The popular press was recently abuzz with sad news from the planet Mars: Opportunity, the little rover that could, could do no more. It took an astonishing 15 years for it to give up the ghost, and it took a planet-wide dust storm that blotted out the sun and plunged the rover into apocalyptically dark and cold conditions to finally kill the machine. It lived 37 times longer than its 90-sol design life, producing mountains of data that will take another 15 years or more to fully digest.
Entire careers were unexpectedly built around Opportunity – officially but bloodlessly dubbed “Mars Exploration Rover-B”, or MER-B – as it stubbornly extended its mission and overcame obstacles both figurative and literal. But “Oppy” is far from the only long-duration success that NASA can boast about. Now that Opportunity has sent its last data, it seems only fitting to celebrate the achievement with a look at exactly how machines and missions can survive and thrive so long in the harshest possible conditions.
Continue reading “Engineering for the Long Haul, the NASA Way”
GPS is a global technology these days, with the Russian GLONASS system and the forthcoming European Galileo orbiting alongside the original US GPS satellites above our heads. [Florin Duroiu] decided to embrace globalism by forking the TinyGPS library for the Arduino platform to add support for these satellite constellations.
In addition to the GLONASS support, the new version of the venerable TinyGPS adds some neat new features by incorporating the NMEA 3.0 standard (warning: big-ass PDF link). Using this, you can extract interesting stuff such as the calculated position from each satellite constellation, the signal strength of each satellite and a lot more technical stuff about what the satellites are saying about you to your GPS receiver. [Florin] claims it is a drop-in replacement for TinyGPS that should require no rewriting. There is no support for Galileo just yet (as the satellites are still being launched: eight are in orbit now), but [Florin] is looking for help to add this, as well as the new Chinese BEIDOU system once it is operational.
(top image: artists’ view of a Galileo satellite in orbit, courtesy of ESA)
Dev boards based on microcontrollers and ARM System on Chips are everywhere, but finding a small pocketable computer based on an Intel processor has been difficult to find. [Massimo] of Arduino just unveiled a new Intel architecture Arduino-compatible board at the Rome Maker Faire. It’s called the Galileo, and it has everything you’d expect from a juiced-up Arduino running x86.
The main chip is an Intel Quark SoC running at 400MHz with 256 MB of DRAM. On board is a Mini-PCIe slot, 100Mb Ethernet port, Micro SD slot, RS-232, and USB host and client ports. Here’s the datasheet for the Galileo with all the applicable information.
The Galileo can be programmed with the standard Arduino IDE, but from the getting started guide, it looks like this board is running Yocto, a stripped down Linux for embedded environments.
Realistically, what we have here is a board with about the same processing power as a Raspberry Pi, but with Arduino compatibility, and a Mini PCIe port for some really fun stuff. It will be interesting to see what can be made with this board, but if you have any ideas on what to do with a Galileo before it’s released in two months, drop a note in the comments.