Here is the phone that powers NASA space robots (hint: it runs Android)

Here is the phone that powers NASA space robots (hint: it runs Android)
NASA embarked on an ambitious project a couple of years ago - using a smartphone to power its space robot, the SPHERES satellite. The robots are helpers used in the International Space Station (ISS) to examine cameras and check sound and radiation levels.

The project is now live and there are two smartphones in space on the ISS helping with operations, but picking the right phone and preparing it for its journey was not a trivial task. Interestingly, after looking at the HTC Nexus One, the team decided to skip on it and actually use the next generation Samsung Nexus S. Here is why:

"We knew of other projects that were using the Nexus One, and HTC had done some interesting things in that phone that didn't make it ideal for us. It has to do with [HTC's] battery technology—it has to be a proprietary battery or it won’t boot up,” Mark Micire, research scientist and project lead of the Intelligent Robotics Group at Nasa said.

The battery requirement has a lot to do with they way batteries crash. Conventional alkaline batteries leakage is much easier to contain and that’s one of the modifications the NASA team did for the Nexus S - it made it run on them.

But then came the software challenges. Since not everything is publicly available, a lot of reverse engineering had to happen. Because of possible interference, NASA engineers had to put the phone in a constant airplane mode, and after some tinkering they found out that it was the TXRX amplifier that had to be removed to achieve that.

Ultimately, the Human Exploration and Telerobotics Project (HET) behind all that showed its respect for the big achievement that Android is saying “you just get so much that comes for free with the platform.”

"We made the right decision by going with Android because the ability to remove the lithium battery and have it run off of alkaline batteries I think would have been a lot more difficult with the Apple products... and having it work without a driver under Windows XP … It’s humbling to say that even NASA can’t outrun the advancements that are happening with the mobile phone,” said Micire.

source: Ars Technica

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