back to article US Martian nuke-truck launches without a hitch, but...

The rig is up. NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission launched successfully and precisely on schedule – at 10:02am Eastern time on Saturday morning (3:02pm UTC), but within minutes ran into telemetry problems. The MSL spacecraft, which carries within it NASA's big-as-a-Mini-Cooper, nuclear-powered, experiment-stuffed …


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  1. Big Al

    Well duh!

    Since it's both Yankee and Ruskie space vehicles affected, it's *obviously* some kind of new Chinese ueber-astro-cyberweapon being tested out on the Imperialist running dogs and traitors to socialism...

    Either that or the ESA are really desperate to make themselves look good.

    1. Allison Park
      Thumb Up

      Another IBM Power chip on its way to mars

      IBM once told me they have a monopoly in the processor market on Mars, so I had was curious if "Curiosity" is also Power chip based and it looks like it is. Cool looking rover, hopefully it wont go splat like some other missions.

      1. bazza Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        I think that Windriver's VxWorks RTOS has more or less captured the entire Martian market too.

        1. John 62
          Black Helicopters

          WindRiver = Intel

          Intel bought WindRiver a while back. So IBM might have the processors, but Intel has the software!

    2. Asgard

      @"Since it's both Yankee and Ruskie space vehicles affected"

      @"it's *obviously* some kind of new Chinese ueber-astro-cyberweapon"

      That's just what Blofeld wants you to think. SPECTRE are operating out of a base in an extinct volcano and I'm on my way to infiltrate the base which I will of course destroy in heroic style.

      Now if you will excuse me, I have to go now, as I'm due to go to some kind of marriage ceremony. Apparently it will provide me with a good cover story. I just hope they haven't picked a fugly one for me.

  2. Petrea Mitchell
    Thumb Up

    Nuclear-powered Mini Cooper?


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You want a nuclear powered Mini Cooper?

      Deary me, I hate to think what the wife-cheating points-passing climate secretary would have to say about that....

      1. Petrea Mitchell

        Luckily, I don't have to care what he thinks-- I'm several thousand miles outside his jurisdiction.

  3. Anonymous John

    It's a pity that it couldn't have grabbed Fobos-Grunt by the scruff of its neck and taken it along.

  4. 1Rafayal

    Two Mars missions that lose telemetry?

    Is this the first evidence that proves our Galactic Overlords dont really want us hurling nuclear powered vehicles at their planet/moon(s)?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      All these worlds are yours, except Mars. Attempt no landings there. All these worlds are yours, except Mars. Attempt no landings th [/TRANSMISSION ENDS]

      1. Greg J Preece

        I'll always upvote a Space Odyssey reference!

  5. Pompo

    I can only conclude that the writer of this article is rather less than whole-heartedly in favour of space exploration. The headline and introduction might have been couched to make it clear that the mission itself is not at risk, rather than attracting the reader's attention with the intimation of a possible complete mission failure. And the jibe at Fobos-Grunt is simply mean-spirited. Can you not see that their success is the world's success, their failure the world's loss? Any Russian harbouring distrust or fear of the West reading this piece could be forgiven for considering their opinion confirmed. You are doing no one but yourself any favours with this onanistic little piece.

    1. Joe Cooper


      I had the impression that the last paragraph was a reminder at how many points of failure there still are between here and Mars for ours.

    2. Notas Badoff

      Haul down that jibe, brace those spankers....

      Oh my, speaking of brittle hardware! Here they mentioned the first-stage engines were Russian which brought a smile and 'cool' to my lips, and that has no credit with you at all? As far as clear "the mission itself is not at risk" the note at bottom explains the article was written initially while success was very much up in the air. All in all, sounds like your name is Putin and you thought you heard a "boo!"

    3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Ahhhhh! Motherland!!!!

      Comrades! The new plan is:

      Январь: Plan nuclear rocket

      Февраль: Build nuclear rocket

      Март: Test nuclear rocket

      Апрель: Launch nuclear rocket

      Май: Coast to Mars

      Июнь: Mars arrival!!

      Июль: Let robot have beer at lonely Phobos Inn while waiting for American Pigdogs to arrrive.

