The most expensive mistakes of space engineers

How one bug in the program and confusion of meters and feet can cost millions of dollars

Reading time 6 minutes

Developers of space projects sometimes make expensive mistakes. Let’s recall the five largest engineering errors of the space era.

Rocket «Mariner 1»
Ракета «Маринер-1»
Rocket «Mariner 1». Ph: NASA

Mariner 1 is the first apparatus of the NASA’s «Mariner» project (automatic interplanetary probes designed to investigate Mars, Venus and Mercury), the launch of which was scheduled on July 22, 1962. The apparatus was supposed to fly to Venus, however, after 293 seconds it deviated from the course, and was destroyed over the Atlantic ocean. According to the official version, the programmer made a mistake while translating the handwritten formula into a computer code: he mistook the index symbol for a regular dash. As a result, the on-Board computer software perceived normal speed jumps as critical, which led to a failure. The accident could not have happened, but the device’s antenna lost contact with the guidance system on the Ground, and the program automatically moved to plan «B». The engineering error cost $18.5 million, which the New York Times called «the most expensive dash in history».


Space station «Skylab»
Станция «Скайлэб»
Skylab space station. Ph: NASA

Skylab is the United States orbital station launched in 1873 (the first and only one). It was designed for Earth observation, astrophysical, technological, and biomedical researchs. Before the destruction, it held three space expedition, however, due to increased solar activity, it went off the orbit in 1979. The lowering of the Skylab accelerated, and since the station did not have its own engine, it was not possible to raise it to another orbit. According to the forecasts of the mission control Center, the station was to enter the Earth’s atmosphere on July 11, 1979 and sink for 1300 kilometers in South Cape Town. But the inaccuracy in the calculations by 4% led to the fall of some wreckage of the station in Western Australia. The damage from premature destruction was estimated at $10 million.

Hubble Space Telescope
Hubble Space Telescope. Ph: NASA

Hubble was launched in 1990, but immediately there was a problem in its work: the telescope transmitted a blurred image. After checking, it turned out that edges of the telescope’s main  mirror were too flat, making the telescope «myopic». NASA scientists have developed a program for image processing and, at first glance, the problem was solved. But few months later, other problems were discovered (gyro failures, problems with solar panels and computer malfunctions), and NASA organized three space expeditions to eliminate those defects. One of them brought «glasses» for the telescope — optical correction system COSTAR. Manufacturing and delivering of «glasses» have cost NASA 49.9 million dollars, while since the beginning of telescope’s construction there were spent 6 billion dollars.

Mars Climate Orbiter
Аппарат «Mars Climate Orbiter»
Mars Climate Orbiter. Ph: NASA

Mars Climate Orbiter is an apparatus studying the Martian climate, which was launched by NASA on December 11, 1998. The main objective of the apparatus is to picture the surface of Mars and to study the dynamics of its atmosphere. Nine months later the unit arrives to the planet, turns on braking and begins to move on highly elliptical orbit. According to the calculations of engineers, the device was supposed to change the orbit to circular and to begin research two months later. However, 5 minutes after the start of braking the apparatus passed Mars and never sent any signals. After analyzing the errors, it turned out that the NASA team calculated the parameters of the decisive stage of the flight in the metric system, and the engineers of Lockheed Martin — in the British system (pound-force). As a result, the device crossed the orbit for 53 kilometers lower than required and disintegrated in the atmosphere of Mars; the loss amounted to $193.1 million.

Satellite «NOAA-19»
Спутник «NOAA-19»
Satellite«NOAA-19». Ph: NASA

The accident is not related to the software, but to ordinary sloppiness. In 2003, September 6, during the construction of the satellite, engineers have tried to move it to a horizontal position, but the device collapsed to the floor. The investigation determined that shortly before failure the technician has pulled from the truck 24 screws and has not documented it, but other staff did not check the presence of screws either. As a result, $135 million were spent to repair the satellite.



Americans are shocked: Apple has released the card with cashback

Russian users are only grinning, cashback is not new for them

Reading time 4 minutes

Apple has presented its own virtual credit card – Apple Card. When paying by credit card, the company instantly returns 2% of the total purchase amount. It is easy to order a card: just spent a few minutes in the Apple Wallet app. To use the service you need only the iPhone.

At the presentation, the card was given not so much time as the rest of Apple’s new products, but presented in sufficient details. The company showed its physical carrier – a titanium card without a number, a term and a CVV code. All necessary data will be stored on the phone without which it is impossible to use the card.

