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Modern systems out of control
Swedish engineer Boris Smeds' clear-systems thinking in the face of strong institutional resistance saved the Huygens portion of the Cassini/Huygens Saturn probe mission. It's a classic yet modern example of a misunderstood system. Smeds discovered that there had been insufficient testing of the communications between Huygens, the European Space Agency lander, and Cassini, an orbiter and relay station. The Huygens craft landed on Saturn's moon Titan after a seven-year flight.
Smeds proved that the Doppler effect was insufficiently considered in the relative speeds of the devices, and that Cassini would receive useless telemetry data after launching Huygens. Once he was believed, the mission team devised a course alteration that circumvented the problem. Read more at www.spectrum.ieee.org/WEBONLY/publicfeature/oct04/1004titan.html
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