back to article NASA saves Kepler space 'scope by turning it off and on again

The Kepler space telescope is back in action after a tense couple of weeks for NASA engineers. On April 8 the space agency reported that Kepler was stuck in emergency mode, which not only made stellar observations impossible but also burns through the telescope's limited fuel reserves at a prodigious rate. In a couple of days …

  1. redpawn Silver badge

    If cycling power doesn't work...

    Try dropping it to reseat the connectors. Never mind I'm off...

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: If cycling power doesn't work...

      Try dropping it to reseat the connectors. That was actually a common solution with the Commodore 64, drop it flat on the table from say 25 cm up.

      1. deshepherd

        Re: If cycling power doesn't work...

        As opposed to the Acorn Atom where the rule was take the back off and push all the chips back in - Atom was single board with keyboard on one side and all chips hanging from sockets underneath and could slowly work loose as you typed. The Atom also came as a "Build-yourself" kit and one of the computer mags at the time printed a set of helpful tips for people doing this which included "if you are finding it hard to push the chips into sockets try loosening the socket first with a pin" .... sadly some people rather overdid this - had no problems putting chips in sockets but when they finished and turned the board over they'd all fall out!

        1. Bluto Nash

          Re: If cycling power doesn't work...

          Try dropping it to reseat the connectors

          Regularly used that same trick to unpark the heads on an external 20(?)MB HDD hooked to the store Tandy 2000 POS machine at Radio Shack back in the day. Worked a treat every time. Word subsequently got out to the other stores, and I eventually received a call from corporate to "stop recommending that," along with a firmware patch to fix it.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: If cycling power doesn't work...

            "Regularly used that same trick to unpark the heads on an external 20(?)MB HDD "

            Picking it up and a jerky twist on the platter axle axis usually achieved the same result without risking unseating the heads from their carriers (which makes for an interesting sound as they bounce off the spinning platters on their wire tethers)

            The real solution to drives which had sticktion problems (other than replacing them) was to never turn them off.

        2. Fatman Silver badge

          Re: If cycling power doesn't work...

          <quote>As opposed to the Acorn Atom where the rule was take the back off and push all the chips back in </quote>

          That sounds like the EXACT same problem my TRS-80 Model I suffered from. RAM chips slowly rising from the sockets. (TBH, I had also seen that same quirk in some broadcast telemetry equipment. The mfgrs 'solution' was to ty-wrap the chip in place.) I ended up solving that problem at the same time that 64K DRAM chips became available, yank out the old sockets, and solder the new chips in. Good bye trouble prone sockets.

        3. Simon Harris Silver badge

          Re: If cycling power doesn't work...

          "Atom was single board with keyboard on one side and all chips hanging from sockets underneath and could slowly work loose as you typed."

          The second generation of their colour encoder that turned the signals from the 6847 into PAL relied on you removing the 6847 from the mother board, plugging it into the colour encoder, and then plugging the colour encoder board (with the weight of the PCB itself, a 40pin dip package, various 16pin packages, all socketed, and discrete components) so it was hanging upside down and held in by the friction of a 40 pin dip socket - not sure how that was ever supposed to not fall out!

          Probably the biggest advance Acorn made between the Atom and the BBC was moving all the chips to the top of the PCB!

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: If cycling power doesn't work...

            There were two main types of socket for DIL packages, one was considered the quality option - turned pin and they tended to hang on to their component. There there was another with flat pins and a sprung (be being bent) contact, these ones could work a component out by flexing of the PCB regardless of which way up the PCB was, even against gravity.

            1. Sureo

              Re: If cycling power doesn't work...

              Yes and the turned pin sockets cost 5+ times more, which is why a lot of manufacturers didn't use them.

              1. Simon Harris Silver badge

                Re: If cycling power doesn't work...

                I'd say about 3x more is more realistic now.

                However, for the Atom, TRS80, etc. we're talking about late 70s - early 80s - maybe the price differential was much higher back then, I can't really remember.

                1. martinusher Silver badge

                  Re: If cycling power doesn't work...

                  I was recruited by a US company to work on PC-clone products in the early 80s. Its the first time I came across 'designing from the price list'. Early computers had ridiculous markups but that didn't stop the people running the companies squeezing every last cent out of the design. Needless to say, natural selection favored those who made sure the product had a reasonable life expectancy.

