* When does the NASA incompetence ever end?
Read this essay and decide for yourself.
There were NINE missed opportunities to fix the problem
...and it wasn't fixed.
OR WAS THE GENESIS PROJECT INTENTIONALLY DESIGNED WRONG?
Read this essay and decide for yourself. NINE missed opportunities to fix the problem, AND DIDN'T?
The Genesis spacecraft was *supposed* to be captured in mid-air after the parachute opened. Except that it never opened. The Genesis vehicle, long awaited by scientists all around the world to examine it's collected material, hit the ground so hard it was embedded in the desert floor like a squashed cockroach. Collector plates, now in thousands of pieces according to NASA have been stated as salvageable. Genesis is contaminated with dust and numerous earth organic materials when it was smashed wide open like an egg dropped on the floor . Yet scientists stated they can "clean" these plates and retrieve useful data. Because "scientists" said this, it must be so and everyone believes them.
Just like that nice clean fusion reactor that powers your city. Oh- you don't have one yet? Why not? The "scientists" told us we'd have them online back in the 80's, so where's yours?
NASA has the shovel out again and the dirt is flying fast and furious, as they dig themselves yet ANOTHER HOLE. Why do you think they keep those gold plated shovels around used for groundbreaking ceremonies? The same shovel can be used for brown material normally flushed. Nothing like a double-duty tool. One can never know when another hole will be needed...
Remember that THE ONLY TRANSPORT TO THE SPACE STATION remaining is via a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Imagine landing on earth in a Soyuz - not in the ocean but ON THE GROUND. You are laying on your back when you hit the ground at a bone jarring 25 miles per hour. Do they insert a rubber bite bar in their mouth just before impact, to they don't chip their teeth? Does Vodka play an important role here? What if your bladder is full? Try to imagine driving your car, with a concrete bumper and no shock absorbers into a brick wall at 25 MPH. That's what it's like for the astronauts, except they are on their backs and the seats are much harder. With the Columbia "mishap" grounding the shuttles, Soyuz vehicles are all that is available for space station crew change-outs.
The Genesis mission did NOT have a malfunction - it did precisely what it was designed to do. The biggest problem was that the Lockheed design expected gravity to work BACKWARDS on re-entry day. But they are Lockheed, big and powerful. Surely they have the Creator's email address, and He would do it for them for just one day, right? Perhaps God's server was down for a dreaded software upgrade that day and he didn't get the message.
If in space a friendly alien had grabbed Genesis, opened it up, taken out the circuit board the G force sensor was mounted on, unsoldered and removed the sensor, re-installed it and soldered it back in and re-installed the circuit board and sent it on its way, radioed NASA and told them to re-boot the CPU all would have been well. But alas, Thor and the other grays was busy, and weren't in our neck of the woods so this didn't happen. Genesis changed from a spacecraft into a piece of modern artwork in about one millisecond upon kissing dear mother earth. The "malfunction" really took place long before the vehicle ever left Maryland, even before it's journey to the launch pad as we shall see. And this "malfunction" (oops- "oversight") happened A MINIMUM OF 9 TIMES as I'll clearly prove . And to think when I was young, I dreamed of being involved with the space program. Thinking of watching John Glen's lift-off on a black and white television made my eyes puddle up...but that was then and Genesis is now. And NASA? Well, no one is any longer sure of just what they have morphed into. Theatrics is one of their functions remaining today.
The "Genesis conversion to modern artwork" is the result of mis-management, with no real oversight and an OVER-COMPLICATED chain-of-events design that depended on a SPRING. Yes, a SPRING! Not a solid-state sensor like your airbag control module has. No, not PROVEN technology like a solid-state sensor . If you are at NASA or Lockheed, you must always keep your eyes wide shut to what is established and working in the private sector. Although Lockheed designed and built the vehicle, NASA APPROVED THE DESIGN.... or should have. We shall examine the Genesis "mishap" (aka "screwup") under the magnifying glass of project engineering using mile-stone events. DoD and NASA projects tend to follow the same steps from concept to completion. NASA likes to use "mishap" to describe failures, even though its yet ANOTHER master-screwup. They may have copyrighted the use of "mishap" by now. Remember as you read the rest of this essay, that a small part worth a few dollars was NOT ALLOWED to function because it was installed upside-down. It was DESIGNED IN that way. Could it be intentional? We probably will never know that for sure . All accountability on this mis-hap will evaporate like gasoline on concrete in August. But when you review ALL the chances for it to have been discovered as WRONG and BE FIXED throughout the spacecraft's construction and testing, it strongly appears it MAY be INTENTIONAL.
