Space crafts phone home

DSN LogoGreat long read about the Deep Space Network (DSN), the system that talks (and listens) to all the space crafts. Started in late 1963, it has been supporting space craft 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for over 54 years.

The DSN has many vital roles, but one of its biggest is to serve as the communication link between Earth and its robotic emissaries in deep space — anything from the moon and beyond. Every image we’ve ever received from deep space, every relay of scientific data, even those famous words the Eagle has landed, was collected by the dishes of the Deep Space Network.

The DSN faces many challenges, but their biggest one might be the current funding crunch they are experiencing. It is hard to point to concrete benefits of the program, but the information we have learned about our solar systems and the amazing photos that have been sent back I think justify their budget of approximately $200 million a year.

It covers everything from maintaining the dishes to the ongoing upgrades to the antennas to paying the 300-plus people who work at the dishes around the world. For comparison, the total value of all the robotic missions currently in deep space is around $25 billion and growing.

For something really cool check out DSN Now to see the status of the satellite dishes at the 3 DSN locations (Goldstone, California; Madrid, Spain; and Canberra, Australia) and see which ones are actively downlinking and uplinking data in real time and to which space craft. The squiggly lines are mesmerizing.

Pippen – Apple’s attempt at a gaming system

Pippen Good backstory on the game system Apple tried to build in the 90’s.

I was at Apple during this period – I was working in a large centralized Quality organization that tested most all of the hardware and software that came out of Apple. I knew of Pippen, but was not aware of the behind the scenes stuff.

I remember this coming to us for testing and we had to keep it in a secret lab (aka a conference room with the window covered). But I don’t recall the testing lasting very long or every reaching a shippable state.

Free range parenting – aka How my generation grew up

20000923 DCP 0459Last week in Utah a law was signed into effect that “would allow kids the freedom to walk to and from school, wait in parked cars (while their parents run errands in a store, for example), and visit playgrounds solo

Or what most of us did growing up.

While “it’s not explicitly unlawful for kids to play or walk alone outside; the bill, however, makes it harder to penalize parents for allowing their kids to do so“.

I remember as a kid in 3rd grade my brother and I would walk from home to the stables to ride our pony (yes I had a pony when I was a kid and my sister had horses – we were so spoiled). Distance was 1-1.5 miles.

I remember walking home from school when I was in in 5th and 6th grade in Utah. Distance was about 1.3 miles.

I remember going out to play in the forest across the street, at the school down the street, or at my friends house. All places we went to by ourselves.

Mom knew where we were and made sure we made safe choices, but we had the freedom to explore and be independent. I am not sure if all the things we are afraid of today existed back then but were not publicized, or it was really a different time.
I like to think it was somewhere in between. There were dangers but we made smart choices regarding where we went and who we were with.

A happy dog day

Stella But all is not sad in the Gibson household when it comes to dogs.

Last summer we fell into an opportunity to rescue a dog – a small German Shepard mix. We named her Stella (or Stella Blue if you ask Beverly).

We are guessing she is 1-2 – she sure has the energy of a puppy. She is wicked smart and extremely loving. She loves going to get coffee and gas with me, or to the pet store with Beverly.

Oh – and chasing balls. She LOVES to chase balls. I think if we did not stop she would keep going until she collapsed.

The Stella Flickr album

A sad dog day

Guinness HeadshotAll dogs are special – but our black lab Guinness was really special.
He came to us via a breeder in the UK. He was 3 years old at the time and he had had some medical issues that we never got all the background on.

For the past 10 years he has been an integral part of our family and was strongly bonded to Beverly. He traveled with us to Utah, to Oregon, and loved going to Mavericks (a beach near where we live). Like all Labs he loved to eat, sleep, go for walks, then eat some more.

Unfortunately old age, and maybe some of his preexisting conditions, caught up with him. Guinness’ last day was March 11. He will be missed beyond words.

A Flickr Album of Guinness photos