Why the Mars Probe went off course

Far more was at fault with the Mars Climate Orbiter than a simple mixup in converting metric and British units

19 min read
Why the Mars Probe went off course

Aircraft accident investigators have a special term for a particularly insidious type of accident--CFIT, or controlled flight into terrain. It occurs when human error in the cockpit, in the traffic control tower, or in the flight planning process in effect flies a perfectly good airplane right into the ground.

In the past 40 years, space flight has encountered all sorts of failure modes. Propulsion systems have leaked and exploded. Power systems have short-circuited. Observation instruments have failed to work or have been pointed in wrong directions. But until this year no CFIT had occurred in outer space.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Meet the Open Source PC That Fits in Your Pocket

The MNT Pocket Reform is a seven-inch clamshell with a real keyboard

3 min read
A purple laptop on a desk

The MNT Pocket Reform is an open source computer with a seven-inch display.

MNT Research

Open source computing is coming to your pocket.

MNT Research, creator of the Reform open-source laptop and ZZ9000 add-in board for Amiga computers, is going small for its next project. The MNT Pocket Reform has a seven-inch screen with a clamshell design that, when closed, will be less than five centimeters thick. If its perky purple facade looks a bit retro, that’s no surprise; the Pocket’s inspirations read like a ‘greatest hits’ list of pocketable computers.

“We had a moodboard with several classic handheld computers: Nokia N900, Atari Portfolio, Cambridge Z88, Blackberry, Game Boy Advance SP, Alan Kay's Dynabook,” says Lukas F. Hartmann, CEO and founder of MNT Research. “I have a Psion 5mx, which was kind of a benchmark for the keyboard.”

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}

iRobot Crams Mop and Vacuum Into Newest Roomba

The Roomba Combo j7+ handles both hard flooring and carpet in a clever, non-messy way

9 min read
A round black robot vacuum with a mopping pad that can move from below the robot to above the robot and out of the way

Not a spoiler.

iRobot

Robots tend to do best when you optimize them for one single, specific task. This is especially true for home robots, which need to be low cost(ish) as well as robust enough to be effective in whatever home they find themselves in. iRobot has had this formula pretty well nailed down with its family of vacuuming robots for nearly two decades, but they’ve also had another family of floor care robots that have been somewhat neglected recently: mopping robots.

Today, iRobot is announcing the US $1,100 Roomba Combo j7+, which stuffs both a dry vacuum and a wet mop into the body of a Roomba j7. While very much not the first or only combo floor-cleaning robot on the market, the Combo j7+ uses a unique and very satisfying mechanical system to make sure that your carpets stay clean and dry while giving your hard floors the moist buffing that they so desperately need.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}

Take the Lead on Satellite Design Using Digital Engineering

Learn how to accelerate your satellite design process and reduce risk and costs with model-based engineering methods

1 min read
Keysight
Keysight

Win the race to design and deploy satellite technologies and systems. Learn how new digital engineering techniques can accelerate development and reduce your risk and costs. Download this free whitepaper now!

Our white paper covers:

Keep Reading ↓Show less