You can see the history of recent transactions easily in an application that enables you to keep statistics. At the presentation, the user-friendly interface caused delight and loud applause from the audience. The fact that the Apple card has interested users is also confirmed by media statistics. The chief editor of The Verge, Nilay Patel, said that the article about the Apple Card was the most viewed material about apple products. The Russian Internet publication TJ declared exactly the same.

Apple Card application design

In Russia, such a rush around Apple’s card was viewed with irony. The fact is that Russian users have been familiar with cashback and high-quality online applications. These services have been provided by «Sberbank» , «Tinkoff Bank» and «Rocketbank» for many years.

And this is really the case when the States are in no hurry to keep up with progress. In Russia the flowering of IT technologies in the banking sector began in the 2010s. One of the first innovative banks was «Tinkoff» in 2011, and later – «Rocketbank» in 2013. Therefore, the presence of mobile banking and the return of interest on purchases of a Russian user is no longer surprising.

Russia is one of the leaders among countries that use Apple Pay

According to experts, the Apple Card will not immediately become the market leader. However, it is expected that the card will push for changes stagnant US banking sphere.

Turn the screen into black and white mode

How to overcome the dependence on the smartphone without getting rid of it

Reading time 4 minutes

Dependence on smartphones is a disease, and users themselves began to understand it. According to Google statistics, the query “smartphone addiction” and similar became very popular last year.

Analysts attribute this to the desire of people to cope with dependence on smartphones. Recently, as SKY News reported, sales of push-button phones without Internet access have increased in the world. According to the data presented on the website, sales increased by 5%.

However, there is another way to deal with smartphone addiction. American psychologist Martin Sinclair, the author of the bestseller “Care for busy people” proposed to transfer smartphones in monochrome. All application icons and their interface will become black and white. According to him, looking at the screen without colorful pictures and notifications can block emotional attachment – a key element of addiction.

It’s not a secret that app and website developers deliberately use techniques that cause addiction. Bright colors and colorful pictures – one of them. This was told by Tristan Harris, former head of design ethics at Google. He is the founder of the non-profit organisation Time Well Spent, where users are told about manipulation of their attention and how not to fall for the tricks of developers.

Instruction for use

If the smartphone has already become an integral part of the hand, and life without it seems impossible, it’s time to ask yourself: have I become addicted? The positive answer is an excuse to put your phone in monochrome mode. This can be done in a few clicks.

For Android

  1. Go to system settings and select the category «about phone»;
  2. Several times in a row click on the build number, it will open access to advanced editing;
  3. In the system find window «for developers»;
  4. In the section «hardware visualization acceleration» find the item «Simulate anomaly» and choose the monochrome mode.

For iOS

  1. Go to basic settings;
  2. Find the «Quick access» section and select «Filters»;
  3. After that, a triple press on the «Home» button will allow you to quickly change modes from black and white to color.

And the main recommendation: remember that the world around is much brighter than the screen of your smartphone!

Spotify enters Russian music market

Competitors are tense but feel confident

Reading time 4 minutes

Spotify is an online streaming audio service that allows you to listen to music tracks legally and for free. Now the service successfully operates in 70 countries. Daniel Ek, CEO of the service, said that the company is preparing to start work in Russia in the summer of 2019.

The development team believes that there is a strong potential in the streaming service to conquer the market of music services.

A subscription to a service for USA residents costs $ 10. The cost in Russia is currently unknown.
A subscription to a service for USA residents costs $ 10. The cost in Russia is currently unknown.

“We now have more than 159 million active users in 65 countries, 71 million premium subscribers, more than 3,500 employees worldwide and more than 35 million tracks. But we’re just starting… Spotify has a lot more prospects than you thought.”

The service functions as a cloud base and allows the user to select a composition from an extensive media library. Currently, Spotify provides access to over 30 million tracks. Users can search by artist, album, genre. All users have access to many major independent labels. You can also create your own playlists or listen to the radio. You can use the resource with advertising and some restrictions for free. If you pay a subscription, all restrictions are automatically removed.

In Russia, users have long been waiting for Spotify. The service planned to start work here in 2014 and even registered the legal brand LLC Spotify in the Unified State Register of Legal Entities. However, the introduction of the Register was not a guarantee of launch. According to some sources, there were several obstacles to entering the market: the economic crisis, changes at the legislative level, requirements for the storage of users’ personal data, conflicts and disagreements with certain organizations and individuals.

Sberbank CIB analysts have already warned that Spotify will have a significant impact on the Russian music market. But his direct competitors (Yandex.Music and VKontakte (together with BOOM)) noted that they are not afraid of the appearance of a new player on the market and see their competitive advantages over Spotify.

