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An Astronaut's View of Space Station Tech 115

An anonymous reader writes "Here's a chat with a NASA astronaut about how they fix system outages on board the International Space Station, what kind of computing tech they use on board, and how he would like to see the iPad used on the ISS." He talks about using 5 year old laptops because they had been tested to handle the stresses of space travel, as well as the importance of being able to read emails and send pictures to family while aboard a space station for months at a time.
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An Astronaut's View of Space Station Tech

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 18, 2010 @12:36PM (#34269364)

    One page version of the article [].

    Not that I bothered reading it.... if they are quoting astronauts advocating ipads, it is clearly just yet another propaganda piece pushing mindless consumption. Very few people will operate a computer in zero gravity, and whilst it is possible that no keyboard and being stuck in a closed playground could be good in space, I should think the ipad would suck as much as when on the ground.

  • Re:MTBF (Score:3, Informative)

    by Samantha Wright ( 1324923 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @12:59PM (#34269774) Homepage Journal
    No, this is not true. We had a story here some time ago about how they've upgraded to the Lenovo T61p Thinkpad. 1680x1050, yeah! I know this because I have a T61. They're damn solid, and pretty contemporary—Core 2 Duos around 2.5 GHz.
  • Re:IPAD vs Laptop (Score:4, Informative)

    by sahonen ( 680948 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @01:49PM (#34270654) Homepage Journal
    A few interesting things about GPS in space:

    a) All GPS receivers capable of sensing a position higher than 11 miles or a velocity higher than 515 meters/sec are classified as munitions and require state department licenses to export... Pretty much no consumer GPS receiver, including the iPad is going to be able to find itself in orbit. OTOH, the Space Shuttle itself uses GPS for space navigation, and I'm sure the ISS has a GPS receiver on board as well that can find its own location.

    b) The GPS satellites orbit at 20,000 km, while the ISS orbits at 350km... The strength of the signal isn't really all that affected.
  • Re:MTBF (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nirvelli ( 851945 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @01:52PM (#34270692)
    I'm typing this on a 5-year-old laptop with a 5-year-old installation of XP on it. I've had to add RAM and replace the battery and swap out the charger a few times, but otherwise this thing still runs great. You just have to actually take care of your equipment.
  • Re:HAL! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 18, 2010 @08:03PM (#34276610)

    Close - the PCS systems are currently Lenovo T61p systems. Both the T61p's currently used and the previously used A31p laptops run a very stripped down version of Scientific Linux with a custom kernel and a basic Motif Window Manager desktop.

    On top of the MWM desktop they use a custom built toolbar to provide a sort of Windows-like look and feel.

  • Re:IPAD vs Laptop (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 18, 2010 @08:16PM (#34276712)

    You are dead wrong in your statement that "all flight computing, life support control, etc. is done on the same computers that the astronauts use for their email"

    First, all the station MDMs do the flight control computing - they are special-built hardened special purpose computers.

    The PCS laptops are used as the human interface into the station MDMs - to display the status of various station systems, annunciate caution and warning alarms, and to send commands.

    The SSC laptops are used for general day-to-day computing such as email and word processing.

    While PCS and SSC use the same model laptop, PCS is a Linux-based system, while the SSC uses Windows.

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus