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11 September 2010 @ 05:40 pm
People have been vaguely asking about the conference I attended in Japan. This was iSAIRAS (which stands for the International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation in Space). The attendees were predominantly engineers and roboticists rather than computer scientists. Although many of the talks were way outside my field of expertise, I found much of it really interesting. So, on the grounds that space exploration, is interesting just because, I thought I might blog about some of the talks.

Hayabusa was a satellite launched by the Japanese to an asteroid called Itokawa with the intention of collecting samples and then returning them to Earth. One of the benefits of the space engineering field is that they tend to make videos about themselves (!) so rather than blogging at length about Hayabusa I have a YouTube offering:

From my point of view the most interesting part was what happened after the satellite's chemical engine was damaged. It was left with four ion engines one of which was damaged and a second of which had a damaged neutraliser. The engineers were able to cross-linked the neutraliser from the damaged engine to the engine with a damaged neurtaliser and so ended up with three working electrical engines (plus solar power) which allowed them to bring the satellite back to earth and, ultimately, collect the sample capsule (which had a "few grains" of matter from Itokawa in it). The project I'm working on is quite interested in engine failure, diagnosis and self-repair but this was the first time I'd come across two engines being cobbled together remotely like this.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/18775.html.