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NASA landing brings hope to science sector

NASA landing brings hope to science sector

Sunday, Apr, 24, 2016 12:14PM

On August 5, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landed on Mars, sending out a wave of excitement across NASA and the entire nation. This mission has some people wondering if America’s kinship with science is resurfacing after witnessing scientists high-fiving on live television. This may be one reason why the tech sector is expected to grow faster than all but five industries by 2020. The number of students earning a computer science degree or participating in a computer engineering information program will likely increase, as long as high schools prepare students for the tech world and encourage them to dive into science at a young age. 

After the rover landed on Mars, it took about 14 minutes for the information to reach Earth, and the anticipation heightened during that time. The successful landing caused a sense of excitement among Americans, especially as they watched a trio of scientists looking similar to themselves and even cooler. In an industry that is growing, but lacking student participation, experts hope that this milestone may steer some toward to an education in computer science.

The successful research team designed a microchip that weighs roughly the same as a paper clip and helps control the motors on the rover once it landed. The Quad Operational Amplifier microchips total about 80, and allow the rover to collect samples from the Red Planet with its robotic arm or maneuver the cameras to send back pictures.

This is a major step in the science field that wasn’t possible before and will lead to more innovations and missions. Scientists hope to reach asteroids and moons of other planets with the new technology. Ben Blalock, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science, worked with some of his students on the project from 2004 to 2007. The rover was launched on November 26, 2011.

"I'm thrilled that the students had this opportunity," Blalock said. "It helps them grow as circuit designers and makes them more marketable. They were able to do a level of analog chip design that far exceeds whatever they would be called upon to do in the commercial industry. I know for a fact we're one of the very few university teams - if not the only university team - that's been able to develop space flight microelectronic hardware."

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