Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Science Rules, Religion Drools: Juno is orbiting Jupiter

NASA's Juno satellite has successfully entered a stable orbit around Jupiter after a five year trip. It is an amazing feat done to precision within metres of their goal from six hundred million kilometres away, and done with fifteen year old technology.

Why did they use technology from 2000 when when building Juno in 2010? Because you can't fix problems once the rocket leaves Earth. You HAVE to be 100% sure your equipment is bug-free and guaranteed to last. "Leading edge technology" is better termed "bleeding edge" because it cuts you and makes you sweat blood.

The New Horizons satellite that left Earth for Pluto back in 2006 sends back data at 1kbps (mp3s are usually 128kbps) using a mid-1990s 56K modem. It takes an 1h 45m to send ONE 1024x768 picture back to Earth, and it takes 4.5h to get here. Why use a modem that slow? Because it WORKS at that distance. Getting the data back reliably is the priority, not the speed.

Also of import, the lessons of the ESA in 2014 seem to have been learnt. Every male at NASA was wearing a plain polo shirt with a NASA logo. Not a single obscene shirt was seen anywhere.

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