Software Testing on Mars

Here is an interesting summary of the problem encountered by the Spirit probe on Mars.  Important test lessons:

test real-world conditions

run long-haul stress tests

“SYSTEM BEHAVIOR: Spirit began acting up last week, when it stopped sending data and began rebooting its computer, resetting it roughly 130 times. At one point, the rover thought it was 2053.

BUG DESCRIPTION: Engineers found that the rover's 256 megabyte flash memory had retained hundreds of files containing flight data and was still juggling them along with the daily flood of new data from its activities in Mars' Gusev Crater.

WORKAROUND: By commanding Spirit each morning into a mode that avoids using the flash memory, engineers plan to begin deleting hundreds of unneeded files to make the memory more manageable for the rover's RAM.

WHY WASN'T THIS CAUGHT IN TEST?: The bug had not been detected in operational tests of the rover on Earth because the longest tests lasted only eight or nine days.”


Comments (8)
  1. moo says:

    Ahh yes the usual

    "Works on MY machine" or

    "I built so it must work" or

    "It loads up the UI so yeah its working"

    "Seems to work"

  2. moo says:

    What CMM Level was this project at? Im supprised they didnt test this over a longer period since its going to be out there INDEFINATELY.

    Mars defence system seems to be functioning withing parameters 😀

  3. Tim Marman says:

    Uh… so… why did’t they use more flash memory? They spent how many million building this, and used only 256 MB? 🙂

  4. moo says:

    Usually the stuff (or should be)ECC and rad hardned. Rad hardned IBM PPC and VxWorks?

    Im glad I dont pay taxes to NASA, its a huge waste of money, a money pit.

    At least when the ESA does it its on a smaller budget. Not 100x like NASA.

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