In July of 1969 Neil Armstrong made history by expanding the boundaries of humankind and proving for once and disappointing all that the moon was not actually made of cheese. Sadly, this American hero passed away on Saturday having reached the more than respectable age of 82, but what he leaves behind him, aside from his unique achievement and one of the best known quotes in the English language, is the giant leap for science that his Apollo 11 and subsequent manned moon missions gave the world.
TV satellite dishes, medical imaging equipment, the in-ear thermometer, smoke detectors, cordless power tools, video game joysticks, GPS, weather satellites, freeze-dried food, communication satellite and shock-absorbing material used in helmets – all these (and much more besides) are a product of technologies originally developed for the Apollo missions.
Also, of course, without some of the aforementioned satellites you wouldn’t be reading this now as smartphones wouldn’t exist and I, worst of all, wouldn’t have a job writing about them. So it seems extra fitting that the space-monkeys at NASA who put Armstrong up on that rock in the first place are now developing a new concept in satellites that have Android at their heart.
The PhoneSat is a cubic satellite, roughly four inches in size, that’s controlled by an Android-powered smartphone. Costing a miserly £2,300 to produce, the space agency has already tested PhoneSat 1.0 and is currently developing PhoneSat 2.0 which, whilst still Google OS dependent, will also include the additional features of two-way communication (well, it is a phone, NASA. I mean, it’s not rocket science, is it?) and the use of magnets to stabilise orientation.
Due to be fired into the firmament in 2013, Commander Armstrong may have now gone to explore the true final frontier, but his legacy lives on as an everyday technology his work helped develop heads to the heavens after him.
R.I.P. Neil Alden Armstrong 1930 – 2012.