back to article NASA fix for Curiosity rovers's damaged drill: hitting it, repeatedly

NASA's top engineers think they've figured out a way to get the Curiosity rover's drill back to work holing the rock faces of Mars. Back in 2016 the nuclear-powered rover's rock-sampling drill broke down after a motor failed. As 225 million km (140 million miles) is too far to make an on-site visit, the men and women of NASA …

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  1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    What an odd way of putting it!

    ...Lest you think that the rover must have been shoddily built to last this long...

    Normally, we think that something must have been shoddily built if it falls apart in a SHORT time. That drill lasted 5 years in a heavy sand climate, which is a lot better than the lifetime of the tools I usually buy. Things that last a LONG time are normally praised for solid, reliable craftsmanship*...

    * Under new Activist guidelines, the word 'craftspersonship' should be substtuted here...

    1. rzzzwilson

      Re: What an odd way of putting it!

      The newer, new guidlines eschew the embedded "son" in "craftpersonship". The new acceptable substitution is 'craftspersiblingship'.

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: What an odd way of putting it!

        I see your craftspersiblingship,

        and raise you a craftspersiblingboatymcboatface'

        1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

          Re: What an odd way of putting it!

          @ hplasm: Gender-unspecific tea refill and asexual mopping of keyboard required

        2. gregthecanuck

          Re: What an odd way of putting it!

          My dear sir,

          This term is offensive to the many faceless members of society.

          May I humbly suggest: craftspersiblingboatymcboatnymous

          1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

            Re: What an odd way of putting it!

            "...craftspersiblingboatymcboatnymous"

            I have a traumatised bicycle here that wishes to file a complaint alleging that your naming convention is discriminatory, by implying that boats are in some way superior to other modes of transport.

            Please change this name forthwith in all literature to Craftspersiblingvehiclemcvehiclenymous.

      2. 45RPM Silver badge

        Re: What an odd way of putting it!

        Craftsperoffspringship, surely?

        Although I don’t think of the ‘man’ in ‘craftsman’ as being a gender signifier - a woman, as the female gender of the species man, is just as likely to be a craftsman as any male is.

        1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Re: What an odd way of putting it!

          "Although I don’t think of the ‘man’ in ‘craftsman’ as being a gender signifier..."

          You might not, but Dr. Simona Sharoni probably would.

          Sidenote: I wonder if ultrafeminists like Dr. Sharoni ever stop to consider that their near universal offence-taking actually does far more damage to the feminist cause than the alleged 'offences' they so vehemently protest about.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: but Dr. Simona Sharoni probably would.

            For those interested, Dr. Simona Sharoni has her own website where you can read some of her work. I particularly recommend sec 3.2 (pdf's p9) of this:)

            https://www.simonasharoni.com/app/download/4879018/de-militarizingmasculinities.pdf

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: but Dr. Simona Sharoni probably would.

              Oy vey!

          2. Swarthy Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: What an odd way of putting it!

            I like "crafts'manship". Using the apostrophe to denote the dropped 'hu' from human.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is nothing like:

    Percussive maintenance by the impact adjustment tool to sort out most mechanical and electrical problems.

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: There is nothing like:

      https://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/01/13/bofh_2006_episode_2/

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        Re: There is nothing like:

        Ta, needed the laugh on this Friday :)

    2. I can't believe its not butter

      Wetware

      Also works on most wetware. Especially high-pitched whines - seems to make them stop.

    3. DJV Silver badge

      Re: There is nothing like:

      So, basically, they just re-invented the hammer drill!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There is nothing like:

      "Percussive maintenance by the impact adjustment tool to sort out most mechanical and electrical problems."

      Hopefully the next robot will have an on-board supply of gaffer tape.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: There is nothing like:

        Not just gaffer tape. As any fule kno, approved NASA repair equipment should include, a cardboard flightplan cover, some tape, some bags and an old sock.

        Just think how much easier and less stressful the Apollo 13 flight would have been if they'd just said, "Houston... We have a hammer."

      2. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: There is nothing like:

        Hopefully the next robot will have an on-board supply of gaffer tape.

        As anyone who has done any motorsport will tell you, you need two things in the emergency tool kit:

        Gaffer tape - for when it moves and shouldn't.

        WD40 - for when it should move and doesn't.

        Lets send the next one properly prepared.

    5. Grikath Silver badge

      Re: There is nothing like:

      Proper engineering: Gaffer tape, WD 40, Percussive Maintenance.

      None *should* be needed, but any, all, or either of the three are the true solution to Murphy.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: There is nothing like:

        All y'all forgot two vital bits of maintenance gear: Bailing wire and chewing gum.

        Bailing wire in both the metal and the polypro versions come in handy in so many places that trying to list them all here would be a fool's errand.

        There is no commercial product that seals small leaks in most liquid fuel tanks better than chewing gum.

  3. ukgnome Silver badge

    It is nice to see that even NASA use a brummy screwdriver on the odd occasion.