Jargon used here: Lockheed is the vendor (or "prime") and NASA is the customer. I'm using this jargon because without it, some critics will read this and send emails to make my in-box generate toxic fumes. Below are the basic generic milestones that Lockheed (or the roadrunner's ACME SPRING, ACME ROCKET etc.... ) would be required to follow. In the project milestones I'll outline below, we will focus more on the electrical engineering aspects of the Genesis project, since this is where the problem occurred. There are numerous other disciplines required in the Genesis project in material sciences, mechanical engineering, propulsion, environmental control (temperature control so electronics will function in space) and other disciplines we won't get into here .
1. Origin of the project - Someone , somewhere gets a *bright idea* for a mission to collect space dust. They write up a specification for a spacecraft (vehicle) and a solicitation is issued by the government. Even a sole-source procurement still appears in Commerce Business Daily (CBD.) Contract awards are also published in the CBD. Black (classified) projects do not appear in the CBD or may appear only in a very vague terms. This publication comes out every business weekday, all year long. This is usually the first milestone in a procurement. Companies responding to the public notice, contact the government department procuring it. In this case, the NASA facility that wrote the specification to get a copy of it. Most projects of this type are affiliated with NASA JPL.
2. More than one company may respond to the customer (NASA ) solicitation. The only companies with the capability to bid on Genesis would be aerospace companies such as Rockwell, Lockheed or Boeing. In the case of Genesis, Lockheed of Bethesda, MD performed the work on this contract and is therefore the vendor. Or in contract terminology, the prime contractor.
3. A preliminary design review commences shortly after the contract is signed between the customer and the vendor that "wins" the contract "award" ( the standard government expression.) The award is published in the CBD. All the procurement officers in the government use the term"award" like it's a prize of some kind.The real award is the privilege of dealing with the government. It would be at this milestone that most of the general details of the spacecraft , the required operational parameters and the mission would be outlined down to a level of detail sufficient to define it. Certainly the process of HOW the parachute would be commanded to open should have been brought up here at one or more of these meetings.
This was opportunity #1 (and perhaps more than one) to correctly define the parachute opening mechanism.
4. A follow-up design review then takes place. In this case, at the request of the vendor when they have had enough time (several months) to detail everything. Internal Lockheed supervisors review what the engineers have done and approve it, or "sign off" on the documents. The customer always approves the overall design. Numerous design changes are common throughout the first meetings. It's been my own experience that the vendor must point out to customer all the things they overlooked ("oops- we -forgot- about- that" they usually mumble.) More than one meeting or video conference will be required to work out all the details that come up .
This was opportunity #2 (or more) to verify the parachute opening mechanism system design has the sensor in the RIGHT orientation.
5. Detailed design work begins on the project at this stage. Questions that come up result in more meetings internally at the vendor and some interaction with the customer.
This was opportunity #3 (or more) to verify the parachute opening mechanism system design has the sensor in the RIGHT orientation.
6. The concrete begins to set - About this point in time, circuitry is fully defined as block diagrams are converted into electrical schematics (or diagrams.) ALL electronic and electrical components to be used must be fully defined and be space qualified (certified to operate in the rigors of a spacecraft environment) at this stage. This is necessary before any circuit boards can be designed.
This was opportunity #4 to verify the parachute opening mechanism system design has the sensor in the RIGHT orientation. The schematic or other documentation should have a notation or comment to the circuit board designer about the IMPORTANCE OF THE ORIENTATION OF THE G FORCE SENSOR (accelerometer) or any other critical components on the board.
7. Now the circuit boards must be designed. Some or all of the boards are custom designed. The board that contains the G force sensors is now physically designed by a circuit board designer using the electrical schematic. The first step in the process after defining the outline of the circuit board, is to actually place the parts on the board outline on a computer using a mouse. The CAD (Computer Aided Design) software design tool can ROTATE the parts to any angle and place them as required (images of what this looks like are shown below.) This is the ACTUAL STEP where the orientation of the sensor on the board, is defined. Circuit board designers usually work closely with electrical engineers. The engineer must confirm ALL the critical components are PROPERLY ORIENTED, no mechanical conflicts exist and all the components and parts are connected.
