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NASA and Apple

 
 
JF Mezei
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      08-06-2012, 05:57 AM
Curiosity has landed on Mars.

And Unlike NBC and olympics, NASA has provided live coverage.

JPL is chockful of highly visible Macbook pros with the lighted Apple
logos shining brightly, especially in light of the success.

(It would be Interesrting to know if NASA uses those laptops as unix
workstations with X11 applications, or if they developped apps using
Apple's proprietary frameworks.
 
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Oliver Jennrich
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      08-06-2012, 06:23 AM
JF Mezei <(E-Mail Removed)> writes:

> Curiosity has landed on Mars.
>
> And Unlike NBC and olympics, NASA has provided live coverage.
>
> JPL is chockful of highly visible Macbook pros with the lighted Apple
> logos shining brightly, especially in light of the success.
>
> (It would be Interesrting to know if NASA uses those laptops as unix
> workstations with X11 applications, or if they developped apps using
> Apple's proprietary frameworks.


NASA or JPL?

Anyway - it is a safe bet that none of the laptops you have seen runs
mission critical software. Most likely they were just used for email,
twitter etc. or for 'offline' analysis or very much auxiliary tasks. For
those things, people at JPL and NASA use what they use - I've seen
generic X11 applications, Cocoa-based software and command-line
tools. Whatever floats their boat and does the job.

Mission critical software is most likely something based on Unix and X11
- simply because that software tends to have a *very* long lifetime and
is updated only very conservatively. In other words: Apples Max OS X
frameworks have not been around for long enough. In addition, solution
based on proprietary libraries etc. are not much liked in this
business - you never know if the company selling you the newest and
coolest will be around when your probe arrives at its destination.


--
Space - The final frontier
 
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Patty Winter
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      08-06-2012, 06:27 AM

In article <501f5cc3$0$1288$c3e8da3$(E-Mail Removed) m>,
JF Mezei <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>Curiosity has landed on Mars.


Yes, it was very exciting!


>And Unlike NBC and olympics, NASA has provided live coverage.


FWIW, I've been watching lots of live coverage on NBC this
weekend. And on their other channels on weekdays.


>JPL is chockful of highly visible Macbook pros with the lighted Apple
>logos shining brightly, especially in light of the success.


I saw those. Cute!


Patty

 
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JF Mezei
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      08-06-2012, 07:17 AM
Oliver Jennrich wrote:

> Anyway - it is a safe bet that none of the laptops you have seen runs
> mission critical software.


Mac Laptop swere being used by mission controllers to read
data/telemetry coming from the rovers during landing.

Some of the displays shows on TV indicate X11, with a Motif look and
feel. (although that look may be common to other X11 window
managers/toolkits)

The fact that Macs still come with X11 may be a reason they use those
laptops instead of windows ones. Hopefully Apple gets the message and
realises that X11 is still a desirable portion of OS-X even though it
ins't used by the mass market.
 
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Ant
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      08-06-2012, 07:20 AM
On 8/5/2012 10:57 PM PT, JF Mezei typed:

> Curiosity has landed on Mars.
>
> And Unlike NBC and olympics, NASA has provided live coverage.


But the narrator was annoying. I just wanted to hear the technical talks
from the control room!!
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Oliver Jennrich
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      08-06-2012, 07:04 PM
JF Mezei <(E-Mail Removed)> writes:

> Oliver Jennrich wrote:
>
>> Anyway - it is a safe bet that none of the laptops you have seen runs
>> mission critical software.

>
> Mac Laptop swere being used by mission controllers to read
> data/telemetry coming from the rovers during landing.


As I said - not mission critical. Sending commands is mission
critical, looking at data typically is not. Events like the descent of a
lander are heavily scripted and do not leave the option of peeking into
the data streams.

I have not seen the landing (I need to sleep at some point) but
I'm willing to bet that those who had the time to look at the telemetry
on a laptop were not the mission controllers but rather instrument
scientists or something like that - and as I said, for non-critical
software everybody uses whatever she likes.

> Some of the displays shows on TV indicate X11, with a Motif look and
> feel. (although that look may be common to other X11 window
> managers/toolkits)


It would not surprise me.