Not only Yandex.Music and VKontakte become competitors. Do not forget about Apple Music and Google Music.
Not only Yandex.Music and VKontakte become competitors. Do not forget about Apple Music and Google Music.

“The growth of the market of legal audio services will be 20–30% per year, Spotify will make a significant contribution to this growth if it starts working in Russia,” said Alexandra Nosach, head of the licensing department for music and video content at Black Star Inc.

A robot-screenwriter has a shot at winning Cannes Lions

The Lexus company produced a advertisement based on a script written by artificial intelligence

Reading time 3 minutes

«Driven by Intuition» is world’s first advertisement based on a script written by artificial intelligence (AI). IBM Watson system developed the text for this ad, and an Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald brought it to life. In order to create the commercial, AI analysed past successful advertisements and based on them generated a new narrative.

Суперкомпьютер фирмы IBM, оснащённый вопросно-ответной системой искусственного интеллекта
The IBM supercomputer equipped with question-and-answer system of artificial intelligence

A minute-long film features the production of the new Lexus ES executive sedan. According to the story, the new model is being destroyed during crash tests, but then the car begin to resist. At the critical moment, Lexus ES recognizes the danger and automatically initiates emergency braking. The creator observes everything through the media.

To write a unique story, the neural network studied a number of advertisements that won Cannes Lions award. An extra information about the company was added to the system in order to make the commercial unfamiliar to viewers and corresponding to the brend. A bunch of emotional intelligence studies was downloaded into the system as well. This helped the neural network to understand what affects potential consumers to the greatest extend.

AI placed all combinations of objects, actions, and locations so that psychologically affects customers. Based on the analyses of external audio, text, and graphic data, the supercomputer determined the most crucial parts of the video making the commercial successful.

AI organized the narrative so that affects our emotions

The project’s creators managed to demonstrate the potential of artificial intelligence. Moreover, AI depicted some of the aspects of human behavior in its story. The accomplished work is an another step towards the use of artificial intelligence in the nearest future.


China continues to support coal projects

The risk of environmental consequences does not stop investors from the Middle Kingdom

Reading time 4 minutes

Environmentalists are sounding the alarm: China is funding dozens of coal projects far beyond its borders. Coal is considered the most environmentally hazardous of fossil fuels, including because of the amount of carbon dioxide that it emits during combustion (about one and a half times more than natural gas). According to the latest research of the World Meteorological Organization in 2017, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached its highest level in the last 5 million years. Last month, the UN climate expert group said that the use of coal in production should be stopped by 2050. This solution should bound the global temperature rise to a limit of 1.5 degrees.   

Угольная электростанция в Китае
Coal power station in China

China-supported coal projects are being implemented in South America, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Balkans. The contracts concluded between the participants of such projects are often not completely transparent, but groups of environmental companies, including the non-governmental organization Bankwatch, try to monitor the situation. Energy Group Coordinator Ioana Chiuta says that efforts to combat the dirty air of Chinese cities have led many energy companies to limit their investments in coal-fired power plants in China and instead have targeted their technology and capital to foreign markets. 

Coal smoke must be cleaned, but this is not always done

Тепловая электростанция Kostolac
Thermal power station Kostolac

In Serbia, one of the country’s main coal-fired power stations is being expanded with a loan from a Chinese bank. Works have been carried out since 2017 under the leadership of a large construction company in China. An hour east of the capital city of Belgrade, in the coal-rich valley of the Danube, construction takes place on a site known as Kostolac B3. The power plant is managed by the national Serbian electric power company EPS, which provides about 70% of the country’s electricity by burning coal, while the rest is electricity produced by hydroelectric power stations. It is expected that Chinese investment in the project will amount to 613 million US dollars. The installation of the new power unit will bring Serbia 350 MW of additional capacity. The project must be implemented in accordance with environmental standards. 

Смог в Пекине
Smog in Beijing

However, the Serbian Center for Environment and Sustainable Development (Cekor) questions the project’s compliance with all environmental standards. After a series of relevant inspections of the project, Cekor found it impossible to ensure that EU standards for environmental pollution are in force.


Ilon Musk launches Hyperloop’s first capsule

The super-speed system on magnetic rails starts in Los Angeles on December 10

Reading time 2 minutes

The Boring Company successfully mastered the laying of the first vacuum tunnel for high-speed movement. The founder of the company, Ilon Mask, announced this in his Twitter account. The company has drilled 3.2 km under Los Angeles, the entrepreneur said that the opening of the tunnel will take place on December 10. On the launch day, no one will have to pay the fare, and in the following days the trip will cost $1.

Hyperloop is an ultrafast underground transport system based on pipes and magnetic rails. Autonomous cars with a capacity of 8–16 passengers rush inside the pipe at a speed of about 200 km/h. Initially, the tunnel was conceived solely for the carriage of cars, but now the main goal of the project is to create transport for passengers and cyclists. 

Художественное изображение автономного вагона Loop
Один из эскизных проектов автономного вагона Loop

The tunnel will function like an expressway. Equipped platform will launch vehicles under the ground and deliver to the destination. 

The 16.5 km long vacuum transport system was approved by the authorities of Washington and Baltimore. Boring is also planning to launch a tunnel in Chicago, which will connect the city centre with the airport. At the initial stage, the inventor in his characteristic style admitted that “he has no idea what he is doing.” However, the first project is already at the ready stage. The construction of the Los Angeles-Hawthorne Tunnel, begun in January 2017, has been completed.

“Rostekh” presented an analogue of Skype

Разработка впечатлила специалистов, а вот пользователи в недоумении

Reading time 3 minutes

Regular conference “Digital Industry of Industrial Russia” started on June 6 in Innopolis (Tatarstan), on the first day of which the Russian state corporation “Rostekh” introduced the analogue of Skype. The program was named AVES-S and was developed by the staff of the Research Institute “Masshtab” (company “RosElectronics).

Первый день "ЦИПР-2018" принес новости об аналоге Skype
The first day of “CYPR-2018” brought news about the analogue of Skype

The new development has several advantages over its “ancestor” and inspirer Skypé. Firstly, it is a completely safe Russian development with the functions of the Kronos system, which detects intrusions. Secondly, AVES-S allows organizing secure closed conferences and open webinars in wide resolution and excellent quality. In addition, the development allows you to conduct surveys, jointly edit files and exchange instant messages in dialogs, make voice calls. Thirdly, the Russian program is distinguished by its competitive price: AVES-S is almost twice cheaper than its counterparts. It is because of the cost that does not depend on the currencies.

It is reported that the development is not yet available to a wide range of users. AVES-S is primarily intended for government departments, because it is completely confidential and it provides protection from deciphering by third parties.

Users have already expressed scepsis about the new development. In numerous comments they ask why it was necessary to create an analogue of the program, the interest to which fell significantly because of the substitution programs. Today other popular messengers have replaced Skype: WhatsApp, Viber, Messenger. There is also Google Hangouts for similar purposes.

Skype is leaning back.

How to make the artificial intelligence work faster

Возможности искусственного интеллекта увеличились в 10 раз

Reading time 3 minutes

Sorry, this text was translated with Google machine. Mistakes and misunderstandings are possible!

Specialists from the division DeepMind in London have created a deep training machine that is able to “learn” information in the shortest possible time. Compared with the machines of the previous generation, it works 10 times faster. Now, to master the classic video games, the mechanism requires not 200 hours of play, but 20, while a person needs only 2 hours.
The main idea of the DeepMind approach is to “teach” the machine to “think” quickly, like people and animals. As you know, a person can solve the situation in two different ways. First, if the situation is known, then our brain has already formed its model, which it uses to determine how to behave better. In this case, a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex is used. If the situation is not familiar, then the brain relies on another strategy, which involves a simpler approach to verifying and remembering information. In this case, the hippocampus is used, which consolidates the memory.
For deep training machines use layers of neural networks to find patterns in the data. When one layer “sees” the template, it sends a signal as information to the next layer, which looks for patterns in this signal. Therefore, when recognizing faces, the first layer can search for the edges of the image, the second layer of circular images, the third – triangular patterns and so on. The final stage of the work of all layers is that the face was seen and recognized.
There are many feedback systems that allow the system to “learn” by regulating internal parameters, such as the strength of bonds between layers. The parameters should change slowly, since cardinal changes in one layer can negatively affect the overall process of “learning”. That’s why deep neural networks need such a long workout.

Incubator for egg-heads

Нора хоббита, пиратский корабль и другие рабочие места от гигантов IT-индустрии

Reading time 7 minutes

Sorry, this text was translated with Google machine. Mistakes and misunderstandings are possible!

At sees the tomorrow people the artist-researcher Nickolay Lamm

Working conditions future human can visually imagine a stroll through the offices of the leading Internet production. Premises where the coolest innovations are very different from the usual jobs. Money for their creation and development, apparently, have no regrets, and to design attract designers from around the world.