THIS IS WHERE THE ERROR BECAME REALITY IN THE GENESIS DESIGN
when the components were incorrectly placed.
DESCRIPTION OF IMAGES SHOWN BELOW
I have included below a sample of what a typical circuit board l actually looks like using a CAD tool, snapped from a computer screen. The following images show just how simple it is to re-orientate a component on the board. The CAD tool keeps track of the connections. This is the actual operation that someone at Lockheed would have had to perform to fix the simple component orientation problem. It takes just a few minutes (or even less) to remove a part, rotate it, place it back on the board outline and re-route the traces. The red and green colored lines you see are the board "wiring" or traces as they are commonly called. This wiring is either automatically created by the computer (called auto routing) or are placed manually using a mouse and keyboard. The white outlines are the actual electronic component bodies. The large outer white circle represents the actual outer edge of the circuit board.
The first snapshot below shows what a circuit board looks like when its ready to be manufactured. NOTE: This is not the same circuit board used on the Genesis spacecraft.
Here you see a component down in the corner dragged off the board simply using a mouse. Note the "rubber bands" you see connecting it to the circuit.
These show the designer what he needs to do to re-connect the part after it is re-installed on the board.
Below you can see the same part has been rotated.
After rotation, the part would be placed back on the board and the connections re-routed (not shown above). That is all it would take to fix the problem in Genesis before the error became permanent.
This was key opportunity # 5 , to verify the parachute opening mechanism system design has the sensor in the CORRECT orientation and make it right.
8. Circuit board designs are always checked for circuit correctness after the board designs are completed, before having them fabricated. A supervisor must examine the work and sign off on it. One of the functions this includes is parts placement. This is standard engineering practice at all companies, large and small. The idea is that a second pair of eyes (and a third pair of eyes in larger companies Like Lockheed) will catch errors the designer may have missed or problems the layout creates he was not aware of, and historically always finds at least one error or more . This step has missed opportunities #6 , #7 and #8 to verify the parachute opening mechanism system design has the sensor in the RIGHT orientation.
9.The assembled spacecraft would then be G-tested to confirm the sensorswerecorrectlycalibratedto the3 G threshold.
Opportunity # 9 was also lost to verify the parachute opening mechanism system design has the sensor in the RIGHT orientation.
10. FINAL TESTING - ALL spacecraft that have ever been built are placed in test chambers on "shake and bake" tables, to confirm they will survive liftoff (and re-entry for the few vehicles like Genesis that return to earth. Most spacecraft never return to earth in one piece .) These tests find screws that can work loose, bad connections, cables that need to be secured and other problems. The chambers simulate G FORCES and deep space temperatures. Since G force sensors have an active direction to sense G forces, orientation and shake table drive schemes would easily pick up the incorrect orientation IF re-entry was simulated. (Opportunity #10 to discover the sensors don't work.) One way or another the sensors MUST be tested and calibration checked. (Opportunity #11 missed here as well.) If the sensors are incorrectly calibrated or non-functional, the parachute would open too soon or too late, destroying the spacecraft. Final documentation is assembled and updated after all software and hardware tests are completed. Documentation includes all drawings of every part of the spacecraft. These are required by JPL - NASA in the event a problem occurs during flight. Incidentally - G force sensors have an arrow on them, which indicates the direction of G force they respond to.
It's too hard to believe that no one ever looked at sensor orientation and function over the past 9 opportunities before this milestone.
Now opportunities #10 and #11 are lost to verify the parachute opening mechanism system design has the sensor in the RIGHT orientation and that they function correctly .
11. Final acceptance tests ( industry jargon ) will include extensive Quality Assurance and performance tests as defined by NASA to be sure that the spacecraft will perform as expected. The test procedure is usually written by the vendor (Lockheed) to insure all systems and performance meet NASA specification, but the final test procedure is always APPROVED BY NASA for projects of this magnitude.
Opportunity # 12 was lost to verify the parachute opening mechanism system design has the sensor in the RIGHT orientation. This is about the last chance to catch the error and fix it, before the spacecraft left earth on it's ill-fated voyage.
