on spacecraft
    > anyway :)


    Which brings up a profound question: What legal authority would Sun's EULA
    have on Mars?
    techie, Jan 28, 2004
    #15
  16. Rupert

    Mutlley Guest

    "paul" <unknown@127.0.0.1> wrote:

    >"T.N.O. - Dave.net.nz" <> wrote in message
    >news:bv9309$pumbt$-berlin.de...
    >> Mark wrote:
    >> > Also, asking about programming the robots he said straight C is used

    >(This
    >> > is circa 2001 so it might have changed). He mentioned that again C was

    >used
    >> > as C++ required more powerful chips to execute properly and more

    >powerful
    >> > chips (read Pentium etc) heat up too much and require more oxygen (work)

    >to
    >> > keep them cool.

    >>
    >> Funny you should mention this... I read somewhere that the last Intel
    >> CPU verified for operations in Nasa was the 486... I found it hard to
    >> believe, but interesting none the less.

    >
    >don't they use old reliable technology, rather than new, fast technology?
    >

    They're not the only ones. I recently came across a new product that
    had been update to include a 486 processor. It runs real fast now and
    it still uses MS DOS6.22 the Y2K version and a flash ROM for data
    storage
    Mutlley, Jan 29, 2004
    #16
  17. On Thu, 29 Jan 2004 09:30:35 +1300, AD. wrote:

    > And the fact that the RAM was possibly custom specified and bought 10
    > years ago probably ruled out browsing pricewatch to order a gunnel packing
    > amount of the stuff online :)


    Actually the robots tend to be built as much as possible using
    off-the-shelf gear.

    The last sucessful mars robot used a mildly tweaked proxim 2Mb/s radio
    card, as a f'instance (it predated wifi)
    Uncle StoatWarbler, Jan 29, 2004
    #17
  18. On Thu, 29 Jan 2004 08:36:05 +1300, T.N.O. - Dave.net.nz wrote:

    > Funny you should mention this... I read somewhere that the last Intel
    > CPU verified for operations in Nasa was the 486... I found it hard to
    > believe, but interesting none the less.


    It's correct. The reason is quite simple - as the chip structures get
    smaller, they become highly susceptable to being wiped out by cosmic rays.
    Uncle StoatWarbler, Jan 29, 2004
    #18
  19. On Thu, 29 Jan 2004 09:51:06 +1300, steve wrote:

    > The space shuttles originally ran on computers less powerful than an
    > IBMPC XT.....an Intel 8088 at 4.77Mhz. That 'new' Intel 8088 came far
    > too late....as the shuttles were designed in the mid/late-1970s. :)


    The original shuttle control computers (5 of them) were each 1 7 foot rack
    and used core memory.

    Those were replaced about 1984 with more modern technology and the space
    required went from 5 racks to about 1/5 of one rack.
    Uncle StoatWarbler, Jan 29, 2004
    #19
  20. Rupert

    J.Clampett Guest

    -[Myth]- wrote:
    > On Wed, 28 Jan 2004 20:34:15 +1300, Rupert wrote:
    >
    > and the pictures it would be handling would not be very big at all, my
    > 512mb chip which would take up next to no space could hold thousands of
    > them



    Read this

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/Default.aspx?id=3958138&p1=0
    J.Clampett, Jan 29, 2004
    #20
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