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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Dataset Earth

Dataset Earth

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Monday, January 14, 2019/Categories: natural history, photography, video, space science, sustainability, art and design, environment, adventure

                                                   Dan Berkenstock of Skybox (credit: MIT Review)

This Journal recently marveled at the amazing engineering and miniturization of two micro-satellites that were companions on NASA's InSight mission to Mars. Built by graduate students and their advisors at CalTech and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory from off-the-shelf parts, these CubeSats performed as real-time data relays as InSight descended to the surface of Mars.

For some historical context, the intellectual creativity that led to these eventual breadbox sized satellites emerged a decade earlier from efforts to more easily and cheaply gather data from the, then current, existing Earth monitoring satellites. The problem with these earlier satellites was their size and expense in capturing imagery and certainly not on a constant monitoring basis. There were few of them available in space then to utilize as well.

Dan Berkenstock, one of the original engineers considering these problems explains the history in a fascinating presentation. He and his team developed a novel solution by designing a cheap, lightweight satellite with a radically new approach to gather remote-sensing photography. It allowed them to overcome the size, cost, and data contraints to view what was happening on Earth. In the process, they created a way for real transparency to become available for track evertyhing from global shiping, to environmental monitoring, and disrupt illicit smuggling activities.

Berkenstock and his collegues have now launched a remote-sensing imaging venture called Skybox. The engineers likely watched with excitement as the 'next-gen' CubeSats from CalTech performed flawlessly as InSight landed on Mars.



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