But whether through multi-billion incomes of employers their employees have the opportunity to work in the “unearthly” conditions? Perhaps, on the contrary, such conditions are necessary for the global success of the company? Try to understand.


Google relies on the comfort and emotional variety.

“Making the working environment more pleasant, you get more engaged employees, increase job satisfaction, productivity and make the company a more attractive place to work,”

says Stacy Sullivan, Director of culture. This applies both to the relationship of managers and employees, and workspace.

The company’s offices look like separate worlds with their atmosphere. There are more than 70 in 50 countries. Take, for example, the headquarters in the UK capital.


Bright, but at the same time calm and cozy interior, comfortable furniture. New design traditional office space was entrusted to create the company “PENSON”. And that’s what happened.


  • Комната под названием «Бабушкина квартира». Здесь и старинная мебель, и мягкие ковры, и узоры на обоях — всё, как в гостиной пожилой английской леди.
  • Библиотека «Лала» — это большая и светлая комната с огромным полукруглым белым диваном, окруженным стеллажами с прекрасными книгами.
  • Эта часть офиса называется «Ратуша». Её вместимость 200 человек. Ратуша отделана вельветовыми занавесками и мягким ковром.
  • Для тех, кому больше не хочется находиться в помещении (хотя в таком офисе сидеть одно удовольствие), на крыше есть терраса, откуда отлично виден Лондон. Зелёная зона оборудована Wi-Fi, чтобы сотрудники не отрывались от работы.
  • Место для уединения под названием «Нора хоббита». У дизайнеров богатая фантазия, но этот трюк с названиями не так прост, как кажется. Упоминание книжных героев, с которыми люди знакомы с детства, вызывает тёплые и нежные чувства.

Moscow Google’s headquarters decorated with wood, glass and leather. All in pastel colors, no bright red or blue flowers as in other headquarters. And Swiss the office (Zurich) did relax room with aquariums, a floor that mimics the seabed, and a special bath with a soft filler. Some of the rooms designed for meditation. Learning this technique performed by a specially invited teacher of Buddhism.


Main office of the most successful social network is in Palo Alto (California, USA). In spring 2015, the new headquarters appeared in Menlo Park. The owner of the copyright of the media Ilya Varlamov published photos in his report.

Facebook Logo at the entrance to the building
Employees Facebook – happy people: they have free meals, absolute freedom of action when making your workplace, as well as the Friday meetings in the square with the founder of the social network mark Zuckerberg.
meeting room
There is one unwritten rule about not taking pictures of Mark Zuckerberg. On the glass of the meeting room he hung a sign: “Please do not photograph the animals :)” (Please do not take photos of animals).

“the Office is just Packed with a variety of inviting public spaces where you can work alone, chat with friends or just take a NAP right after lunch.”

– says Ilya Varlamov.

Original innovations

arIn Madrid remembered that fresh air improves brain function, and even beyond the boundaries of office premises. Employees architectural Studio Selgas Cano planted in the forest office.


Construction design half recessed into the ground, which improves thermal insulation, and is made of transparent plastic – as providing natural light, and the servants pleased to see the window is not grey towers, and picturesque landscape.

the Headquarters of the company Invention of the Land, which is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, consists of 16 different sections. This pirate ship surrounded by water, the castle and a giant robot. Factory inventions and therefore got its name that innovations like off the Assembly line – the year the company received for its new products more than two thousand patents.

Pirate ship

Opinion of the Hit.Media expert

Maria Matveyshina, architect-designer, Director of own Studio, believes that there are two kinds of customers: those who are thinking about employees, and those who want to put in office more and more jobs.

Great if the customer already has an idea, then the task of the designer becomes just a refinement of the style and implementation of the required functionality. It is not only the opinion of the employer. In practice, the designer was a case where the Director of the IT company brought together employees from various departments and they announced their wishes. It really helped in creating office space.

“Many offices are built in the style open-space with maximum use of èkomaterialy. This trend came to us not so long ago, and in the West, her only start to develop. It is therefore not surprising that many modern offices, media companies and broadcasters alike.”

One of the projects for IT company – office of several parts: Italian street phone booths for private conversations and conference room, decorated in the style of “Space”.

In the end

That the creation of such conditions requires significant investments, however. But a favorable atmosphere sometimes it is enough just free coffee, cookies on the table and soft sofa. Let your subordinates do not feel jobs and zuckerbergs, but work will be fun that’s for sure!