Science

NASA: Check Out Pics Of Earths ... From Android Phones In Space

By Nina Sen , May 04, 2013 11:44 AM EDT
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Three Android-powered smartphone satellites returned their first images of Earth yesterday, according to NASA.

The blurry images were captured by "PhoneSats," a new, cheap, ultrasmall type of satellite powered by Android smartphones. NASA launched the PhoneSats into orbit late last month.

"During the short time the spacecraft were in orbit, we were able to demonstrate the smartphones' ability to act as satellites in the space environment. The three miniature satellites used their smartphone cameras to take pictures of Earth and transmitted these image-data packets to multiple ground stations. Every packet held a small piece of the big picture. As the data became available, the PhoneSat Team and multiple amateur radio operators around the world collaborated to piece together photographs from the tiny data packets." said Bruce Yost, the program manager for NASA's Small Satellite Technology Program, in a statement released yesterday.

The goal of NASA's mission was to see how capable these tiny nanosatellites are in space. The phones were encased in 4-inch metal cubes and hooked up to external lithium-ion battery packs and very powerful radios. The devices were sent into orbit about 150 miles above our planet for six days.

NASA also wants to see whether Android smartphone satellites could one day serve as the brains of inexpensive, but powerful, devices in space.

"Three days into the mission we already had received more than 300 data packets. About 200 of the data packets were contributed by the global community and the remaining packets were received from members of our team with the help of the Ames Amateur Radio Club station, NA6MF," Alberto Guillen Salas, an engineer at Ames and a member of the PhoneSat team added.

Unfortunately, the images are all that's left of the PhoneSats. Predicted atmospheric drag caused the PhoneSats to re-enter Earth's atmosphere and burn up.

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