September 1, 2011 | by Charles West
In what sounds like the plot to a Syfy movie, Nexus S has fired off into space to help robots. NASA sent two Android-powered Nexus S smartphones into space with the last manned space shuttle, Atlantis, on the STS-135 mission. The duo of smartphones is to test and investigate how humans and robots can coexist in space more efficiently.
In the mission, NASA uses the phones to control SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites), originally developed by the astute minds over at MIT. Each SPHERE Satellite is self-contained with power, propulsion, computing and navigation equipment. The phones do things like record video and capture sensor data, duties that once required the astronauts. Nexus S is the first commercial smartphone certified by NASA to fly on the space shuttle and cleared for use on the space station.
Why did NASA ultimately choose Android over iOS, or another smartform platform? NASA thought an Android device would be a good fit since it’s open source. Google’s engineers even wrote a sensor logging app that NASA ended up using on the mission, not too long ago we did a review of the NASA app.
In the future, the phones will control and maneuver the SPHERES using the IOIO board and possibly the Android Open Accessory Development Kit (ADK). I for one wish that robotic capabilities start to become more normal in the years to come; using my phone to control all my house appliances would be awesome.
Check out the video below to see the Nexus S and the SPHERES in action.