[ExI] Debian rides the space shuttle (1997)

Bryan Bishop kanzure at gmail.com
Fri Aug 7 22:45:35 UTC 2009

I was browsing through some papers on my server and found this short
article and figure it should be posted.


Here is a press release on Debian's flying on the space shuttle. If you
are friends with a member of the press, please pass this on to them with
a request for them to write about it. We'll be promoting this to the major
computer magazines, etc.


	Bruce Perens
	<bruce at debian.org>


Contact: Bruce Perens <bruce at debian.org> 510-215-3502

A radically different new computer operating system is controlling an
experiment on a Space Shuttle mission in late March. The experiment
tests "hydroponics", a way of growing plants without soil that could
eventually provide oxygen and food to astronauts. The computer
controlling the experiment runs "Debian GNU/Linux", an operating system
built by a group of 200 volunteer computer programmers who
tele-collaborated over the Internet and never met each other. The
system has many earthly uses - it can replace conventional operating
systems such as Microsoft's "Windows 95" on personal computers. In a
departure from conventional operating system practice, the volunteer
group is giving the system and all of its source code away for free.
Details are available on the group's web site: http:/www.debian.org/ .

"Linux is the modern successor to the Unix operating system developed
by Bell Labs during the 1970's", said Bruce Perens, leader of the
Debian project. "A Finnish college student started Linux in the early
1990's, and was joined by others on the Internet who helped develop the
system. We united Linux with free software contributed by other
volunteers to make a complete system of 800 software packages. The
result communicates on the Internet and includes, for free, many
normally-expensive programs such as web servers, computer languages
like Java, C, and C++, and many other programs".

The space shuttle experiment will fly on mission STS-83 in late March
and early April. Sebastian Kuzminsky is an engineer working on the
computer that controls the experiment, which is operated by Biosciences
Corporation. Kuzminsky said "The experiment studies the growth of
plants in microgravity. It uses a miniature '486 PC-compatible
computer, the Ampro CoreModule 4DXi. Debian GNU/Linux is loaded on this
system in place of DOS or Windows. The fragility and power drain of
disk drives ruled them out for this experiment, and a solid-state disk
replacement from the SanDisk company is used in their place. The entire
system uses only 10 watts", said Kuzminsky, as much electricity as a
night-light. "The computer controls an experiment in hydroponics, or
the growth of plants without soil", said Kuzminsky. "It controls water
and light for the growing plants, and sends telemetry and video of the
plants to the ground".

Educators have also gravitated to the "Debian GNU/Linux" system. David
Teague, a computer prof at Western Carolina University, says "most of
the laboratories in our CS department run Debian. We use it to teach
programming, operating systems, system administration, and web page
design". Schools from the primary grades to college use the system to
provide inexpensive Internet access to their students.

"Most of us are computer professionals, but we produced Debian
GNU/Linux as a hobby project", said Perens, who works as a graphics
programmer for the company that made "Toy Story". "It started out three
years ago as a loose collaboration of 60 people who had communicated on
the Internet but had never met each other. We were dissatisfied with
the operating systems available to us, which had not kept pace with the
development of our computer hardware. We felt that the 'net had become
so big that we could bring a group of volunteer programmers together on
it to produce things that had only been made by huge companies up to
now. We hoped that lots of people would put the system we created to
serious use, but we couldn't advertise it except by making a web page
and talking about it on the Internet. It didn't take long for us to
pick up thousands of users, and for the volunteer staff to swell to 200
programmers from all over the world. People were taking Microsoft off
of their systems to install Debian". Today the system has spawned its
own non-profit organization, "Software in the Public Interest", to
support further development. The members come from every continent in
the world.

"We're still interested in picking up more volunteers", said Perens,
"and we always welcome new users". People interested in the system can
learn about "Debian GNU/Linux" on the group's web site
"www.debian.org". The web site provides free downloads of the entire
system, and instructions on installing it.

- Bryan
1 512 203 0507

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list