      Август: Curiosity finally trundles in. NASDAROVYE!

    4. Chris 3

      I conclude...

      ... that the writer of this article is whole-heartedly in favour of space exploration. And that El Reg is whole-heartedly in favour of page clicks.

      1. alwarming
        Paris Hilton

        Were we supposed to take some stance on this "issue" ?

        "... article is whole-heartedly in favour of space exploration..."

        Paris, coz she knows what stance she'll be taking.

  6. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    This supposed IT angle news story was obviously just an excuse for the prurient editors at the Reg to publish pictures of naked rocket engines.

    1. pepper

      Another one

      And there goes my keyboard again! I should not read the comments and drink coffee.

  7. Gary Bickford

    International rocketry - a sign of our advances

    I find it interesting and optimistic that the launch vehicle was an 'American' Atlas, powered by a 'Russian' rocket engine. Even better, this level of cooperation among nations is no longer news. No doubt there were components large and small built by companies in many countries. Who could have imagined 20 or 30 years ago, that such a thing could be built? Despite all the doom-and-gloom that pervades (and will probably always pervade) the media about how terrible things are, we have come a long way. My favorite throw-away line: "Progress occurs."

    1. Malmesbury

      The fun bit is that this rocket is primarily used for US government payloads.

      Yes, Russian engines used to launch American spy sats....

      Mind you, Russian strategic missile subs use GPS for navigation....

      1. rrevolverr

        GPS underwater

        ELF GPS? This one must especially suit the Underwater Pacific Satellite Group.

        1. Vic

          Re: GPS underwater

          > ELF GPS?

          Special-forces divers from a number of nations use GPS underwater.

          They have small antennae on long wires which are sent to the surface on an inflatable buoy. The team gets a fix, then cuts away the antenna.

          There was a marvellous article in one of the dive rags a few years back about exactly this subject. It involved a trip out with the French Foreign Legion, IIRC.


    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      and yet

      Employment at any US rocket maker is restricted to US citizens only for security reasons - United Launch Alliance have a special exemption from Nafta to stop those damn Canadians working there

  8. Sampler

    What type of Mini Cooper?

    The traditional awesome Cooper or the god-awful BMW Cooper which is larger than most small cars I'm surprised they can call it a Mini?

    (Seriously, those things are bigger than my K11 Nissan Micra!)

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Indeed they are... but a great drive

    2. Lance 3

      Those are micro cars, not a mini car.

      1. Naughtyhorse

        Pure brit

        not german shit

        as they say in....

        oh hang on

      2. alwarming

        Re: those are micro cars, not a mini car.

        There is a nano somewhere too...

        (spawn of satan icon, coz it looks like a car, if squit your eyes a little).

  9. rrevolverr


    Any cats in Gale's?

    Hide in my pocket, you furry tubby.

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    'Mom'? Who (or what) is this 'Mom'?

    You acknowledged dad's advice but why no mention of mum?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fobos-Grunt repair mission

    Just a thought, but how hard would it be to set up a Soyuz launch with NASA's robot astronaut + equipment and spare batteries, with enough fuel to get to the F-G, do the repairs then detach from F-G and head for the ISS.

    Remote initialise the engines on F-G once docked to the ISS to take F-G into lunar orbit and voila.

    One somewhat salvaged mission with a spectacular success for NASA.

    Ought to be doable, the engines on the Soyuz have more than enough endurance and they can add an extra resupply to the ISS for good measure.


    1. Andus McCoatover

      I'm not quite fo the opininion..

      ..that schoolchildren should be allowed to comment on the intricasies of rocket science...

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Nice idea, but; I think that robonaut is not actaully built for vacuum use (where it would be good to save the risk of a real human astronaut; but step by step!), and so couldn't actually work on FG.

      Another possible problem is that I think that there is only 1 fully built robonaut, and it is now on the ISS?

  13. Camilla Smythe


    Extreme engineering....

    Would have been nice to have two on the way. Time to share knowledge and people as well as bits and pieces.

    £24.7 million insurance for the Russian one.. That's $38.2 million dollars.

    Let's see. Kent and his bunch of wankers at Phorm have burned $189.2 million dollars to date achieving fuck all. No... seriously. At least Russia got it off the launch pad and into orbit. Kent can't even get it up.... repeatedly.