So we can see that there were no less than (12 ) TWELVE opportunities (and probably more inside step 5) to "notice" that the sensors were oriented incorrectly. How can this be allowed to happen on a $264 million dollar spacecraft project? It's what I call the "walk-on-water syndrome." This means that if you are one of the select contractors with a certain name no one questions what your company does. No accountability, you walk on water. But if you are a small business and deal with NASA - they will grill you like a bratwurst sausage over a charcoal fire about your product 's reliability. For a small business to get a first NASA contract requires jumping through numerous hoops, including a HIGHLY INVASIVE AUDIT. I know because I've been through this and passed it. The irony about all this is that small businesses often have tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars tied up in a contract. The last thing any business can afford is to have just one contract cancelled and end up on a no-bid list. Therefore, small business products are often superior to those made by big companies. Despite major design mistakes, when was the last time you heard about a fortune 500 company ending up on a no-bid list? They might publicly get monetary fines and punishments, but ending up on the no-bid list just doesn't happen to them. Only to small companies.
To Lockheed, $264 million is about as small as they will want to bother with. Many fortune 500 companies have $100 million as their threshold. For example, only a few people know (until this essay hits the web ) that the Franklin Speller device was originally developed by Xerox. Management didn't see $100 million a year in sales, so they allowed a group of engineers to pack up all the work that was done on it (including advanced linguistics software and dictionary compression technology) and take it outside the company. But today Xerox lays people off. All quite ironic for a company with humble beginnings that started out as Halloid Corporation with penny stock. Halloid was later known as Xerox, and began in a home at a dining room table near Rochester, NY only about forty years ago!
Lockheed's lack of diligence with Genesis shows they really didn't care, either. If they did, the Genesis disaster would have NEVER happened. Do we think there will be a commission to investigate this? No. NASA will still go back to them for future missions. Count on it. Always in a nursing mode, NASA has always sucked at the nipples of big aerospace companies. The reason for this?
Internally, NASA only has general technical skills and very, very few of their people are allowed to be creative. I've personally witnessed them being unable to test the very equipment they wrote the specs for. More than once I had to stand there and lead them through the testing of a system THEY SPECIFIED. They create very little original technology on their own. Hence, nipple nursing. Often what they do claim to create is cloned (stolen) from what they see in industry. Since the systems they clone are not publicly marketed, industry doesn't even know it's taking place.
And one other question begs to be asked - why such an elaborate scheme to open a parachute using SPRING-BASED accelerometers?
Why not just use a simple barometric altitude sensor or micromachined G force sensor, such has the type used on cars and trucks now for about 10 years?
Perhaps the problem is that these technologies work, and that's not acceptable.
NASA has always had the final say on Genesis and as such, bear considerable responsibility for it's conversion into a piece of modern art. However this doesn't let Lockheed off the hook. Almost every engineer and scientist from the VERY SUCCESSFUL Viking and Apollo days has been given the door. And out the door with those fine highly competent people, went niche-type knowledge still not taught in colleges, even 30 years later. Most of the college professors have zero expertise in the area of space engineering. The Goldin hatchet-man (no pun intended) came in and went right to work with his axe. Year after year, THOUSANDS of people were canned all across the organization. On CSPAN television, Goldin would smile and boast in front of a subcommittee about the 1 BILLION+ dollar savings he created EACH year in his organization. OVER AND OVER Goldin uttered the words like a mantra, "smaller-better-faster-cheaper." This is the same contradictions in one sentence like uttering "military" and "intelligence" together. He decimated the agency, and morale hit a RECORD low there. People cowered in both fear and hate when he showed up, wondering if they would be next under his axe. You could be talking to a NASA employee, and they would smiling and polite. Mention Goldin's name just ONCE, and their smile packed up and left faster than the speed of light.
You would think Goldin received a bonus for every person canned. While visiting NASA facilities on business we would eat at local restaurants. Most restaurants around the country have small newsletters to read while you are waiting, even back in the 80's and 90's . In communities that were heavily employed by NASA, you could read about how many THOUSAND employees were about to be laid off. And the effect on the community was always very bad . But no one ever wrote about the effect of the brain drain on NASA itself and it's missions. The NASA you see today, bears zero resemblance to the NASA of the Apollo era. It was a fantastic place at that time, even if former Nazi scientists were running the show . They rarely interacted with the average NASA employee .
