Going solo

Left to its own devices, NASA’s Deep Space 1 probe would have struck out on its own last week. The probe had a glitch in its “remote agent”, the computer program designed to wean the spacecraft off mission control (“You’re on your own”, New Scientist, 24 October 1998, p 38). Last Tuesday, a bug in this software prevented the probe from shutting down its engines as planned. “The root cause of this is a mistake in the logic that went into the program,” says Marc Rayman, the project’s chief mission engineer. Ground controllers overrode the unruly program, and the spacecraft remained on course. The engineers will continue to test the software,
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