    That's 5 Mars missions!!!11*@*!!!!

    Makes you wonder what else Institutional Investors are burning your PensionCash™ on when they could be funding Mars missions.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Awesome article. Thanks!

  15. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Don't worry

    Those few telemetry dropouts are merely a symptom of the Martian Cyber Defense Force's successful insertion of Stuxnet into the system.

  16. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Faster than Light Travel ...... Imagine it, and IT Delivers Virtually Live Picture Streams

    Hi. How very encouraging that Man has finally appeared to take account that

    Mars is a novel and noble and easily nobbled Nobel and virulent environment with digital binary control protocols to master navigate/caress conscientiously. And as for hostiles, IT is a silent grave.

    ESA are remarkably silent on Roscosmos and NASA funding successes for currency spending excesses on fiat engine regeneration with highly radioactive fuelled systems, although perhaps the Mini Cooper component is their sterling stealth pay lode.

    Congratulations MSL ...... The drinks are on us with an open bar whenever you arrive, spent and alive and ready to jive and rumble, rock and roll .....

    And Noordwijk would wish it be known that they would not endorse or encourage any of their sort of actions from the marital home, because of the insane risks inherent in space travel and celestial body exploration probing discoveries with curious tools.

  17. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Was cool to watch in person

    It went absolutely straight up, as opposed to the long curve of a Shuttle launch, and it was noticeably hauling ass too. You could see it until the solids dropped off, then the main liquid-fueled engine exhaust was invisible.

    Anyway, I didn't see much more telemetry dropouts than I've seen with some other launches, plus we got to see the separation video live, as the MSL sprung away from the Centaur. That was way cool.

    1. Andus McCoatover

      Gene - you lucky bugger!

      Bet the sound was staggering also.

      Wish I'd been there.

  18. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Standard units

    What's with all this "feet, metres, pounds of thrust" malarky? No one on the Reg can understand a word of what you mean! Please rephrase using standard units, ta.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      What is the El Reg unit of thrust (I guess Paris would know).

      Incidentally, why is there not a permanent table of BSr units? (British Standard, sub. cat. Register)

      1. Andy Gates

        The unit of thrust must surely be the Grunt.

        1. Andus McCoatover

          Duuno about you, but..

          ..One 'Grunt' in Russian standards seems to be bugger all. Now, if they'd calibrated Paris in 'squirts'....

  19. Big-nosed Pengie

    Metres or Miles?

    "...each about 5 feet in diameter and 67 feet long...

    ...which brought the total vehicle height to about 197 feets, was encased in a two-piece fairing 5 meters in diameter. ... powered by a svelte 370-pound ..."

    Could we have that in bushells, pecks, hogsheads and furlongs, please?

    Interesting article, though.

  20. Steve Graham

    Actually I noticed one place where "metres" had been used, rather than translating it into cubits, or furlongs or whatever.

    Don't you know what happens when you mix metric and medieval units on the way to Mars?

  21. JeffyPooh

    The telemetry drop-outs were not significant

    I watched the launch live on NASA TV and the telemetry drop-outs seemed to coincide with known-gaps in the tracking network, or hand overs, or during manourving. They should certainly look into them, but there's nothing to be alarmed about.

    Suggestions to NASA's telemetry boffins: 1) double check the Doppler shift *and* its rate of change, and 2) adjust the AOS predictions to allow for the signal chain resync and latency (no need to alarm everyone each time the AOS is delayed by several seconds).

    Congratulations to NASA and the USA on such a good start to a great mission.

  22. Herby

    But even better is when...

    The beast lands on Mars sometime in August. Hopefully it will be as advertised and the first pictures will be wonderful.

    If my connection comes through, I may just be there at JPL when it happens. Maybe the six wheeled SUV can do a wheelie, who knows.

  23. TeeCee Gold badge

    Telemetry failure.

    Probably just an intermittant failure in the AE35 unit.

    You'd have thought that the on-board computer's failure prediction algorithms would have picked up on that one and got someone to fix it in advance though.....

    1. Mystic Megabyte


      maybe this had something to do with it

      Also big storm coming today

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