WHAT ABOUT THE ROVERS?
Now you may say "but look at the successful Spirit and Opportunity missions!" Here is the truth about those two vehicles, straight from the mouths of NASA engineers from one of their infamous television press conferences:
"We had problems with a JAVA program freezing up on the computers of both vehicles after landing......We actually ending up calling some retired NASA people in to help us out and get the Rovers up and running. ... " Translation: "We had to change nipples temporarily , but we'll be back sucking on the corporate one soon enough." In other commentary, they mentioned that they almost lost access to BOTH VEHICLES PERMANENTLY over this engineering mishap/screw-up.
That admission of in-house incompetence was made about one year ago live..
So how can this be? NASA has been around for almost 50 years! The answer is simple - no college or university teaches common sense and intuitive engineering. Engineering is like sculpture or painting- either you have a talent for it or you don't. Graduating from college means nothing if you can't use what you've learned INTUITIVELY. Very few colleges (if any do it anymore) teach highly specialized spacecraft engineering. Space is the most hostile environment you could ever imagine, with 600+ degree temperature variations from sunlight to shade, and near-perfect vacuum.
Who in their right mind, knowing how immature JAVA technology is (and after seeing it crash on PCs here on earth) would specify the use of JAVA as a CONTROL language on a semi-autonomous rover vehicle 35 million miles away? Are they also running Windows 95 or MS-DOS, too? Perhaps we don't want to know the answer to that.
MISSING IMAGE DATA - WHY WASN'T IT RESTORED WHEN THEY HAD THE DATA ? WHAT ARE WE NOT ALLOWED TO SEE IT AND WHY?
There are also rover pictures you can view on my website which are straight from the JPL NASA rover website untouched in any way, CLEARLY SHOWING MISSING BLOCKS OF VIDEO AROUND THE EDGES. You can see these and other images inside the gallery at http://www.data4science.net/mars/marsgallery.php. (Scroll through the gallery to access them.) NASA claims these are "data dropouts" and "the missing data will be filled in later." But last I checked, later never came. And if it hasn't by now it's not likely to. As for missing data I'll admit that "yes, you certainly can easily lose data from a deep space transmission... but you don't have to."
NASA, ANSWER THIS - WHY didn't you have image drop-out data immediately re-transmitted again from the Rover FLASH memory? Flash memory retains data for at least 100 years without any power. Images taken by the cameras remain in memory UNTIL COMMANDED TO BE ERASED. And what are the statistical odds that ALL THE MISSING IMAGE DATA ARE ALWAYS AROUND THE EDGES? What did the camera see that we are not allowed to see? Further- the distortion of the edges of the missing data are caused by missing JPEG data, not missing bitmap information.
JPEG image distortion shows that the images were edited AFTER they reached earth, but this doesn't add up.
SCIENCE IMAGES ARE NEVER IN JPEG FORM ! THEY ARE RAW BITMAPS ! Seems someone forgot to tell the image censors about that.
I've included one such image below with so-called "data drop-outs." There are some others on the data4science website.
One would think that after a few fatal "mishaps" such as:
* The launch disasters of the early NASA days
* Loss of an Apollo crew on the pad from an oxygen fire
* Loss of the Challenger Crew,
* Loss of several unmanned Mars missions
* Loss of the Columbia crew
SOMEONE WITH OVERSIGHT SOMEWHERE should get the idea that NASA is a train wreck still running down the tracks, looking for a bridge to fall off.
Genesis' "modern artwork" proved that grounding the space shuttle won't stop them. Warnings are being placed on all antidepressants today. Perhaps this sign
should be placed at the entrance to all NASA facilities:
"Proceed with Caution.
Do NOT unpack your briefcase or use your desk drawers
Train Wreck Still In Progress."
Or perhaps just a simple sign:
Spin Doctors At Work
Ted Twietmeyer is a frequent contributor to rense.com and is an engineer, patent holder, contractor and project manager for numerous shuttle pad, sounding rocket and tracking systems and other projects for NASA and numerous branches of the DoD since 1979. He also has a website which investigates several lesser-explored areas of science at http://www.data4science.net and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org