In case you somehow haven’t heard, NASA landed yet another rover on Mars last night in spectacular fashion. It was truly hard to think about anything else other than the huge parachute, retro rockets, sky crane or Curiosity itself. But after the rover successfully landed on the next planet over and transmitted the first of many pictures confirming its safe arrival, you may have noticed something else about the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; they use a lot of Apple gear.
NASA’s live coverage of the Mars Curiosity rover landing was truly phenomenal. For a Science Geek like myself, it was how I imagine the rest of humanity experiences things like the Super Bowl or the World Cup. NASA’s broadcast included all things Curiosity as quickly as physics would allow information to be relayed. That’s no joke; there’s about a 14 minute time delay between here and Mars, and NASA shared updates as they came in. In the final minutes, they showed mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and it was pretty obvious that many of the great people at JPL like their Apple gear. There were Macbook Pros everywhere, iPhones, and even a few iPads. The Macbook Pros were being used all over the place for monitoring real time data, while iPhones were being used to snap some quick photos by basically everyone.
You might be quick to say the iPhones are likely personal phones, but those Macbook Pros have what appear to be ID stickers on them, which would imply they are issued by JPL for work purposes.
Even Curiosity was in on the Mac party…kind of. The computers inside of Curiosity are powered by a radiation shielded PPC 750, better known as the G3. That’s pretty much where the similarities end though.
I can’t say for certain why there’s so much love for Apple gear at JPL. It doesn’t matter, really. What matters is that they managed to pull off one of the most ambitious and inspiring landings in history, and will soon learn much more about the red planet, its history and maybe even evidence of life elsewhere in the universe.