                  Incidentally, hot glue works well to hold stuff like ICs in place.

      2. Ralph B

        Re: If cycling power doesn't work...

        > Try dropping it to reseat the connectors. That was actually a common solution with the Commodore 64, drop it flat on the table from say 25 cm up.

        And 30 years on, that's a a well-known technique for bringing an iPad back from the dead.

    2. Graham Dawson

      @redpawn Re: If cycling power doesn't work...

      Technically they already did that, it's just that they dropped it in such a way that it missed.

  2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Daily reboot...

    One of my gadgets, I can't remember which one, has a menu setting for what time of day (e.g. 03:00) you'd like it to perform its automatic daily reboot.

    1. stizzleswick

      Re: Daily reboot...

      Is it running Windows? Just a guess...

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Daily reboot...

        "...running Windows?"

        My primary Windows tablet reboots randomly ($100 tablets, sigh...). It'd be nice if I could command it to confine its rebooting to just 03:00.

        PS: I'm aware of the Windows 'Check for updates' setting.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Daily reboot...

          We have a large service running on about 20 Wintel boxes (a mix of MS databases and .NET apps). I think they are still on Server 2003 (planned to be refreshed at some point in the next year or two (but then they've been saying that for a while now!)).

          They all get rebooted automatically every Sunday afternoon (Service is only used Mon to Sat).

          If they don't get a reboot, it gets slower and slower, and eventually hangs.

          It was deemed by management to be more cost effective to just set up the scheduled re-boot, than to do the root analysis to find out what the real issue is (the assumption is a memory leak somewhere). :-/

    2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Daily reboot...

      Mitel phone systems have a default to reboot once a week at three in the morning.

  3. energystar
    Windows

    Nothing a reboot...

    from a true ROM backup could not save. Cheers!

  4. chris 17 Bronze badge

    Not a power cycle

    "The pointing tables and science targets – instructions that tell the spacecraft where to look and at what – were reloaded and confirmed, onboard logs and counters were reset, and a new command sequence was created, tested and uploaded to account for the late start of the campaign."

    That is not a power cycle it's more like pushing policy in checkpoint to unstuck things.

  5. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Boffin

    Why did'nt

    they just re-calibrate the graviton emitters to a new modulation frequency, then use that to get the required push off a passing sub-space warp field?

    Or am I still drunk and stuck in star trek mode?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Good suggestion, Lieutenant, but that is not possible without inverting the polarity, and the satellite wasn't responding to commands, so that option was off.

      Carry on !

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Kepler's rebirth is yet another example of why NASA has some of the best engineering hackers"

    I hate to think what the Fleet Street write-up would be if you tell them hacking involved. An industry that thinks guessing the default PIN still used on voicemail counts as "hacking phones"? That effectively says 'hackers' always equals 'bad' but argues vehemently that the journos paying corrupt officials were just a few bad apples?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Hack = journalist.

  7. chivo243 Silver badge
    Pint

    forcing an unexpected reboot?

    I'm on my second cuppa, and I still cannot grasp "forcing an unexpected reboot". Maybe some hair of the dog will help?

    1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: forcing an unexpected reboot?

      Ungraceful shutdown (or reboot) may be useful on some rare occasions. If a process writes incorrect data to the nonvolatile storage during a graceful shutdown, it makes sense to skip that part. Also, boot sequences may force additional checks when they detect traces of an unclean shutdown.

      /speculation.jpg/

  8. Stuart Halliday
    Joke

    Check to see if a Cleaner had accidentally plugged in their Hoover nearby?

    1. stucs201

      Re: Hoover

      Surely you mean vacuum cleaner? This is space...

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Hoover

        All that interstellar dust has to be cleaned up by someone you know. I used to have a Hoover Galay - looked like a cross between BB8, Thunderbird 2 and Luke's speeder.

        1. stucs201

          Re: Hoover

          Ah, but is it a match for Mega-maid?

