Recently in the Hardware Hacks Category


As NASA spacecraft explore deeper into space, onboard computer electronics must not only be smaller and faster, but also be prepared for extreme conditions.

On 24 April 2015 a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal - a nation woefully unprepared to respond to such an event. Nearly 300 aftershocks of magnitude 4.0 or greater have rattled the country for the past month.

Recreating Avatar Technology at Home

"This is the culmination of my last year's work. I control the robot's arms through the Kinect and Wii remotes. I control the robot's navigation through the Kinect and treadmill. I control the robot's head through the head mounted display (HMD). I also see through the robot's eyes with the HMD. After doing this exercise, it became apparent that the next feature to add is hearing and speaking through the robot. Luckily both the NAO and my HMD have microphones and speakers so this shouldn't be too difficult." More information.

This about this: In addition to recreating the basic technology depicted in the film "Avatar", this also shos how straightforward it is to create telepresence. One would hope NASA is looking at simple, commercially available and easily adaptable interfaces such as these whereby Robonuat can be controlled - from the ISS and from Earth.

Video: Hacking Kinect - NASA Applications?

Think for a moment: Remember all of the things in "Avatar", "Star Trek", and other SciFi films that were controlled by people waving their hands over sexy looking devices, wandering around holodecks, or using remotely controlled bodies. When Kinect was first released, Microsoft was against anyone hacking it. A similar thing happened when LEGO Mindstorms was released and hobbyists began to fiddle with the software. As was the case with LEGO, Microsoft has done a complete 180 and has overtly embraced the notion that people can take technology and do things that its originators never imagined. How could Kinect hacks change the way that NASA does things? What would it be like to use Kinect as a whole body interface with 360 degrees of movement while living in microgravity aboard the ISS? Could NASA control Robonaut this way?

Innovators Sought for DARPA Satellite Servicing Program, DARPA

"More than $300 billion worth of satellites are estimated to be in the geosynchronous orbit (GEO--22,000 miles above the earth). Many of these satellites have been retired due to normal end of useful life, obsolescence or failure; yet many still have valuable components, such as antennas, that could last much longer than the life of the satellite. When satellites in GEO "retire," they are put into a GEO disposal or "graveyard" orbit. DARPA's Phoenix program seeks to develop technologies to cooperatively harvest and re-use valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites in GEO and demonstrate the ability to create new space systems at greatly reduced cost."

Technoarchaeology: Waking Up Propsero

"Prospero was the first UK satellite to be launched on a UK launch vehicle; it would also be the last. Ministers had cancelled the rocket project in the run up to the flight. However, as the Black Arrow was ready, the programme team decided to go-ahead anyway. Prospero was blasted into orbit from the remote Woomera base in the Australian desert. It turns out, the satellite is still up there. Carrying a series of experiments to investigate the effects of the space environment, the satellite operated successfully until 1973 and was contacted annually until 1996. Now, a team led by PhD student Roger Duthie from University College London's Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Surrey is hoping to re-establish communications in time for the satellite's 40th anniversary. "First, we have to re-engineer the ground segment from knowledge lost, then test the communications to see if it's still alive," Duthie told the Space Boffins podcast." More at the BBC

According to Wikipedia "As of 2006, radio transmissions from Prospero could still be heard on 137.560 MHz,[4] although it had officially been deactivated in 1996, when the UK's Defence Research Establishment decommissioned their satellite tracking station at Lasham, Hampshire. It is in a low Earth orbit, and is not expected to decay for about 100 years."

45 Years ago today, on 23 August 1966, Lunar Orbiter 1 snapped the first photo of Earth as seen from lunar orbit. While a remarkable image at the time, the full resolution of the image was never retrieved from the data stored from the mission. In 2008, this earthrise image was restored by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project at NASA Ames Research Center. We obtained the original data tapes from the mission (the last surviving set) and restored original FR-900 tape drives to operational condition using both 60s era parts and modern electronics. The following links provide background on the image, its restoration, and reactions to its release.

- Newly Restored Lunar Orbiter Image of Earth and Moon (Detail)
- How the Photo Was Taken
- House of Representatives Honors Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project
- Nimbus II and Lunar Orbiter 1 Imagery: A New Look at Earth in 1966
- Dumpster Diving for Science, Science Magazine
- What Lunar Orbiter 1 Was Seeing on 23 August 1966

"The team behind Project HiJack envisions users building low-cost sensing and data acquisition systems for student and laboratory use. So far, it has built an EKG interface, soil moisture sensor, an integrated prototype with temperature/humidity sensors, PIR motion sensor, and potentiometer, and a version with a breadboard for prototyping new sensor applications.

Schematics for the HiJack board, as well as source code to enable communication via the audio port, are available on Google Code so that anyone with some soldering skills and the wherewithal can build a HiJack for his or her own use. Currently, software exists to work on iOS, but the hardware design should work with nearly any mobile device that has a combination headphone/microphone jack. The team plans to build APIs to enable the HiJack to work on Android and Windows Phone 7 in the future." More info and video at ars technica

"What do NASA techies do with their spare time? They make rock-n-roll videos. Not the big-hair, booty-shaking, smoke-and-fire kind. They help make rock videos that would make their daytime colleagues proud or jealous, or both. The rock band OK Go prides itself on creative visual expressions of their music, and they wanted an extra dose of gee-whiz fun for their new song "This Too Shall Pass." In the winter of 2010, the group enlisted the help of Syyn Labs -- a self-described "group of creative engineers who twist together art and technology." The Syyn Labs fraternity included (or ensnared) four staff members from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory."

More at NASA Blogs

Hacking a Roomba into a Rover

All terrain Roomba, Hack a Day

"This little rover gets around on rough terrain pretty well. [Dean Segovis] built it using parts from a Roomba. The Roomba uses wheels in conjunction with gearboxes that handle a lot of the dirty work in getting this prototype going. [Dean] grabbed four of them, as well as the motor controller board and batter, and installed them on this Rocker-bogie suspension."

Note: We have several Roomba's sitting on a shelf at McMoon's (Bldg 596)...

Coming Soon: Rocket Hacking

"Dennis Wingo: I thought this was interesting and since I am always looking for spares for our LOIRP FR-900's I check it out on eBay. ... When I looked I was pretty certain that these were boards from our FR-900 machines. It had the right part numbers, so I called Ken Zin at home the night before Thanksgiving and asked him to verify, which he did and noted that these are newer version boards of the ones that we have!! So I bid on them and won them today." [More at MoonViews]