Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin deploying science experiments. NASA recently released the guidance computer source code for both the Command and Lunar modules on GitHub.
Over the last several months, NASA has been releasing a ton of new information on everything from the Apollo missions to the Viking landers. So much so that it has now culminated into ‘why not just release every bit of information we have?’- said some NASA scientists probably. Actually, they were ordered to by the Obama administration back in 2013 via the Office and Science and Technology Policy (https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/02/22/expanding-public-access-results-federally-funded-research), which essentially directed a handful of agencies to increase public access to their respective research (the NSA refused to participate but totally heard it coming).
With that in mind, we will break down the more important releases NASA has made this year and provide a summarization of what each have to offer. Most all of it is now available to the public in one fashion or another, whether it be through downloads or public web portal. So let’s begin with the first release NASA made back in July of this year dealing with the Apollo program.
Inside the Apollo 11 Lunar Module- the guidance computer (AGC) sported the equivalent of 16k of memory and ran at 0.043MHz.
More specifically, the Apollo 11 mission, which put the first men on the moon using a computer that had the equivalent power of a pocket calculator. Regardless of the power, the ACG (Apollo Guidance Computer) did run some impressive software for the time, which was stored on core rope memory- wire actually woven together by hand that acted as bits. MIT programmers wrote thousands of lines of code for the ACG and actually developed the first assembly programming language and interpreter that was designed from scratch.
The source code for the Command Module and Lunar Module has been readily available online since 2003 and was transcribed line-by-line by Ron Burkey from scanned images of the MIT hardcopies. He even made an ACG simulator using the code, which can be found here (http://www.ibiblio.org/apollo/). The code didn’t actually go mainstream until a former NASA intern uploaded the source code to GitHub that it went mainstream with programmers everywhere. Those looking to download the code for both the Command (Comanche055) and Lunar (Luminary099) Modules can do so here (https://github.com/chrislgarry/Apollo-11).
Those wanting to get a feel of what it was like inside the Apollo 11 Command Module to further their nostalgia can do so in 3D. The Smithsonian released a 3600 virtual model online shortly after the code was uploaded to GitHub and allows users to explore every inch of the inside with a 3600 view. A team of workers actually 3D scanned the inside of the original Command Module using a laser scanner mounted to a robotic control system in order to create the detailed model.
The raw data (7-terrabytes worth) was then pieced together and refined using Autodesk and the result is astounding. Those that want to explore the inside of Apollo 11 and see how the Smithsonian team designed the 3D model can do so here (https://3d.si.edu/apollo11cm/)
A NASA artistic view of the Viking 1 Orbiter and Lander- NASA is currently digitizing the data gathered from the Viking missions.
Apollo 11 is not the only program getting attention from NASA, the Viking missions are as well but instead of focusing on source code NASA will focus on the data collected during those missions instead. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Viking missions to Mars, NASA is in the process of digitizing a ton of data that was collected over the years during both outings to the red planet.
Viking 1 and 2 were the first NASA missions to successfully land craft on another planet. The goal was to take high-res images of the surface, collect information on the air and soil as well as search for extraterrestrial life. After years of collecting data, both spacecraft ceased communicating with Earth and the data collected was studied then transferred to microfilm and computer tape and subsequently stored away. 20 years later, a university biology professor asked NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive scientist David Williams for data from the Viking biological experiments.
It was then David realized that he couldn’t just hand over the only data on microfilm over without having a backup. If something happened to it all data would be lost and it was then that it was decided that David decided to undertake the daunting task of digitizing the information so that it could be accessed by anyone looking for that data on the internet. Not to mention the fact that the data collected could be compared to new data collected by the Mars rovers.
David and an archive team are continuing to digitize all of the information and it’s currently unknown when the task will be complete. Those looking for more information on the Viking missions and any updates to the data digitization should head to nasa.gov.
(source: http://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/nasas-viking-data-lives-on-inspires-40-years-later, Pic: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/19/Viking_Orbiter_releasing_the_lander.jpg/640px-Viking_Orbiter_releasing_the_lander.jpg)
NASA’s online portal PubSpace will let anyone access all of its research data as it becomes available.
Finally, the latest news from NASA should elate all science enthusiasts everywhere- they are uploading all of their research data using a web portal known as NASA PubSpace, which will allow anyone to access research data when it becomes available. This includes scholarly journals and papers from NASA-funded endeavors as well.
What’s more, all NASA-funded research material will have to be posted online within one year of being published. This of course, is due to NASA’s ‘ongoing commitment to providing broad public access to science data’. The NASA PubSpace itself can already be accessed here (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/funder/nasa/) and has a ton of information on everything from learning to live on Mars to the toxicity effects of lunar dust inhaled by rats. There’s even information on extraterrestrial biomarkers in Earth-like environments.
The PubSpace will continuously be updated when more content becomes available and as it stands right now, there’s enough information there to last users a lifetime to go over and the list grows daily. A similar program is also underway in the EU with all science papers set to be available by 2020 by order of the Competitives Council (a conglomerate of scientists, innovators and industrialists), however they have a clause that will allow data to be kept private if there are ‘well-founded reasons for doing so’ (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/may/28/eu-ministers-2020-target-free-access-scientific-papers). Pretty sure NASA has a clause like that too, especially when it concerns extraterrestrial aliens or reasons of national security.
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