        2. Fatman Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Hoover

          <quote>All that interstellar dust has to be cleaned up by someone you know.</quote>

          And here is how:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWQAvMUUJr4

          and

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnMAxANavKY

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Hoover

            Sorry. Hoover Constellation. Best vac I ever used. Not the best at cleaning, but the most fun.

  9. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Alert

    Well...

    It is rather difficult to do percussive maintenance when it's 75 million miles away so I suppose a reset'll do the job.

    Don't suppose some counter hit 2,147,483,647 and then tried adding 1? Always seems to be an issue resolved by turning it off and on again....

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: Well...

      More likely some chip turned out not to be hardened enough against cosmic radiation - a high energy particle (which do not happen on Earth, thanks to magnetic field) may easily flip memory state or do similar harm. Electronics sent out there are always shielded against those, but as we have learnt, some particles have very large energy indeed, even if they only hit anything very, very rarely.

      1. ~chrisw
        Alien

        Re: Well...

        Cisco didn't get that memo. They once suggested that as one possible reason for one of our 6509s spontaneously crashing...

  10. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    NASA boffins used the pressure of particle streams from the Sun

    Maybe the problem arose because they crossed the streams?

    Damn, no ghostbuster icon.

  11. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Happy

    Scotty would have fixed this much faster!

    "something, something, warp conduits, something, something, something, reverse the polarity of something, something, route auxiliary power to the shields, something, "Like putting extra cheese in your sandwich!!""--SUCCESS!!!!

    1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      Re: Scotty would have fixed this much faster!

      Cheese sandwich with exrea cheese? You unutterable bastard. Now I'm hungry

      1. John Tserkezis

        Re: Scotty would have fixed this much faster!

        "Cheese sandwich with exrea cheese? You unutterable bastard. Now I'm hungry"

        We used to regularly ask for a cheese and peperoni pizza, with extra cheese and extra peperoni.

        Amazingly, the people taking the order didn't always get that...

  12. TonyK

    I don't believe it

    "...or just wandering through the celestial depths": Really? How is that possible? Or did you just make it up? Planets drifting through the interstellar void would be completely undetectable with current technology, surely?

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: I don't believe it

      Planets drifting through the interstellar void would be completely undetectable with current technology, surely?

      Not if they drift in front of a star that's a long way off. (OK, everything in space is a long way off, but you know what I mean)

  13. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Pint

    Well done those engineers

    You certainly earned your pint!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    LOL

    Did they wait a full minute?

  15. ralphh

    Clever, clever people

    "NASA boffins used the pressure of particle streams from the Sun on its solar panels and the remaining two reaction wheels to steady"... clever, clever people.

    1. Triggerfish

      Re: Clever, clever people

      Yeah watched a program last night where some NASA guy was talking about working out the best way to get thrust from the Titan Mare explorer. He said how normal propellers would make the whole space thing a bit easier. Like firing a one ton submarine designed to sail in a sea of methane, into space and hitting a ocean on a moon several planets away ain't no big thing.

      Anyway..

      1 Seriously clever guys.

      2. Who says science and engineering is boring?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On the event horizon

    "...NASA said it was most likely a "transient event," which triggered a cascade of false alarms..."

    Transient event, is that a fast particle or a quantum hiccup?

    And a "cascade of false alarms" sounds just like the Nightly News.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Scientists are unsure as to why it "crashed".

    Well, for an obvious answer, take a look at the rather large perpetual nuclear/hydrogen bomb it's circling!!!

    Methinks you may have just answered your own question.

    However, the fact its there at all is testament to these mens brains.

  18. Boothy

    The wait

    It must be a toe curling anxious moment waiting for the system to come back up again and start talking home again!

    I get anxious after doing a local BIOS or boot loader change. "Please work, please work, please work <OS boot screen shows up> phew!".

  19. unwarranted triumphalism

    Yawn

    It's good that you're still doing these tired unfunny 'jokes'.

    Keep it up, I'm sure it's working out for you somehow.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yawn

      Awwww, is somebody having a Monday?

  20. ShortStuff

    Windoze?

    Oh no, don't tell me they are using Windows. I've had Linux/UNIX systems run for years without a reboot. But it's pure luck to have a Windows box run more than a month.

  21. sisk Silver badge

    You know, for once the problem really might have actually been caused by solar flares or alpha particles.

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