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August 9, 2015

5 tech companies that helped NASA in the space race

Find out how Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Plantronics, Safari and Dell are helping us discover other worlds.

By Alexander Sword

In the wake of NASA’s discovery of one of the most compelling candidates for Earth 2.0, CBR revisits some of tech companies’ most notable contributions to the space race.

1. Microsoft

There are all sorts of preparations being made for mankind’s eventual trip to the Red Planet, including a widely reported mock mission in which a crew of six spent 520 days inside a windowless facility in Moscow. Mars One received over 200,000 volunteers for its planned trip, due to launch next decade.

The first manned mission may be a while off, but for those who can’t wait, they can now experience it through Microsoft HoloLens; NASA and Microsoft worked together to develop software called OnSight which allows scientists to work virtually on Mars. The system uses real Rover data to construct a virtual Martian landscape which can be explored.

2. Plantronics

In early 1969, Dean Armstrong was playing a game of Risk with his brother Neil when the latter handed him a piece of paper, saying "read that." On it were some of the most famous words ever to be spoken in the English language: "that’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

Millions heard Armstrong’s famous broadcast, but fewer are aware of the hardware that these words were transmitted on. He was wearing a Plantronics headset as he stepped onto the surface of the moon; the communications company also produced the MS50 for the Mercury mission that was the first ever headset to enter into outer space.

3. Samsung

Mobility is all about being able to access information and applications through devices, wherever you are – including, apparently, in space. NASA’s last space shuttle launch in 2011 were carrying the Samsung Google Nexus S, the first commercial smartphone approved for use on the International Space Station.

Small, free-flying satellites on the space station were then equipped with the device, which features the Android platform. The satellites have their own onboard power, propulsion, computing and navigational software and are enhanced by the modified consumer device.

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4. Safari

Of course coding isn’t as glamorous as some of the other activities that NASA is involved with, but it’s an important job. Safari, the platform for technology and business learning, is mucking in by providing a "Secure Coding and Coding Standards" tutorial for NASA space and ground systems developers.

The tool allows navigation to curated content from books and video courses in the Safar library, helping learners to code securely and access resources. Secure coding is recognised as key for developing secure software systems.

5. Dell

Another old-guard IT company now sporting Martian credentials is Dell, which provided HPC Clusters, Galaxy and Nebula, powered by Dell PowerEdge, to assist NASA’s trip there in 2012. These clusters were used to analyse the mission data to support the landing of the Mars rover, Curiosity.

The final landing sequence parameters developed by the mission team were uploaded just before the landing in August 2012.

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