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Hackaday Links: June 9, 2024

We’ve been harping a lot lately about the effort by carmakers to kill off AM radio, ostensibly because making EVs that don’t emit enough electromagnetic interference to swamp broadcast signals is a practical impossibility. In the US, push-back from lawmakers — no doubt spurred by radio industry lobbyists — has put the brakes on the move a bit, on the understandable grounds that an entire emergency communication system largely centered around AM radio has been in place for the last seven decades or so. Not so in Japan, though, as thirteen of the nation’s 47 broadcasters have voluntarily shut down their AM transmitters in what’s billed as an “impact study” by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The request for the study actually came from the broadcasters, with one being quoted in a hearing on the matter as “hop[ing] that AM broadcasting will be promptly discontinued.” So the writing is apparently on the wall for AM radio in Japan.

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The Fake Moon Landing Quarantine

We aren’t much into theories denying the moon landing around here, but [Dagomar Degroot], an associate professor at Georgetown University, asserts that the Apollo 11 quarantine efforts were bogus. Realistically, we think today that the chance of infection from the moon, of all places, is low. So claiming it was successful is like paying for a service that prevents elephants from falling through your chimney. Sure, it worked — there hasn’t been a single elephant!

According to [Degroot], the priority was to protect the astronauts and the mission, and most of the engineering money and effort went towards that risk reduction. The — admittedly low — danger of some alien plague wiping out life on Earth wasn’t given the same priority.

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Hackaday Links: May 14, 2023

It’s been a while since we heard from Dmitry Rogozin, the always-entertaining former director of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. Not content with sending mixed messages about the future of the ISS amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, or attempting to hack a mothballed German space telescope back into action, Rogozin is now spouting off that the Apollo moon landings never happened. His doubts about NASA’s seminal accomplishment apparently started while he was still head of Roscosmos when he tasked a group with looking into the Apollo landings. Rogozin’s conclusion from the data his team came back with isn’t especially creative; whereas some Apollo deniers go to great lengths to find “scientific proof” that we were never there, Rogozin just concluded that because NASA hasn’t ever repeated the feat, it must never have happened.

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Add A Little Quindar To Your Comms For That Apollo-Era Sound

If there’s one thing that ties together all the media coming out of the Apollo era, it’s probably the iconic Quindar tones. These quarter-second beeps served as control tones for the globe-spanning communications network needed to talk to the Apollo astronauts, and any attempt to recreate the Apollo-era sound would be glaringly wrong without them. And that’s why [CuriousMarc] whipped up this Quindar tone system.

The video below starts with a detailed treatment of what Quindar tones are and why they were used, a topic we’ve covered ourselves in the past. To recap, Quindar tones are a form of in-band signaling, with a 2,525-Hz pure sine wave intro tone that signaled the transmitters connected to Mission Control in Houston over leased telephone lines to key up. The 2,475-Hz outro tone turned off the transmitters and connected the line to the receivers.

To recreate the sound quality of the original circuitry, and to keep in the retro vibe, [Marc]’s Quindar homage avoided digital circuitry as much as possible, opting instead to generate the two tones with an XR-2206 function generator chip. The chip can rapidly switch back and forth between two frequencies, making it perfect for FSK applications or, in this case, reproducing the two slightly different tones. [Marc] added a dual mono-stable multi-vibrator to pulse the tone, giving the 250-ms pulse, and an audio gate, which uses a MOSFET to switch the tone into an audio stream. All this got soldered up to a piece of perf board and stuffed in the base of a cheap intercom microphone, which while not period accurate still has a cool retro look — and now, a retro sound, too.

Hats off to [CuriousMarc] and his merry band for probing the mysteries of Apollo-era comms and keeping the accomplishments of all those engineers alive. The methods they used are still relevant after all these years, and there seems to be no end to what we can learn from them.

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The Nixie Clock From Outer Space

Nixie clocks are nothing new. But [CuriousMarc] has one with a unique pedigree: the Apollo Program. While restoring the Apollo’s Central Timing Equipment box, [Marc] decided to throw together a nixie-based clock. The avionics unit in question sent timing pulses and a mission elapsed time signal to the rest of the spacecraft. Oddly enough, while it had an internal oscillator, it was only used during failures. It normally synched to the guidance computer’s onboard clock.

There is a detailed explanation of the unit, along with some of the ancillary equipment and panels. Much of what the output from the unit is driving counters to display timers, although some of the clocks drive other pieces of equipment, like the telemetry commutator, which time stamps each telemetry frame.

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NASA Aces Artemis I, But The Journey Has Just Begun

When NASA’s Orion capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean yesterday afternoon, it marked the end of a journey that started decades ago. The origins of the Orion capsule can be tracked back to a Lockheed Martin proposal from the early 2000s, and development of the towering Space Launch System rocket that sent it on its historic trip around the Moon started back in 2011 — although few at the time could have imagined that’s what it would end up being used for. The intended mission for the incredibly powerful Shuttle-derived rocket  changed so many times over the years that for a time it was referred to as the “Rocket to Nowhere”, as it appeared the agency couldn’t decide just where they wanted to send their flagship exploration vehicle.

But today, for perhaps the first time, the future of the SLS and Orion seem bright. The Artemis I mission wasn’t just a technical success by about pretty much every metric you’d care to use, it was also a public relations boon the likes of which NASA has rarely seen outside the dramatic landings of their Mars rovers. Tens of millions of people watched the unmanned mission blast off towards the Moon, a prelude to the global excitement that will surround the crewed follow-up flight currently scheduled for 2024.

As NASA’s commentators reminded viewers during the live streamed segments of the nearly 26-day long mission around the Moon, the test flight officially ushered in what the space agency is calling the Artemis Generation, a new era of lunar exploration that picks up where the Apollo left off. Rather than occasional hasty visits to its beautiful desolation, Artemis aims to lay the groundwork for a permanent human presence on our natural satellite.

With the successful conclusion of the Artemis I, NASA has now demonstrated effectively two-thirds of the hardware and techniques required to return humans to the surface of the Moon: SLS proved it has the power to send heavy payloads beyond low Earth orbit, and the long-duration flight Orion took around our nearest celestial neighbor ensured it’s more than up to the task of ferrying human explorers on a shorter and more direct route.

But of course, it would be unreasonable to expect the first flight of such a complex vehicle to go off without a hitch. While the primary mission goals were all accomplished, and the architecture generally met or exceeded pre-launch expectations, there’s still plenty of work to be done before NASA is ready for Artemis II.

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Hackaday Links: August 21, 2022

As side-channel attacks go, it’s one of the weirder ones we’ve heard of. But the tech news was filled with stories this week about how Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” is actually a form of cyberattack. It sounds a little hinky, but apparently this is an old vulnerability, as it was first noticed back in the days when laptops commonly had 5400-RPM hard drives. The vulnerability surfaced when the video for that particular ditty was played on a laptop, which would promptly crash. Nearby laptops of the same kind would also be affected, suggesting that whatever was crashing the machine wasn’t software related. As it turns out, some frequencies in the song were causing resonant vibrations in the drive. It’s not clear if anyone at the time asked the important questions, like exactly which part of the song was responsible or what the failure mode was on the drive. We’ll just take a guess and say that it was the drive heads popping and locking.

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