Mars Gets Broadband Connection

New orbiter will provide future missions with high data rates

3 min read

When NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reaches the Red Planet next month, it will immediately seek out areas where water once flowed, try to identify habitats where ancient life might have thrived, and start mapping the entire planet in unprecedented detail. But the orbiter's arrival at Mars will also set the stage for a new epoch in spacecraft telecommunications. Its onboard Electra UHF relay transceiver [see photo, " "] will serve as an engineering test bed for new communications and navigation technology that will be required for all future orbiters, landers, and rovers, to provide the faster data rates required for transfer of information from rovers and landers on the Martian surface to orbiters circling above.

The early Mars landers, like the 1976 Viking and the 1997 Mars Pathfinder, sent data directly back to Earth using X-Band antennas that could manage no more than 1 to 10 kilobits per second of data. But when Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004 to explore its surface, they carried cameras that could produce dramatic panoramic pictures representing 500 megabytes of data. Accordingly, rather than transfer data straight back to Earth, their X-Band system first transferred data to the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey orbiters, which were equipped with UHF transceivers that could support transfer rates of up to 128 kb/s.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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