Life as a rocket scientist


I am no rocket scientist. I am, however, pretty savvy with software and navigating a website for fun and profit. Still, when it comes to hardware and wiring, I’m still at the “turn it on and off a few times and see if that helps” phase of troubleshooting and repair.

With that, it turns out I could, in fact, be a rocket scientist!

From a NASA news release:

“In an attempt to correct the erroneously high rates produced by the backup gyro, the Hubble operations team executed a running restart of the gyro.”

I am assuming here that “gyro” is an important space type part and not a tasty Greek sandwich (although let us note that in either situation too much tzatziki sauce can definitely ruin the thing).

These repair instructions sound like what I tell my family when the wireless printer at home has been struck dumb.

“Restart the thing. If that doesn’t work maybe unplug it and try again?”

Generally, with printers and apparently with Hubble telescopes, that works.

Struck dumb

Anyone who has ever had to call for help to troubleshoot a computer component, printer, or flashing VCR back in the day knows that the most obvious question asked by Tech Support will always be “Is it plugged in?”

Sure, we all feel offended (and stupid), but I have to assume they ask that for a really good reason?

Having talked to a few Tech Support folks, I have come to understand that they come by their user trust issues honestly. The CD-Rom drawer (on older computers) mistaken for a coffee cup holder is the stuff of urban legend, but you just know it happened somewhere. You can’t make that stuff up.

Speaking of stupid human tricks, more than one computer guru has reported being asked if the Internet is broken today? As in the WHOLE internet? Uh, no, honey, that’s just your connection.

It’s like assuming that if your driveway needs work the entire national highway system is down.

I have personally known people to complain that the mouse they ran over with a desk chair no longer worked. That a keyboard should continue working because, and I quote, “I turned it over real quick and shook all the coffee out” or that a laptop computer should not need charged after years in storage since “no one has used it since we put it away.”

All this eye rolling and I don’t even make a living in technical repair.

A tad impatient

That said, don’t let me front like I’m the coolest of computer users. In all my years of computer work (I was an early adapter to internet addiction), I tend to be the person who believes that if my computer is frozen, then clicking everywhere all at once will somehow help the situation.

For the record, it rarely does.

It’s a great way to enjoy dozens of open windows all saying “not responding” though.

I’m sure the scientists who repaired the Hubble with a quick restart will assure us laypeople that it’s a bit more technical than that.

Still, it’s nice to think that you can fix a billion-plus-dollar telescope the same way you troubleshoot a cheap laptop.

Cup holder not included.


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