Thursday, March 09, 2006

Space geek alert

Tomorrow, Friday, March 10th, from 2:30pm to 4:45pm Central time, the NASA channel will have live coverage of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) as it attempts to insert itself into orbit around Mars.

The MRO is the latest spacecraft sent to map and explore Mars. It will be able to take pictures of Mars in greater detail than any previous orbiter and will also be able to send information back to earth at a higher bit-rate than any previous exploration mission. To be able to send this data back at such a rapid rate, the MRO is using the Ka-band (32 gigahertz). It’s expected that the Ka-band will become the standard interplanetary transmission wavelength, making this mission the first step in establishing an interplanetary Internet-like structure. Very cool.

If you never watched the NASA channel before, you’ll see that the productions are earnest, but amateurish. Awkward pauses, dead-time, announcer miscues, etc., all happen with some frequency. But for me, that’s part of the allure. This is a show about science and space exploration being done live by the scientists doing the work, rather than some dog-and-pony show that’s long on quality but short on content.

The NASA channel is on DirecTV; channel 376. You can read more about the MRO mission here.

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