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Cool Tech Jobs: Driving the Mars Rover

Mars Rover

Computers are integral to everyday life, though the understanding of the variety of jobs available in the field is sometimes impaired by a few persistent stereotypes. It’s not all raw programming and data crunching. There are interesting technology jobs as far out there as a rover on the surface of Mars. That someone gets to drive! From the PC World article just about this:

So if you try to drive it like a radio-controlled car or a slot car … nothing would happen on the rover for at least four minutes until the commands reached Mars. Because of that delay, by the time you see a cliff coming, you’ve already driven over it because what you see already happened in the past. As a result, we don’t drive them that way.

Instead, there’s a driver team that puts together a plan, runs it vigorously through simulations, and sends the instruction set once per day. It’s interesting to point out that a critical piece of the process, the simulator, is run on a Linux PC. Though really, I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

Cape Verde Panorama

The Mars exploration produces some spectacular results, such the panorama of Victoria Crater as seen from Cape Verde (above).

“I get up and I go to work and I drive a rover around on another planet. It’s the greatest job on two planets.”

Of course this ultimate remote control “toy” may not be appealing to everyone. So what are some other interesting jobs that are not typically associated with Computer Science, Engineering, or any related degree?

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Uhh... nothing else appears to be relevant enough.

Discussion

  1. Posted by Brandon | September 25, 2007, 4:56 am

    If you think Linux is great for this type of thing, how about the fact that this fault-proof system is created using nothing other than Common Lisp?

    http://norvig.com/lisp_talk_final.htm

    Not to mention with some searching, you can find out why Common Lisp is such a versatile choice for this sort of thing, such as the rover could basically be completely re-programmed remotely.

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