Pluto

Pluto
Photo:NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI

Planet or not, roughly 100 years after the first powered flight, we’ve sent a vehicle equipped with a camera to Pluto to take pictures and wirelessly transmit them back. That’s nothing short of amazing.

Splashdown of EFT-1

Orion Test Successful EFT-1

This is a pretty historic day. Orion is the future NASA and manned exploration of space for the US. It’s first flight was a success. It’s just like Mercury, Gemini or Apollo but modern. Who knows. We may see this thing being used to push humans into space to explore new worlds. It’s a glimmer of hope that NASA will still be able to move science forward.

Astronaut Life Insurance

How did the Apollo astronauts get life insurance? Well, they didn’t. So they made their own according to Collectors Weekly:

The so-called “insurance” postal covers from Apollo 11 are a safe way of acquiring the crew’s autographs. As Buzz Aldrin has explained, “Since we were unable to obtain adequate life insurance due to the high risk nature of being an astronaut, we signed this group of covers and evenly distributed them to our families for safe keeping while we performed our mission. If an unfortunate event prevented our safe return, the covers would have provided a limited financial means of support to our families.”

This is really a clever approach if you think about it.

On Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong On The Moon

He’s not the first of the twelve to die, but certainly the most notable, and perhaps the most modest. The first person on earth to ever step onto a non earth body simply described himself as:

“I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer,”

He walked on the freaking moon, and he simply describes himself as a nerdy engineer, as if he were one of the legions of IBM or HP employees at their peak.

The youngest Apollo astronaut to have walked on the moon is Charles Duke, who is 76 years old in a nation where the life expectancy for a man is 75.6 years. We’ve effectively got no space program together other than a few rovers being shot to Mars. Within a decade, for the first time in my life, it’s possible there won’t be a man alive who has walked on the moon.

Credit must be given to the generation who pulled it off. We may be capable of having a video call across the glove, but we’re far from being able to repeat what they did decades ago visiting the moon.

Thanks Mr. Armstrong for literally shooting for the moon.

More On Mars Curiosity’s Processor

Interesting IAmA on reddit with the Mars Curiosity team. Lots of great stuff but being a programmer this caught my eye:

You are right that the processor does feel acient. Our current smarthphones are more powerful. The reasoning for this is three-fold. First of all, the computer was selected about 8 years ago, so we have the latest and greated space certified parts that existed then. Second of all, it was the most rubost and proven space grade processor at that time. Thirdly, in order to make a processor radiation hardened it requires lots of tricks on the silicon that is not conducive to making it fast. Given that, it does not run any GUIs and can just focus on raw programming, and actually gets a lot done. All of the programming is done in C, and our toolchain is very similar to programming on any platform.

-JG (presumably Jonny Grinblat aka “Pre-celebration Guy” – Avionics System Engineer)

I did mention a few days ago specifically about the CPU and how it’s really similar to the Power Mac G3’s of the late 90’s.