This is yet another work-related post in a long series of work-related posts. Sorry, sometimes work just has to come out of me, usually in the form of vomit and/or poop.
The boss came to me a few weeks ago and said he wanted a company-only “wiki.” Yeah, just like that famous encyclopedic one. He explained it would be a good place for everyone on the team to document critical information. We’d all benefit by having searchable information at our fingertips.
Even I had to admit that sounded like a logical good idea, if everyone chipped it and actually used the tool effectively.
I should have smelled a rat.
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This week there was an Apple “launch event” with new CEO Tim Cook at the helm. Weather conditions were perfect and the launch went off without a hitch. The iPhone 4S is now safely in orbit at 347 miles above the surface of the Earth and traveling at a speed of 25,000 feet per second.
The iPhone must already be running HangTime, the best iPhone app ever made. Bar none.
Commander Tim Cook went solo on this mission and the world was ready to eviscerate his bowels based on the fact (not speculation) that he isn’t Steve Jobs.
So, aside from his product safely achieving low Earth orbit – how did it go?
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Early in the morning at 09:26:16 Universal Time (UT) on July 27, 1962, the Mariner 1 spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
293 seconds later the Range Safety Officer issued the command to destroy the vehicle after it had veered off course. It was determined that steering the vehicle was impossible due to a malfunction and a crash was eminent, possibly in shipping lanes or an inhabited area.
The command to destroy the vehicle came only six seconds prior to the point of no return after which separation would take place and destruction would no longer be possible. The radio transponder continued to transmit signals for 64 seconds after the destruct command had been sent.
The mission of the Mariner 1 was the first ever flyby of the planet Venus. Mariner 1, if successful, would have went on to by the first man-made object to fly by another planet and would have performed missions like measure the temperatures of the clouds and surface of Venus as well as fields and particles near the planet and in interplanetary space.
Luckily there was a backup. Mariner 2 was launched just five weeks later and completed the mission and became the world’s first successful interplanetary spacecraft on December 14, 1962, when it passed within 34,833 kilometers from the surface of Venus.
This incident may not ring a bell for most people, but if you are a computer programmer chances are slightly better that you may have heard about it. It turns out that the reason Mariner 1 was a single misplaced character in a computer program!
A hyphen, a hyphen. My kingdom for a hyphen!
According to the NASA web site, “the Mariner 1 Post Flight Review Board determined that the omission of a hyphen in coded computer instructions in the data-editing program allowed transmission of incorrect guidance signals to the spacecraft.”
I feel for that computer programmer. I really do. Been there done that. 🙂
For a variety of reasons the exact cause remains murky to this day although the Post Flight Review Board did issue a finding it was at least in part due to a hyphen.
And I thought my job was high pressure. 🙂
In honor of my last post being so lame, here’s a musical bonus. Let’s all hope I come up with something better the next time I decide to write something.
This is and oldie but a goodie circa 2000.
So … launch the mutant now!