The Raspberry Pi computer, Ed, made sleep difficult for an astronaut due to its LED display. (Image Credit: Astro Pi)
The Raspberry Pi Foundation outlined how its hardware ran thousands of programs developed by young students to the International Space Station. The European Astro Pi Challenge provided young people with the opportunity to develop programs running on Raspberry Pi computers aboard the ISS. It offered two options for them to choose from, Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab. Overall, 9,408 programs were written and ran for thirty seconds each on two Raspberry Pi Computers, called Astro Pi Izzy and Astro Pi Ed.
The European Space Agency hosted the Mission Space Lab, open for participants aged 19 or younger. Those who completed the challenge received the Astro Pi Kit that contains Raspberry Pi (RPi) 3B Model B, an RPi Sense HAT, an RPi camera module, storage cards, and cables that plug into displays. The Sense HAT's LED matrix allowed programs to display both measurement and messages for the astronauts.
ESA's Columbus module, fixed on the ISS, contains two Astro Pi computers. These are equipped with sensors that monitor temperature, humidity, pressure, and acceleration. It also features a gyroscope along with a magnetic sensor. Astro Pi Ed was built to conduct experiments for space life. Izzy was developed to perform life-on-Earth experiments. This computer points toward Earth with an infrared camera, putting blue and near-infrared light through to provide an image of Earth vegetation.
The Astro Pi project began in September 2020, with the best experiments sent to the ISS in April. Teams that sent successful proposals receive their experimental results from the ISS to perform analysis and write final reports.
Although Ed and Izzy are small, ruggedized computers on the ISS, problems can still arise due to crowding. The ISS is usually home to seven crew members, but sometimes more is required, causing further issues.
"For one thing, 'crew bumping' is more likely, which is when the USB cable connecting an Astro Pi to power can become accidentally unplugged because an astronaut collides with it in the small space of the Columbus module," said Claire Given, an Astro Pi program manager for Raspberry Pi Foundation. "And this time, the snug sleeping situation made one of the crew members request permission to cover Astro Pi Ed's LED display during the 'night'! Why? The astronaut was 'bedding down' directly opposite Ed, and the light from the display was making sleep difficult! That just goes to show that, even in space, it's really best to avoid bright light if you need a good night's sleep."
Have a story tip? Message me at: http://twitter.com/Cabe_Atwell