    1. Admiral Grace Hopper

      "Brummy screwdriver"

      Or as the Brummies would call it, a West Bromwich Screwdriver.

  4. Chris G Silver badge

    ALL good engineers can be distinguished by their extensive collection of purpose built hammers.

    1. Da Weezil

      I was taught a long time ago that the difference between a fitter and an engineer is that the fitter thinks a hammer will probably fix it... an engineer knows exactly what and where to hit, how hard to hit and the correct weight of hammer to hit it with.

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        There was a story years back about a big old diesel engine that wouldn't start. The engineer was called, wandered around for 10 minutes then gave it a tap with a hammer; upon which it started right up. A few days later the engine owner received an invoice for $10,000. Fuming, he called the maintenance company; "10 grand to hit it with a hammer?" The maintenance company replied "It's $2 for hitting it with a hammer, and $9,998 for knowing where to hit."

        1. jake Silver badge

          The proverbial television repairman.

          I'm not charging you for thumping your telly with a screwdriver. I'm charging you for knowing where and how hard to thump your telly, and for showing up to do it.

          For the big old diesel: Tap on the starter solenoid (or the solenoid for the pony motor, if so equipped) while attempting to crank it over. I've won a lot of money firing up "dead" boat engines with this little trick.

          1. Christoph Silver badge

            Re: The proverbial television repairman.

            Same trick on my old half-timbered Morris. If the motor dies, thump the fuel pump to jar the sticking contacts loose.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Fuming, he called the maintenance company; "10 grand to hit it with a hammer?" The maintenance company replied "It's $2 for hitting it with a hammer, and $9,998 for knowing where to hit."

          Last time I heard that it was a computer engineer flown out at great expense, same basic punchline but also chalked an X on the cabinet so the next guy could do it without the expensive training.

          1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

            I’m presuming the original story is apocryphal, but am also absolutely certain it’s a conversation which has been had many times, in many places and many industries through the years.

    2. Yesnomaybe

      I don't use the word "Hammer". I prefer "Kinetic adjustment tool" or "Kinetic adjuster" for short.

      1. David Nash Silver badge
        Boffin

        Kinetic adjuster?

        Kinetic energy transfer mechanism.

    3. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Devil

      Quote

      ALL good engineers can be distinguished by their extensive collection of purpose built hammers.

      And you're not a real engineer until you have one labeled "Apprentice improvement stick"

      Boris

      <<currently wanting to 'improve' his apprentice after the dumb s*** did'nt follow the power lockout rules...

  5. Kaltern Silver badge

    Big Bad Buggy broken borer brought back by bashing boulder before boring big bedrock bits.

    (not quite as good as my previous work.. it is very early...)

  6. wolfetone Silver badge

    "As 225 million km (140 million miles) is too far to make an on-site visit..."

    If you wanted it badly enough, you could do it.

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      But it's the 45p per mile that would break the budget.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        You fool! Don't you know that it's tax deductible?!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Lazy engineers

      "As 225 million km (140 million miles) is too far to make an on-site visit..." - lousy excuse.

      In my experience I find that many engineers prefer to try and fix things remotely rather than actually going to look at the problem.

      I suspect it is for many reasons but I'll let them off on this one....

      (fellow engineer - I'm allowed to say this)

  7. jake Silver badge

    Hammering on drill bits ...

    ... is usually contra-indicated.

    Unless, of course, the bit is designed for it. Seeing as Curiosity wasn't equipped with a hammer-drill, chances are the thing isn't so designed. One wonders how long the tool will be able to handle the abuse.

    1. Paul Kinsler

      Re: One wonders how long the tool will be able to handle the abuse.

      Unless there is a better way of getting some use out of it, I suppose it doesn't matter about the "misuse". Since it no longer works as intended, and can't be fixed, any new data at this point are a bonus...

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: One wonders how long the tool will be able to handle the abuse.

        Unless it shatters and buggers up something important. Like the charging system. Razor sharp bits of metal can play merry hell with wiring.

        1. The Mighty Biff

          Re: One wonders how long the tool will be able to handle the abuse.

          Which is presumably why they've trialled it on the testbed rover first, although it doesn't state that explicitly in the article.

  8. chivo243 Silver badge
    Happy

    Like I always say

    gonna need a bigger hammer...

  9. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    NASA engineers are great at exceeding expectations.

    Must be fans of Montgomery Scott then :)

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Headmaster

      My thoughts exactly, as an argent follower of it myself :) Very much the Scotty Principle in action.

      For those who don't know what we're talking about -

      https://youtu.be/t9SVhg6ZENw

  10. BebopWeBop Silver badge
    Happy

    Ahh - the 'hit it with a big hammer' approach to sensitive hardware

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If it doubt...

    ...give it a clout.

    1. Swarthy Silver badge

      If, at first, you don't succeed

      Use a bigger hammer

  12. Bryan Hall

    Technical term

    The technical term for this operation is shock modulation. Much preferred to hitting, whacking, or banging.

    1. Learn To Embrace Failure

      Re: Technical term

      Also known as Impact Engineering

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