Back in October, I wrote a short post about a father-son DIY project that sent an iPhone into the upper stratosphere. In December, the geeks at Google did the same thing, but with more of a mind toward data (and cool picture) collecting. Well, NASA one-upped them all by taking not one, but two Android Nexus S smartphones into orbit with the final space shuttle mission. They weren’t used to phone home or anything quite so cliché (but cool!) — nope, these little robot-bearing phones were actually used to control other, more sophisticated robots: SPHERE satellites.
SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) are small, “volleyball-sized” robots that are used to capture video footage and record sensor data. Normally, the astronauts do this manually, but with the satellites and their fancy Android-powered phone-brains, these things can be controlled from the ground — via WiFi.
According to the Google blog, NASA decided that Android was perfect for them due to its configurable open source nature, as well as the handy app that some Google engineers built for logging sensor data (you can download the app yourself from the Android Market). Apparently, the multiple sensors and low-powered/high performance processor of the Nexus S was also a selling point.
Google’s been making a lot of big moves this past year, what with Plus, the redesign, the Chromebook, Chrome Web Store, and the purchase of a major cell-phone company (Motorola Mobility). Why shouldn’t they get some representation in space too? It only makes sense. And it’s only a matter of time until either Google or Apple carve their logo into the face of the moon for all to see. Am I right or am I right?
Android in Spaaaace Part 2 [Google Blog]