By Alex Wilson
This year was one for some decade anniversaries, always big occasions, the first being 30 years since my graduation from Imperial College. I have many fond memories of life at Imperial, including my first computing experience in FORTRAN 77 on the college mainframe, and meeting my future Brother-in-Law! This year we all met up to celebrate this anniversary at Imperial Festival, an excellent event put on by Imperial to showcase research, and of course have some fun.
The second decade anniversary was that in May 1996, I joined Wind River, so 20 years ago! I remember it was a big move for the family, relocating to Birmingham in the UK, with a baby Daughter (who coincidentally is going to do her clinical studies at Imperial!), and moving from a huge corporation (Motorola as was) to a small software company.
1996 was a great time to join Wind River; we were expanding rapidly at the time after the launch if our first Tornado IDE version, and that year NASA launched its first robotic mission to Mars, the Pathfinder. It was very exciting to see the marketing unroll as in typical NASA flair they landed Pathfinder on July 4th 1997, and VxWorks would perform navigation and landing, and then start its job of communications back to earth (it was also featured in the blockbuster film “The Martian”)
So, to coincidences. NASA is now on its third generation robotic explorer, all running VxWorks, Pathfinder I have already mentioned, Spirit & Opportunity had VxWorks move up onto the rover itself (Opportunity just had its 12th birthday on Mars!) and the latest is Curiosity, with some very advanced science capabilities.
It turns out in the Imperial Showcase event was a exhibit showing Curiosity! Imperial have been part of the Geological team instructing Curiosity on what to investigate, and analysing data! I met Professor Sanjeev Gupta who is in charge of the department and who coordinates with the NASA team!
I know it’s a small world, but don’t you love it when these things happen?