back to article 15 years on, Euroboffins finally work out what it took to send the Huygens Titan probe into such a spin

The European Space Agency’s Huygens probe, the farthest lander to ever make it in the outer solar system, spun wildly in the opposite direction as expected as it descended onto one of Saturn’s moons. Now, scientists have finally figured out what went wrong, 15 years after the probe’s landing. The circular device, shaped like a …

  1. Anonymous Coward

    New Reg unit?

    > The circular device, shaped like a hamburger,

    Is that a hamburger in a vacuum? As it was a moon probe, did it contain cheese or plan to get the cheese on arrival?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: New Reg unit?

      As it was a moon probe, did it contain cheese or plan to get the cheese on arrival?

      No, but it was equipped with a Surface-Science Package specifically designed to determine if the moon surface it landed on was made of cheese or soup...

      1. Graham Newton

        Re: New Reg unit?

        I wrote the firmware for that. As we planned for solid/liquid or a bit of both I suppose that statement is sort of correct.

      2. Dolvaran

        Re: New Reg unit?

        What about the Blue String Pudding?

      3. Mike Richards

        Re: New Reg unit?

        And in the end it turned out to be more like creme brûlée:

    2. MonkeyBob

      Re: New Reg unit?

      "Is that a hamburger in a vacuum?"

      More importantly was it a European or African hamburger?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: New Reg unit?

        Had to be European. African hamburgers are non-migratory.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: New Reg unit?

          Agreed, although the amount of migration sometimes depends on how far they are laden. As this one was full of science stuff, it can't really be considered 'unladen'

    3. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: New Reg unit?

      The author is just clarifying the shape for the hamburger-eating Reg readers who don't know what a circle looks like.

      1. maffski

        Re: New Reg unit?

        Ah, an easy mistake to make. But our Scottish brethren are actually eating square sausage, not hamburger.

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: New Reg unit?

          It is not usual to eat Lorne Sausage (proper name of the square variety) in place of hamburger buns and don't know anywhere that does this. Even though it might be offered in a bun for convenience of consumption that doesn't make it a hamburger.

          As a maker of sausages and black pudding I have a recipe for Lorne sausage but haven't ventured there, yet. Thinking of trying wind dried sausages for a change. if I had more people to feed I would make a haggis for next Saturday. But it's been bought, gluten free. Why I make my own, to ensure they're GF and very tasty.

          I make my own GF sausage meat (finer grind than most sausage fillings) and have some GF large sausage rolls with home made genuinely flaky pastry cases. I did 8 turns on the pastry. They are rather good if I say so myself. Pork and fresh sage sausage meat. I have a sage bush.

      2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: New Reg unit?

        Wendys hamburgers are square.

        Icon - Paris as shes female & quite used to her meat being circular.

    4. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: New Reg unit?

      "shaped like a hamburger" is clearly a Reg geometric specification rather than a unit.

      The artist's rendition looks more like a casserole, but we all know it's the artist's fault for not drawing a hamburger.

      1. HildyJ Silver badge

        Re: New Reg unit?

        But they left out the key to the new unit - the assumed poundage of the beef.

        Now since a McDonalds Quarter Pounder (Hamburger Royal to the euros) is 4" in diameter its area is about 12.5 sq in and its weight is about 0.02 lb per sq in.

        The hamburger shaped probe was about 106" in diameter, thus about 8825 sq in, thus about 176 pounds.

        The unit should read "shaped like a 176 Pound Hamburger Royal."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: New Reg unit?

          You know what they call a quarter pounder with cheese in space?

    5. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: New Reg unit?

      With or without mayo'?

      If it's got cheese, to function fully it must have bacon as a catalyst for the cheese. In the event that cheese collection on arrival was part of the mission would bacon have been included in the mission load or was it assumed that bacon would be naturally occurring with the cheese?

      1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

        Re: New Reg unit?

        "it must have bacon as a catalyst"

        Finally, pigs in space...

  2. imanidiot Silver badge

    seems sloppy

    "The investigation conducted by students and interns at the Polytech Orléans and the French research laboratories LPC2E and PRISME by sending a simulation of the Huygens probe through a windtunnel."

    Did nobody bother doing aerodynamic stability testing before sending it on it's way? Seems like a basic test to perform and something that SHOULD have been caught.

    1. Killfalcon

      Re: seems sloppy

      I'm not sure that they had all the data needed on atmospheric density, because they'd not gotten any problems there yet. ;)

      The "viscosity" of the air can dramatically change how turbulent flow manifests.

