Debugging of Pathfinder Rovers

Jeff Waugh @jdub tweeted an interesting article about how the previous Mars rovers turned out to have a fairly serious software problem, and how the JPL engineers diagnosed and fixed it.
Some of the points I found particularly interesting:

  • JPL use a propriety, off the shelf operating system to run the rovers (VxWorks)
  • having a replica of a live system for debugging is very useful
  • leaving debugging tools in the remote system saved the day
  • Finding a way to reproduce the error is critical
  • Don’t ignore strange behaviour thinking it might just go away

I love reading stories of issues like this and how the engineers fixed them. Well worth reading.






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