February 29, 2004


EE Times: The trouble with Rover is revealed. This article describes the technological problems that crippled the Spirit rover on Mars back in January. Now I’m not an electrical engineer or a NASA tech, so I don’t know why they design these things the way they do. But when the story says that the problem was caused by the flash memory filling up with files, leaving no free space to mount the drive, I as a computer tech have to ask, “Why was there so little memory?” I look at the numbers, 120MB of RAM and 256MB of flash memory. My own computer has more than that. And while I’m sure this equpiment is a little more robust than what you can buy at Office Depot, and therefore more expensive and bulky, how much would it have really added to the weight, size, or cost of the mission to maybe double the memory as a precaution? It’s always better to have too much, so I’m wondering why NASA chose to go with the bare minimum here. Puzzling.

Filed under The Computer Vet Weblog

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  1. MatchASM says:

    If you read again carefully, you will notice that the file allocation system was the bottleneck and not the memory capacity.

    “As Murphy would have it, earlier, sol 19 Spirit attempted to allocate more files than the RAM-based directory structure could accommodate.”

    So I guess 256MB of Flash really is enough. And I bet it was really expensive to make it so robust at the time of the launch.

    Posted March 1, 2004 @ 6:52 am
  2. Ginger says:

    Right, Match. And last a heard a year or so ago, critical parts of the Space Station are running on 486 machines – in large part due to certain cooperating nations’ lack of more advanced technology when the project was conceived.

    Posted March 1, 2004 @ 9:15 am

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