10 June 2011


Remember when I posted this morning about how the space shuttle is a big white elephant mainly used to carry near-useless but good-for-PR junk like some third graders' crayons and US senators?

This just happened:
MSNBC: Cosmic Logic | Alan Boyle | iPhones head for final frontier

The last space shuttle mission will be the first mission to send iPhones into orbit [...]
ZOMG this is pointless.
SpaceLab for iOS will be used for four experiments on the station:
  • Limb Tracker lets astronauts snap pictures of Earth's horizon and analyzes the shape of the planet's arc, or limb, to estimate altitude as well as flight angle.
We don't have snapshots we could test that from on Earth?
  • Sensor Cal uses a series of reference photos to calibrate the phone's gyro and accelerometer for subsequent measurements.
Standard NASA M.O. — a study to study the possibility of future studies.  This is not an "experiment;" this is just getting your tools in working order.
  • State Acq enable astronauts to estimate their spacecraft's latitude and longitude by matching up iPhone photos with a wireframe of Earth's coastlines.
Again, can't this be done from the ground?
  • LFI checks the effects of space radiation on the iPhone by monitoring certain areas of the phone's memory for single-bit upsets —flipped bits that can scramble a spacecraft's brains. Bit flips have been blamed for space glitches affecting NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Voyager 2 probe, as well as the Toyota accelerator glitches on Earth.
This is the best piece of machinery to study the possibility of flipped bits?  And it's taking them until now to bother measuring this?

No.  No no no.  I'm in favor of NASA moving towards COTS tech, but the purpose of this mission to enable NASA to write "iPhone in space!" press releases.

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