It's impossible, even two months after the landing, to avoid writing about
the Mars Pathfinder and the pint-size rover, Sojourner. Talk about projects
that have put engineering on the front page! With the massive media coverage, is
there anyone in your neighborhood who didn't know about the mission? Anyone who
wasn't agog, even if only for a few minutes, at the brilliance behind a project
that lands a spacecraft with nearly pinpoint accuracy on a planet about 120
million miles away?
The mission's success brings at least three things to mind:
NASA Administrator Dan Goldin keeps his word. Four years ago, he told
Design News that the space agency would follow prudent business procatices
while continuing to take risks. "You can't go to the cutting edge without
taking risks," he said. The "faster, cheaper, better" mode NAS has embraced
under his leadership is both risky and prudent. And it can work. At about $170
million for design and construction, Pathfinder and Sojourner certainly prove
NASA's seriousness, and is ability to achieve its economizing goals while
scoring technical triumphs.
While some consumers might have misgivings about the design of automotive
airbags, the aerospace industry in general and NASA in particular, have no
such qualms. One of the triumphs of Pathfinder was the successful activation
and retraction of the airbag system that cushioned the spacecraft's landing.
The four bags, made from hoechst Celanese's Vectra(R) liquid crystal polymer,
enveloped Pathfinder in a protective cocoon that enabled it to survive the
three-bounce landing. In 1996, this magazine named Jet Propulsion Lab engineer
Tom Rivellini winner of an Excellence in Design Award for leading the air-bag
system design effort. The award was a Computervision grant of $5,000.
H.G. Wells and orson Welles had it wrong. The former, in 1898, wrote
The War of the Worlds, about an invasion of Earth by malicious
Martians. in 1939, Orson Welles produced a radio version of the novel that
caused panic among listeners. The Pathfinder mission has turned up no monsters
on the red planet. And the interplanetary travelers, far from war-like
invaders, turn out to be gentle machines from Earth that only want to take
pictures and gather data.
With major product releases coming from big names like Sony, Microsoft, and Samsung, and big investments by companies like Facebook, 2015 could be the year that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) finally pop. Here's take a look back at some of the technologies that got us here (for better and worse).
Good engineering designs are those that work in the real world; bad designs are those that don’t. If we agree to set our egos aside and let the real world be our guide, we can resolve nearly any disagreement.
The Industrial Internet of Things is bringing a previously reluctant process industry into the wireless fold. The ability to connect smart sensors to the Internet has spiked the demand for wireless devices in process manufacturing, according to the new study from ARC Advisory Group.
Everyone has had the experience of trying to scrape the last of the peanut butter or mayonnaise from the bottom of a glass jar without getting your hand sticky. Inventor Ron Jidmar thinks he has a solution to all of that nonsense with a flexible jar design that can be squeezed with one hand to lift contents from the bottom to the top of a jar or container, leaving the other hand free to scoop the contents out cleanly.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.