09/03/2012

Curiosity

Posted by – September 3, 2012

Four weeksago or so, NASA’s JPL successfully landed the rover “Curiosity” (wikipedia) on Mars. The landing was probably one of the most watched (and celebrated) events on the Internet, witness the many gifs of cheering NASA people (Happy NASA guy and Happy NASA people) and the pop-rock-star treatment of the NASA engineers at Reddit (“We’re engineers and scientists on the Mars rover mission”).

As any major news event that at one time broke the Internets, news and interest in the Curiosity rover is slowly dwindling down. However, great photos and mission details are posted on Curiosity’s main site at NASA (MSL website). My favourite one is the movie about the landing (taken from images from the one of the rover’s cameras), which thanks to the Internet, was then made into a HD 25 fps movie, which you can watch right on Youtube. If you like hi-res images of anything but Mars, go here.

I’ve always been a proponent of unmanned flight as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts years ago. The risk of losing a rover is worth less than the risk of losing people in extremely dangerous environments.

NASA’s MSL project is supposed to last a year. No doubt, the rover will keep trucking for a long time after that.

02/13/2011

400 to volunteer?

Posted by – February 13, 2011

National Geographic has an article about how readily people are to volunteer for ‘single fare’ missions. According to the National, when Fox News (yeah, we know) reported about future Mars missions, 400 readers signed up for a possible trip. Apparently, everybody qualifies for such a dangerous mission, that is, in their own mind:

“I do VERY well with solitude, I am handy with tools, very good at making things work, have generated my own solar energy, built three houses (with my own hands) and am quite sane and stable”

I wash my hands a couple of times in a day, which would make me a qualified “marsonaut”.

It looks like Fox’s inspiration for their article comes from The Journal of Cosmology, which recently featured a long editorial about a possible mission to Mars (full editorial): the editorial contains a dozen of chapters, discussing the reasons why we should go and, my favourite, how to reproduce on Mars:

Moreover, the human female has evolved the cognitive and intellectual capacity to employ cosmetics, perfumes, colorful clothing, push up bras, high heels, and so on, which draw attention to her breasts and derriere, and which emphasize and exaggerate her sexual availability by mimicking the signs of estrus common in other social primates

No wonder people romanticize a mission to Mars.

12/23/2007

The Queen has her picture taken

Posted by – December 23, 2007

Various Decker vs. Zolanews organizations report that the British Queen has launched a YouTube channel (@ YouTube). The Palace promises clips from garden parties, footage from overseas travels, prime ministers and even a day in the life of the Prince of Wales.

Completely related: The BBC has a set of pictures of Russia’s bombers. As you probably recall, a while ago, Putin ordered the return of long range patrols, an event that reminded of those precious Eighties days. Flipping through the pictures, I was slightly amused by the following quote, which reveals the state of these older ‘Bear’ bombers:

There were no toilets or other comforts – and controls were so heavy only a very fit person could operate them.

For some kind of reason, I keep thinking of the 1984 Olympic Games1.

There is a chance that an asteroid is going to strike Mars in January 2008. The asteroid (2007 WD5) was discovered early November (this year) and according to statisticians at the JPL, the odds that it’s going to hit Mars are 1 to 75.

Say what you want about public broadcasters: The CBC does some excellent stuff on the Internet. For example, Katrina Onstad’s top picks of 2007 movies is well-presented and generally, well-done.

Update (12/29/07): CNN’s list of top ten movies of 2007.

1 Like I said, for some kind of reason I was thinking of this incident.

12/19/2007

Mars Express

Posted by – December 19, 2007

I was reading about ‘the active glacier’, found by the ESA’s Mars Express earlier this week, which led me to look up the Mars Express website. Excellent (and amazing) imagery. My favourite one is the photo of the Cydonia region. While we’re at it, you may remember that (quite a while ago) Google launched maps for Mars, so here you go.

The ESA has been plugging away to make their websites as user-centric as possible: there are desktop downloads available in the form of screensavers and wallpaper. While I’m not really into screensavers (I have been running the same screensaver for ages, it appears: only recently I decided to switch to a screensaver depicting an aquarium in 3D OpenGL), I thought that the Mars Express wallpapers would have been interesting enough if they were available in the 16:9 resolution ratios (like 1280 x 800). They’re not and frankly, I’m too lazy to start cutting those images up.

11/30/2007

My. Suck.s

Posted by – November 30, 2007

Earlier, I was looking for an OpenWRT version that could run my Linksys WRT54G. This is where I found out that the hardware version of my router (“8″) isn’t supported. Aw. Apparently, Linksys switched to a propriety embedded OS, the [infamous] VxWorks. Aw2.

There are holy wars being fought about routers, particularly which one sucks and which one doesn’t. Personally, I haven’t had many issues with Linksys hardware and the WRT54 I bought this summer (no review!) was a piece of cake to set-up. I wished I had bought the one with that extra USB slot, though.

Talking about that infamous VxWorks: it’s a real-time operating system (Wikipedia) which is competing hard against Microsoft’s Mobile/CE platform. It’s apparently ported to many processors and it powers (and powered) most likely your favourite spacecraft, including the Mars Pathfinder mission. There’s an interesting anecdote about how the software almost threw a kink in the cable, detailed in this article at Microsoft Research (with an interesting follow-up from the JPL).