"Space… the final frontier" is how the pre-recorded message from NASA to the Crew of Discovery started this morning.
This afternoon while covering the final departure of Discovery from the ISS, the Newsman said "Remarkable – a remarkable bit of technology and a lasting mark on history" – or something to that effect. I thought "Remarkable" – that's a word Spock used to describe fantastic new technologies that had never been seen before. Things like Ion Drive in an autonomous space probe, or a life form that lives on something we'd considered impossible.
Some remarkable technologies demonstrated recently in the news include things like Northrop Gruman's X47B UCAS, and the comet flybys of Stardust NExT and DI Epoxi, and ongoing announcements of potentially hundreds of earth-like planets being found by Kepler Space Telescope.
One of the remarkable technologies just delivered to the ISS by Discovery is Robonaut R2. R2 is a telepresence operated robotic astronaut / assistant. It's the first robot designed to use the same tools as the astronauts, and to be able to assist them inside and outside on space missions.
Some other note worhty technology demonstrations/events coming up – later this month MESSENGER will orbit Mercury. In July Dawn will go into orbit around asteroid Vesta. Both of these orbital insertions represent "firsts" for mankind – the first time we've orbited and surveyed the sun-side of Mercury and the first time ever orbiting an asteroid.
All of these devices contain within them a bit of technology called VxWorks. It's probably being used somewhere in the infrastructure that gets this posting to your monitor. VxWorks has unparalled maturty and flexibility, going into everything from that internet modem in the closet to autonomous vehicles and robots. I think that's also kind of remarkable…