It was late one night at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena California. Two graduate students were sitting at the control panel for the Viking Two Lander. Their job? To sit there and monitor the lander until the day crew came back. One of them turned to the other and said,
“Hey, what does this button do?”
His companion replied, “I don’t know. Why don’t you push it and find out?”
So he did.
When that button was pushed a radio signal was sent to the lander. This signal originally intended to conserve battery power, was set to allow the Viking orbiter to be the primary communications platform for the mission. The signal was decoded into the instructions, “Turn off your radio and wait for further instructions.”
If you turn off your radio on the surface of Mars, are you going to GET further instructions?
It is not recorded if either of the graduate students successfully completed their graduate thesis.