Nexus 1 put in orbit to prove 'in space, no one can hear you scream'
WARP-DRIVE-fitted shrieking mobe strapped to publicity-sat
Surrey-based space boffins have put a Google Nexus 1 into orbit to see how an Android phone copes with the rigours of space - and whether they can hear it scream.
The handset hasn't been switched on yet. It's being carried in STRaND-1: a 4.3kg microsatellite that was itself carried into space by an Indian rocket, ISRO PSLV-C20, and is now happily in touch with the ground.
The STRaND-1 team, drawn from the University of Surrey and Surrey Satellite Technology, reckons it will take a couple of weeks to get the micro-bird commissioned after which they'll be booting up the Nexus 1 and (all being well) handing over control to the Android handset. The phone is physically unmodified but is running the boffins' software and is hooked up via USB.
Once in command, the Nexus 1 will take some snaps with its integrated camera and measure changes in the surrounding magnetic field using its built-in magnometer. It'll also play videos of people screaming and try to record the performance using its microphone and a separate camera. This, er, experiment was cooked up by Cambridge University students as a homage to the Alien movie tagline "in space no one can hear you scream".
The screaming is quite silly given the way sound fails to propagate through the vacuum of space (much to the annoyance of many a Hollywood director), but it serves to publicise the project. The second camera will also record another screen showing the satellite's telemetry.
The STRaND-1 is one of six microsatellites launched by ISRO PSLV-C20 (along with a proper bird designed for oceanological studies), and the only one from the UK.
When it's not fiddling with its smartphone, STRaND-1 will test out a WARP DRiVE, which disappointingly turns out to involve squirting alcohol mist to trigger reentry (hence the name Water Alcohol Resistojet Propulsion Deorbit Re-entry Velocity Experiment) rather than anything likely to attract the attention of a passing Vulcan scout ship. But it could prove very useful to future microsatellites along with the Pulsed Plasma Thruster it will also be testing.
Radio amateurs may wish to pick up STRaND-1's transmissions from space, while the rest of us can drop into the Facebook page or watch the team's Twitter feed to see if the Nexus 1 can stand up to cosmic radiation and hard vacuum, and if the Vulcans are more observant than one might imagine. ®
Actually, as I understand it (and I'm one of the team, although I'm speaking on my own behalf), much of the funding came from Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., a commercial entity. The total cost of the satellite, according to the STRaND-1 FAQs, is "only slightly more than a high-end family car," so we're hardly talking big bucks.
In any case, that app was only one of a number chosen by open competition, and the mission itself is designed to achieve a large number of research, development and strategic objectives. By a successful launch, and our first telecommand/telemetry exchanges, we've already achieved a fair few of them. Screams in space is a nice publicity point, but hardly the point of the exercise.
Official Apple Maps make people scream, but nobody can hear their cries for help since they're somewhere in the middle of a desert.
Surely a Nexus 1, like so much other stuff, has one of those little EU logos saying it must be returned for recycling to an approved organisation and not binned, sent to landfill, burned up on atmospheric reentry, etc?
Is someone going to get into trouble?