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March 10, 2015 AT 6:00 am

Time travel Tuesday #timetravel a look back at the Adafruit, maker, science, technology and engineering world

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Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why. ― Kurt Vonnegut


1876 – Alexander Graham Bell makes the first successful telephone call by saying “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.”

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On March 10, 1876, three days after his patent was issued, Bell succeeded in getting his telephone to work, using a liquid transmitter similar to Gray’s design. Vibration of the diaphragm caused a needle to vibrate in the water, varying the electrical resistance in the circuit. When Bell spoke the famous sentence “Mr. Watson—Come here—I want to see you” into the liquid transmitter, Watson, listening at the receiving end in an adjoining room, heard the words clearly.

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1891 – Almon Strowger, an undertaker in Topeka, Kansas, patents the Strowger switch, a device which led to the automation of telephone circuit switching.

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The Strowger switch was the first example of an electromechanical stepping switch telephone exchange system. It was invented by Almon Brown Strowger, and first patented in 1891. Because of its operational characteristics it is also known as a step-by-step (SXS) switch.

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1977 – Rings of Uranus: Astronomers discover rings around Uranus.

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The planet Uranus has a system of rings intermediate in complexity between the more extensive set around Saturn and the simpler systems around Jupiter and Neptune. The rings of Uranus were discovered on March 10, 1977, by James L. Elliot, Edward W. Dunham, and Jessica Mink. More than 200 years ago, in 1789, William Herschel also reported observing rings; some modern astronomers are skeptical that he could have actually seen them, as they are very dark and faint – others are not.

By 1978, nine distinct rings were identified. Two additional rings were discovered in 1986 in images taken by the Voyager 2 spacecraft, and two outer rings were found in 2003–2005 in Hubble Space Telescope photos. In the order of increasing distance from the planet the 13 known rings are designated 1986U2R/ζ, 6, 5, 4, α, β, η, γ, δ, λ, ε, ν and μ. Their radii range from about 38,000 km for the 1986U2R/ζ ring to about 98,000 km for the μ ring. Additional faint dust bands and incomplete arcs may exist between the main rings. The rings are extremely dark—the Bond albedo of the rings’ particles does not exceed 2%. They are probably composed of water ice with the addition of some dark radiation-processed organics.

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2006 – The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter arrives at Mars.

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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is a multipurpose spacecraft designed to conduct reconnaissance and exploration of Mars from orbit. The US$720 million spacecraft was built by Lockheed Martin under the supervision of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The mission is managed by the California Institute of Technology, at the JPL, in La Cañada Flintridge, California, for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. It was launched August 12, 2005, and attained Martian orbit on March 10, 2006. In November 2006, after five months of aerobraking, it entered its final science orbit and began its primary science phase. As MRO entered orbit it joined five other active spacecraft which were either in orbit or on the planet surface: Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Express, Mars Odyssey, and two Mars Exploration Rovers; at the time a record for the most operational spacecraft in the immediate vicinity of Mars.

MRO contains a host of scientific instruments such as cameras, spectrometers, and radar, which are used to analyze the landforms, stratigraphy, minerals, and ice of Mars. It paves the way for future spacecraft by monitoring Mars’ daily weather and surface conditions, studying potential landing sites, and hosting a new telecommunications system. MRO’s telecommunications system will transfer more data back to Earth than all previous interplanetary missions combined, and MRO will serve as a highly capable relay satellite for future missions.

NASA reported that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, as well as the Mars Odyssey Orbiter and MAVEN, were healthy after the Comet Siding Spring flyby on October 19, 2014.

MRO performed some useful work at the beginning of 2015 when it photographed the missing Beagle 2 lander on the surface of the planet, its having been lost for twelve years. As a result of this discovery the Mars Express/Beagle 2 mission is now known to have been partially successful rather than a complete failure as previously thought, since the lander did reach the surface and begin deploying its folded solar panels.

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