NASA and Apple

Discussion in 'Apple' started by JF Mezei, Aug 6, 2012.

  1. JF Mezei

    JF Mezei Guest

    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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  2. JF Mezei <> 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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  3. Patty Winter

    Patty Winter Guest

    In article <501f5cc3$0$1288$c3e8da3$>,
    JF Mezei <> 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
     
  4. JF Mezei

    JF Mezei Guest

    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.
     
  5. Ant

    Ant Guest

    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!!
    --
    "A marvelous creature. A model of specialization... Who else could suck
    an ant up his nose and enjoy it?" --About anteaters, "B.C." strip by
    Johnny Hart
    /\___/\ Ant(Dude) @ http://antfarm.ma.cx (Personal Web Site)
    / /\ /\ \ Ant's Quality Foraged Links: http://aqfl.net
    | |o o| |
    \ _ / If crediting, then use Ant nickname and AQFL URL/link.
    ( ) If e-mailing, then axe ANT from its address if needed.
    Ant is currently not listening to any songs on this computer.
     
  6. JF Mezei <> 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
     
  7. JF Mezei

    JF Mezei Guest

    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.
     
  8. Davoud

    Davoud Guest

    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.

    usenet *at* davidillig dawt cawm
     
  9. Davoud

    Davoud Guest

    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
     
  10. In article <-berlin.de>,
    Oliver Jennrich <> wrote:

    > JF Mezei <> 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,
    Arlington, MA
    *** PLEASE post questions in newsgroups, not directly to me ***
     
  11. Lewis

    Lewis Guest

    In message <060820122237561316%>
    Davoud <> wrote:
    > 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,


    Um... what? 14 minutes, we were told. (well, 13 minutes, 48 seconds)

    >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!


    Not only did that absurd sky crane/parachute/rocket/tether thing work,
    but it worked perfectly.

    --
    There's no such thing as too much chocolate.
     
  12. Patty Winter

    Patty Winter Guest

    In article <>,
    Lewis <> wrote:
    >In message <060820122237561316%>
    > Davoud <> wrote:
    >> With the whole landing event lasting under eight minutes, and
    >> the round-trip light-time to Mars also eight minutes,

    >
    >Um... what? 14 minutes, we were told. (well, 13 minutes, 48 seconds)


    Yep, NASA's press releases mention about 14 minutes (one way). Davoud
    may have been thinking about the signal travel time when we're closer
    to Mars than we are now. In fact, I think four minutes (8 minutes
    round trip) is about the closest we ever get.


    Patty
     
  13. Lewis

    Lewis Guest

    In message <5020af2a$0$7146$>
    Patty Winter <> wrote:

    > In article <>,
    > Lewis <> wrote:
    >>In message <060820122237561316%>
    >> Davoud <> wrote:
    >>> With the whole landing event lasting under eight minutes, and
    >>> the round-trip light-time to Mars also eight minutes,

    >>
    >>Um... what? 14 minutes, we were told. (well, 13 minutes, 48 seconds)


    > Yep, NASA's press releases mention about 14 minutes (one way). Davoud
    > may have been thinking about the signal travel time when we're closer
    > to Mars than we are now. In fact, I think four minutes (8 minutes
    > round trip) is about the closest we ever get.


    Yes, and 24 minutes is the theoretical max, though communication at that
    point is actually impossible because the Sun is in the way.

    --
    I AM NOT A LICENSED HAIRSTYLIST Bart chalkboard Ep. AABF04
     
  14. Davoud <> writes:

    > 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.


    Do tell. Practically all my colleagues at NASA use Macs. Many over here
    at ESA do as well. But that does not mean that a MBP is used for mission
    critical tasks.

    > As does STSCI. And they do run mission- critical applications


    Almost certainly not. Although I would not exclude that part of the
    mission planning at STScI is done on laptops - but planning, though
    important, is rarely critical.

    > 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.


    No offense, but there is the slight possibility that you don't quite
    know what 'mission critical' means. It does *not* mean "These data are
    important so I better have a look at it", but rather "if this task gets
    fucked up, the health and safety of the spacecraft are at risk".

    I have not been plugged into a
    mission control scenario at JPL but I would be shocked if *laptops*
    would perform any mission critical task. They tend to run out of
    battery, for once. Sometimes they fall off the knees they are so
    precariously balanced on. Or they go missing.

    And this is exactly why I said in the beginning, that there is a
    difference between mission critical tasks and 'normal' computing.

    The scientists and
    engineers at NASA (in my experience, but what do I know, I only work for
    a space agency since over a decade) can and will use whatever tool on
    whatever machine and under whatever framework as longas it gets the job
    at hand done *as long as it is not a mission critical task*.

