I worked for a contractor developing a water quality monitoring system for the space station and we were always amazed at the requirements that came from nasa. It seemed as everything had been done by a committee of junior engineers and required things that weren't necessary to really get the job done. By requiring so much no one took any risks, but made the product horribly expensive. These guys were willing to minimize the project and take the risk that it wouldn't work out. We were worried about rad hardness and seu counts when passing through the south atlantic anomoly ( high proton flux) several times a day. The smart phones had no such hardness and seemed to get by. I admire the initiative.
I agree, naperlou, it's an interesting approach. As I listened to the NASA engineers, though, I wondered about people who have put cameras on weather balloons (there's even a commercial in which people do that). I don't know whether those people get photos that show the curvature of the earth, or whether they can get to anywhere near the same altitude, but in their case they don't need to launch a rocket to get it done.
Chuck, this is an interesting approach. I remember when the military was looking at small, cheap communication satellites. These could be launched cheaply and in large numbers. One launch concept called for using a super gun rather than a rocket to launch them.
One of the STEM program teams at our local high school put a couple of cheap digital cameras into an enclosure attached to a weather ballon. The pictures were sent back via a smart phone. They got up pretty high, so were out of contact for a while. The phone just stored the photos until they were in range.
The fact that the team was impressed with themselves with putting something together like this on the cheap is an interesting statement. I was just talking to my high school age son about the space program. When I worked in this area everything we did was new. Every project involved something that had never been done before. Even my son could see that this has changed with the space program. Perhaps this is why funding has not been what it should be. I wonder.
Anyway, why didn't they use one of the new Nokia phones with the 41MP camera? Nokia probably would have given them the cameras just for the publicity.
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Biomimicry has already found its way into the development of robots and new materials, with researchers studying animals and nature to come up with new innovations. Now thanks to researchers in Boston, biomimicry could even inform the future of electrical networks for next-generation displays.
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