See what it's like to be a flight controller for Curiosity

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Been wondering what it's like to be a flight controller in charge of exploring Mars? You can satisfy your Curiosity curiosity by downloading NASA's next-generation mission operations software, Mission Control Technologies. NASA Ames Research Center released the MCT software under an Apache 2.0 license.

MCT was developed for Johnson Space Center's Mission Control Center, but the platform is adaptable for other purposes, including beyond aerospace applications. It wasn't ready in time for the Curiosity team to use it, but it will give you an idea of what the software they are using looks like. The project's website notes that third-party developers can writetheir own plug-ins and describes some of MCT's uses:

  • To display data for the Morpheus Lander Project, a "vertical testbed demonstrating new green propellant propulsion systems and autonomous landing and hazard detection technology."
  • For the Habitat Demonstration Unit.
  • In the Jet Propulsion Lab’s AMMOS mission operations system (this use in early stages).

The version of MCT you can download doesn't use real data, but Tom Dayton wrote in a comment at the Bad Astronomy blog that they're working on a plug-in that will give anyone a small amount of real ISS data.

You don't need to have any special experience to run the software, and the demo they make available does everything that the full NASA version does except saving created displays.

MCT received the JSC Director's Innovation Award in July, 2011.

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Ruth Suehle is the community leadership manager for Red Hat's Open Source and Standards team. She's co-author of Raspberry Pi Hacks (O'Reilly, December 2013) and a senior editor at GeekMom, a site for those who find their joy in both geekery and parenting.

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