Enjoyable, if brief, interview with Margaret Hamilton, who lead the software team for the Apollo moonshots. I can’t help but notice how few men are ever asked how their lives as parents ever collides with their work.
Q: Did your life as a software engineer and a mother ever collide?
A: Often in the evening or at weekends I would bring my young daughter, Lauren, into work with me. One day, she was with me when I was doing a simulation of a mission to the moon. She liked to imitate me – playing astronaut. She started hitting keys and all of a sudden, the simulation started. Then she pressed other keys and the simulation crashed. She had selected a program which was supposed to be run prior to launch – when she was already “on the way” to the moon. The computer had so little space, it had wiped the navigation data taking her to the moon. I thought: my God – this could inadvertently happen in a real mission. I suggested a program change to prevent a prelaunch program being selected during flight. But the higher-ups at MIT and Nasa said the astronauts were too well trained to make such a mistake. Midcourse on the very next mission – Apollo 8 – one of the astronauts on board accidentally did exactly what Lauren had done. The Lauren bug! It created much havoc and required the mission to be reconfigured. After that, they let me put the program change in, all right.
Children do make good testers – no fears about pressing the wrong buttons! Also, reassuring to know that even the ‘well trained’ make mistakes.
A darkened and mysterious north polar region informally known as Mordor Macula caps this premier high-resolution portrait of Charon, Pluto’s largest moon. Captured by New Horizons near its closest approach on July 14, the image data was transmitted to Earth on September 21.
Always wondered what Pluto and Charon looked like, incredible to actually see it. So far away.
Source: APOD: 2015 October 2 – Charon: Moon of Pluto
The latest images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft have scientists stunned – not only for their breathtaking views of Pluto’s majestic icy mountains, streams of frozen nitrogen and haunting low-lying hazes, but also for their strangely familiar, arctic look.
Source: Pluto ‘Wows’ in Spectacular New Backlit Panorama | NASA
This is very interesting:
Our solar system is weird.
First of all, it doesn’t look much like other ones we’ve been finding. A lot of those have Jupiter-size giant planets orbiting very close in to their parents stars (“hot Jupiters”), closer even than Mercury orbits the Sun. By contrast, our Jupiter orbits the Sun much farther out, more than a dozen times Mercury’s distance from the Sun.
Worse, a lot of these other solar systems are compact. They have several planets orbiting close in to their star, and these planets tend to be “super-Earths,” bigger than our home world but smaller than Neptune. They probably have thick atmospheres, too. A good example of this is Kepler-11, which has six planets that orbit their star inside the size of Venus’ orbit.
So why are we so different than everyone else? The answer may be: Jupiter. A new paper has been released that points an accusatory finger at our solar system’s largest world. Ours may have looked a lot like all the others we’ve seen, but Jupiter came along and wiped it out, setting the stage for what see today: lower mass worlds like ours close in, and bigger ones farther out.
So, it seems that Jupiters’ reign of destruction in the inner disc was arrested by the growth of Saturn. Saturn and Jupiter interacted, resulting in the slow return of Jupiter to its current orbit, leaving the inner disc free to create planets with what matter was left. Which also explains why the inner planets are a good bit smaller than the ‘super-earths’ we see in other systems.
Later: A friend asked: “I wonder if anyone has thought about linking the idea to the Fermi paradox”
Good point, I’d suspect it would make a big difference. Could explain why we’ve seen no sign of other civilisations yet…
I can’t stop looking at this photograph. These kilometre high cliffs are part of the nucleus of the comet 67P/Churyumov Gerasimenko, as observed by the Rosetta spacecraft. I think it’s because I didn’t expect to see such details on a comet – plains, cliffs, boulders… it’s like earth, but very alien. There’s something awe-inspiring about it, these mountain walls on a far off comet.
A gravity map of the earth, revealing some interesting high and low gravity areas that give it the look of a spud. Hence, The Potsdam Gravity Potato, via APOD.
Amazingly, the Philae lander recorded the sound (through the landers’ legs) of the first landing on the comet, when it bounced back up into space.
We have a recording of a space probe bouncing off a comet. Off a comet!
ESA have made it available via soundcloud here :
The sound of touchdown.
Ars Technica has an good story on the Soviet mission to rescue Salyut 7, which was left floating dead in space due to a power malfunction with nobody on board. It’s a tale of engineering know-how, luck and hard work, largely based on the high level of experience of Soviet cosmonauts and the mission control staff.
The article also mentions this curious fact:
On February 19, 1986, the core block of Salyut 7’s successor station, Mir, was launched. Although its replacement was in orbit, Salyut 7’s role in the Soviet space station program was not quite finished. The first crew to launch to Mir did something unprecedented. After arriving at Mir and performing initial operations to bring the new station online, they boarded their Soyuz and flew to Salyut 7, the first and, to date, only time in history a station-to-station crew transfer had taken place. They completed the work left behind by the Soyuz T-14 crew, after which they returned to Mir before eventually returning to Earth.
Having more than one space station in orbit is pretty rare, I wonder when or if a transfer like this will ever happen again?