Phoenix to NASA: "Houston, We Have a Prob*static*"

Illustration for article titled Phoenix to NASA: Houston, We Have a Prob*static*

Just two days after touchdown, NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is having problems with their UHF radio, which was used more than a hundred times before but now is refusing to work. Without it, you can't give orders to the spacecraft, but don't fret: fortunately they can use the orbiter Odyssey to relay signals, as well as activating the secondary radio unit available on board. NASA said the problem was caused by a "transient event." What does that mean? They don't know for sure, and that means we can pick our own. Update: my bad, I misread. The problem is with the MRO UHF radio, not with Phoenix, which is working just fine.

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Illustration for article titled Phoenix to NASA: Houston, We Have a Prob*static*
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Illustration for article titled Phoenix to NASA: Houston, We Have a Prob*static*
Illustration for article titled Phoenix to NASA: Houston, We Have a Prob*static*
Illustration for article titled Phoenix to NASA: Houston, We Have a Prob*static*
Illustration for article titled Phoenix to NASA: Houston, We Have a Prob*static*
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Illustration for article titled Phoenix to NASA: Houston, We Have a Prob*static*
Illustration for article titled Phoenix to NASA: Houston, We Have a Prob*static*
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Illustration for article titled Phoenix to NASA: Houston, We Have a Prob*static*

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DISCUSSION

@nutbastard: Oh my. If you really want someone to blame, get angry at Nixon (or Congress for the past 30 years) for steadily whittling down NASA's budget. I'm not sure how NASA can be both a cash-strapped mockery of its former self and a bloated bureaucracy as so many people want to simultaneously accuse it of being.

Moreover, you're completely missing the point that the transfer of technology by definition takes time, and so while you may not have seen anything come of the most recent half a dozen Shuttle launches, that's not a damning indictment of their performance. Moreover, it completely ignores the success that have been achieved on what limited budget they were allowed. These could include the construction of the ISS, launching of telescopes both to examine the rest of the universe and our planet, landers on Mars and missions to planets from Mercury to Pluto. To claim they haven't done anything in 30 years is willful ignorance of the most blatant and disgusting form.

Finally, there isn't a private company out there that has plans remotely close to what NASA has currently achieved. There are no man-rated launchers privately functioning. All sub-orbital tourism programs admit that it is far, far more difficult to actually get into orbit. The only plan seriously on the drawing board is Space-X and their Dragon capsule, and not only is that a theoretical design to be launched on a rocket that doesn't exist yet, it's funded by NASA anyway. The heaviest launcher under development is NASA's Ares V, which substantially outstrips even the EELVs, otherwise some of the heaviest launchers around. Private enterprise has come a long way, yes, but it is nowhere near capable of competing with even a moderate national space agency, much less NASA.