    2. YourNameHere

      Re: seems sloppy

      Really?!?! Students had to go figure this out?!?! WTF! So were all of the other engineers on holiday? But honestly, we don't know why the European space program is going so slow. All of our people are working 7 hours a day, 2 days a week. We are just maxed out here...

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: seems sloppy

        > why the European space program is going so slow

        Do you really think the European space program is "going slow"? Even if it was true, the limiting factor would be (as always) money, not the better working conditions of Europeans. You can procrastinate just as well in an US/Chinese working environment.

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: seems sloppy

        Seems perfectly reasonable to me. It happened in the past, it wasn't catastrophic, it wasn't a problem that needed to be solved before another mission... it was an unexpected and interesting observation of minor significance and thus a project ideal to give to someone who is still a bit wet behind the ears and who could learn a lot from undertaking it.

        It happens a lot.

        A fictional example:

        The principle of generating small amounts of finite improbability by simply hooking the logic circuits of a Bambleweeny 57 Sub-Meson Brain to an atomic vector plotter suspended in a strong Brownian Motion producer (say a nice hot cup of tea) were well understood. It is said that such generators were often used to break the ice at parties by making all the molecules in the hostess's undergarments leap simultaneously one foot to the left, in accordance with the theory of indeterminacy.

        Many respectable physicists said that they weren't going to stand for this, partly because it was a debasement of science, but mostly because they didn't get invited to those sorts of parties.

        The physicists encountered repeated failures while trying to construct a machine which could generate the infinite improbability field needed to flip a spaceship across the mind-paralyzing distances between the farthest stars and they eventually announced that such a machine was virtually impossible.

        Then, one day, a student who had been left to sweep up after a particularly unsuccessful party, found themselves reasoning this way: If, they thought, such a machine is a virtual impossibility, it must logically be a finite improbability. So all they had to do in order to make one is to work out exactly how improbable it is, feed that figure into a finite improbability generator, give it a fresh cup of really hot tea... and turn it on!

        They did this and managed to create the long sought after golden Infinite Improbability generator out of thin air. Unfortunately, after they were awarded the Galactic Institute's Prize for Extreme Cleverness, they were lynched by a rampaging mob of respectable physicists who had finally realised that the one thing that they really couldn't stand was "a smart arse."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: seems sloppy

          Doing the "impossible" is often a case of really understanding the underlying constraints and seeing the tweak by lateral thinking. Or just being lucky by falling over the right answer when following the wrong path.

          "The impossible we can do today - miracles take a little longer"

    3. Graham Newton

      Re: seems sloppy

      They did test it:

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: seems sloppy

        Hang on. Is that URL Jake Bullet?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: seems sloppy

      That or they did the deployment by hand, then did the wind tunnel test. However, in orbit/descent, the antenna unfolding added wobble/torque/rotation that changed the veine direction.

    5. James Hughes 1

      Re: seems sloppy

      I always look forward to the comments from people who know better than the people who actually designed and built a probe that spend 7 years in space then landed on a moon of another planet.

      I guess climate science is also anathema to them, all those know it all scientists, giving it large.

      1. Qumefox

        Re: seems sloppy

        That and people who think every scenario can be tested for. Testing for an infinite number of scenarios would take an infinitely long time. Meaning if it was attempted, it'd never get finished. You have to draw the line somewhere if you want to actually get anything done.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: seems sloppy

        You know you're in trouble when you have to measure the warming of your oceans using zettajoules as units. Not to mention having probes that are sampling single measurements in areas of ocean roughly the size of Portugal and you don't actually have full coverage of the oceans.

        Science? We've heard of it...

  3. spold Silver badge

    Design error

    Failed to allow for the "plughole effect".

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Design error

      Yeah, I've thought that for 15 years. They got their north and south poles mixed up and aimed for a landing on the wrong side of the equator/

  4. td0s

    Kudos to them

    For sticking with it and 15 years later solving the mystery - should help future hamburger shaped probes to touch down safely

  5. Rich 2


    "Scientists were left puzzled as to how the probe, which spun anti-clockwise at a rate of 7.5 rotations per minute, suddenly flipped its direction of spin"

    Are they sure it wasn't upside-down?

  6. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    A probe to record the winds of Uranus is long overdue

  7. Stevie


    Meaningless blither.

    Youtube video or haven't shown working, 2/10, see me etc.

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