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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

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Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics

From Bi-planes to Space Debris: Digging through NASA Archives Lynnette Reese

What engineer has not had to produce a report at some time in their life? I was researching open architecture systems and stumbled upon this: the archive of reports from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics housed in the NASA Technical Reports Server. I had no idea this group ever existed, but they have reports going back to the first one, submitted on “typical bi-planes” in 1915.  They tested “a high speed military biplane tractor known as Curtiss JN2.”

The site states: “NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) provides access to aerospace-related citations, full-text online documents, and images and videos. The types of information include: conference papers, journal articles, meeting papers, patents, research reports, images, movies, and technical videos – scientific and technical information (STI) created or funded by NASA.”

The official Orbital Debris Program Office reports on the size, density, and amount of space debris at various orbits, including paint flakes, collision fragments, explosion fragments, and “Ejecta.” You can find the report here, in case you’re planning a trip to Mars. Aluminum and paint seem to be the dominant particles out there.

It’s difficult to determine what’s going on in a slide deck with no notes. I took a stab at it. I am proud to say that electrical engineers are the ones with the least litter out there. Printed Circuit Boards are at “zero.” And a mysterious type of debris merely labelled “binders” is listed, as well. At first what came to mind was notebook binders in orbit. People littered a lot in the 1960s, so if the astronauts lost their notebooks while on space walks, I would not be surprised. Besides, a flying notebook would be hard to catch. You could just throw your pencil in after it so whoever catches it on the next go-round would be able to do something useful with it.

NASA has re-opened documents after shutting down for a while to review documents for classified material. I would think that a 1915 report on biplanes would automatically make the cut, but I was somewhat surprised to find a presentation that likely was the subject of a meeting…posted just a day before. Who knew? I hope you have fun digging around in the NASA archives. My SciFi novel will be that much more accurate. Thanks, NASA!

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Lynnette Reese holds a B.S.E.E from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Lynnette has worked at Mouser Electronics, Texas Instruments, Freescale (now NXP), and Cypress Semiconductor. Lynnette has three kids and occasionally runs benign experiments on them. She is currently saving for the kids’ college and eventual therapy once they find out that cauliflower isn’t a rare albino broccoli (and other white lies.)

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