--
Space - The final frontier
 
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JF Mezei
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      08-06-2012, 08:13 PM
Oliver Jennrich wrote:

> I have not seen the landing (I need to sleep at some point) but
> I'm willing to bet that those who had the time to look at the telemetry
> on a laptop were not the mission controllers but rather instrument
> scientists or something like that - and as I said, for non-critical
> software everybody uses whatever she likes.



They were the mission controllers responsible for monitoring the landing.

Note that for the Mars lander, because of signal propagation delays,
everything is done in "batch" instead of interactive/real time. The
lander is autonomous for the landing phase because by the time data for
the start of re-entry interface reaches earth, the lander has already
landed.

Obviously, if they use X11, it means that there is a real server (client
in X parlance) in the back end which does the real work of real time
collection and storage of data, and the Macbooks act as glorified terminals.

But it is still very good publicity for Apple to see some Apple
computers being used for truly serious work, instead of yuppies showing
off their laptops while sipping expensive coffee at starbucks.

 
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Davoud
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      08-07-2012, 02:37 AM
JF Mezei:
> > JPL is chockful of highly visible Macbook pros with the lighted Apple
> > logos shining brightly, especially in light of the success.


Oliver Jennrich:
> NASA or JPL?


It's the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of
Technology. Operated by Caltech for its owner, NASA.

I attended a Mars-Curiosity-Rover landing watch-and-celebrate event at
the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in the wee
hours of this morning. This is not my first such event at Goddard.
Goddard also uses tons of Macs. As does STSCI. And they do run mission-
critical applications and they run OS X (not to say they never run UNIX
on their Macs, especially for image processing, but NASA and STSCI are
both big Photoshop users as well). If those MB Pros weren't critical to
the mission they wouldn't be there. For UNIX they have their big
workstations. In some cases the Macs are used to tap into a variety of
data sources while operational necessity dictates that the UNIX
workstation be kept on just one critical task. Flexibility is important
to NASA for rapid problem solving, and the UNIX workstation-plus-MBPro
combination seems to provide just what they need, as the phenomenal
success of the Curiosity landing showed.

It has to be said, however, that whatever they were using, in this
morning's event it was all passive monitoring. There was no two-way
communication with the spacecraft during its braking, descent, and
landing. With the whole landing event lasting under eight minutes, and
the round-trip light-time to Mars also eight minutes, that was not
possible. The spacecraft was entirely autonomous with onboard
computers, radar, and various other sensors handling the descent.
Thousands of people deserve great credit for this spectacular
achievement, and the programmers who wrote the half-million lines of
code that orchestrated this beautiful ballet so perfectly are not least
among them!

--
I agree with almost everything that you have said and almost everything that
you will say in your entire life.

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Davoud
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      08-07-2012, 02:44 AM
Oliver Jennrich:
> As I said - not mission critical. Sending commands is mission
> critical, looking at data typically is not.


And as I said, *nobody* at JPL was sending commands to the spacecraft
during its descent. Every computer was in use for telemetry monitoring
or some other task.

> and as I said, for non-critical
> software everybody uses whatever she likes.


I promise you that NASA does not succeed at missions such as the
current one by letting people bring whatever software they want into
play. Those are government-owned Macs, and their configuration and use
is tightly regulated.

--
I agree with almost everything that you have said and almost everything that
you will say in your entire life.

usenet *at* davidillig dawt cawm
 
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Barry Margolin
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      08-07-2012, 04:41 AM
In article <(E-Mail Removed)-berlin.de>,
Oliver Jennrich <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

> JF Mezei <(E-Mail Removed)> writes:
>
> > Oliver Jennrich wrote:
> >
> >> Anyway - it is a safe bet that none of the laptops you have seen runs
> >> mission critical software.

> >
> > Mac Laptop swere being used by mission controllers to read
> > data/telemetry coming from the rovers during landing.

>
> As I said - not mission critical. Sending commands is mission
> critical, looking at data typically is not. Events like the descent of a
> lander are heavily scripted and do not leave the option of peeking into
> the data streams.


But then you went on to say that they were probably just using them for
personal applications like email and Twitter, not official NASA
processes.

And how can you say that telemetry isn't mission-critical? Isn't that
90% of what they were doing last night, monitoring the data being sent
so they could know if the spacecraft landed successfully?

--
Barry Margolin, (E-Mail Removed)
Arlington, MA
*** PLEASE post questions in newsgroups, not directly to me ***
 
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