    So the original question - do they use X11-based software or Cocoa-based
    apps on the laptops can be answered with a "Yes". That and probably
    command-line applications. Because no one cares what they use.

    But if it is mission critical software, it runs on *dedicated* machines,
    is thoroughly tested and operated only be suitably trained people (and
    not, e.g. by the instrument scientists who happen to hang around).

    > 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.


    Precisely. This is what I said, isn't it?

    > 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.


    There is *very* little flexibility in a lander scenario. If you get it
    the slightest bit wrong, your lander is toast. Mainly because of...


    > 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.


    .... exactly this problem. And this (among other irrelevant things such
    as personal experience) allows me to say with near certainty: There were
    no mission critical tasks running on Laptops - no matter what brand or
    operating system.

    Any MBP in the control room were there because the people who used them
    liked to work on them (understandably), not because NASA (or JPL for
    that matter) made a decision to use MBP in spacecraft operation (beyond
    the usual government supply contracts, of course, but AFAIK you can opt
    for a non-Mac if you really want).

    --
    Space - The final frontier
     
  15. Davoud <> writes:

    > 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.


    I know. So why do you claim they were performing mission critical tasks?

    > Every computer was in use for telemetry monitoring or some other task.


    Even the monitoring of the telemetry is performed by at least one
    deidacated computer under the control of mission operations. Which is, I
    gurantee you, not a laptop.

    That doesn't stop anybody to use his laptop to look at some (archived)
    telemetry as well.

    >
    >> 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.


    As long as this software is only used to look at data or perform
    analysis tasks on archived data: you bet. You can
    use whatever you want. Because nobody will heed you the slightest bit of
    attention. This is only for your personal amusement, so to speak. Any
    software that has to do with mission critical tasks or even mission ops
    in general will not be running on a laptop.

    > Those are government-owned Macs, and their configuration and use is
    > tightly regulated.


    So? If you believe that those MBP are getting anywhere close to
    spacecraft operation, you need to have a reality check.

    --
    Space - The final frontier
     
  16. Barry Margolin <> writes:

    > In article <-berlin.de>,
    > Oliver Jennrich <> wrote:
    >
    >> JF Mezei <> 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.


    Based on experiences in similar events on my side of the atlantic:
    almost certainly :). Things are getting boring for the VIP relatively
    quickly - mind you they are not allowed to push any important buttons or
    even take any decisions anyway....


    > And how can you say that telemetry isn't mission-critical?


    Oh it is. But the software that analyses the telemetry for the mission
    control people is *not* running on a laptop. And the people you have
    seen staring at their MBP might have looked at trajectory data or other
    intersting things, but this has nothing to do with the mission critical
    application.

    Take the following analogy: If you drive a car down the road in heavy
    traffic, you will observe the cars in front of you closely and operate
    the steering wheel, the brakes and the accelerator accordingly. This is
    a mission critical task. The mission critical software runs in your
    brain.

    Now, your mother-in-law might be on the passenger seat, giving
    you a constant narrative about the stuff that is going on around
    you. While she is in the same car as you, using her own software (in her
    brain) to process near-real time data, her screaming at you about the
    guy in front of you just hitting the breaks and why do you have to go so
    fast in the first place and you should have turned left at the last
    intersection - that is *not* mission critial. Even though she taps into
    (almost) the same data stream and might even run (almost) the same
    processing tasks - she is not in control of the spacecraft^W your car
    and you would never dream of driving your car aolely based on her input
    (I hope).

    And while I'm sure that your mother-in-law is a reliable and nice
    person, the question of about what exactky she is thinking while *you*
    are driving your car is somewhat irrelevant to he car-driving
    operation. Because she is not driving the car.

    > 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?



    --
    Space - The final frontier
     
  17. In article <-berlin.de>,
    Oliver Jennrich <> wrote:

    > Davoud <> writes:
    >
    > > 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.

    >
    > I know. So why do you claim they were performing mission critical tasks?


    When did he claim that?

    --
    Barry Margolin,
    Arlington, MA
    *** PLEASE post questions in newsgroups, not directly to me ***
     
  18. Barry Margolin <> writes:

    > In article <-berlin.de>,
    > Oliver Jennrich <> wrote:
    >
    >> Davoud <> writes:
    >>
    >> > 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.

    >>
    >> I know. So why do you claim they were performing mission critical tasks?

    >
    > When did he claim that?


    Aplogies - he didn't. Somenody else said that Macs are used as STScI for
    mission critical tasks.

    --
    Space - The final frontier
     
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