The Day the Solar System Shrunk
Today is the day the Cassini- Huygens space probe has come alive. The European Space Agency has been waiting with baited breath to see if the 10 year mission is a success or embarassing failure. This morning at 7:45 the scientists at the ESA had their answer; a big thumbs up!
Saturn and it's moons have always been majestic jewels in the night sky, however, despite a long history of interest in the ringed planetary system little is known about the planet and it's numerous moons. The past 50 years has produced many space-probes and satellites that have greatly added to our knowledge of our solar system, yet our attention is inexhoribly drawn back to Saturn's moons; one called Titan in particular.
Saturn, with 33 moons, claims ownership over more moons than any other planet in our solar system. Titan, the largest of Saturn's moons, was discovered by Christiaan Huygensin 1655. Little did he know the impact his discovery would have on people of our time. The significance of Titan is it has an atmosphere first dicovered to be composed of nitrogen/methane by the Dutch astronomer Gerard Kuiper in 1944. Over the next 60 years many telescopes have been pointed at Titan, however, only so much can be learned from the surface of the Earth. In 1979 the US Pioneer 11 spacecraft was launched, and Voyager 1 passed the ringed planet in 1980 to gain a more detailed scientific view of Saturn and its moons.
ESA's Infrared Space Observatory(ISO)has been one of the major telescopes pointed at Saturn's moons and with great success. In 1998 the ISO discovered water vapour in the atmosphere of Titan. This was a great discovery since it was previously thought the atmosphere was made solely of methane. With the presence of water in its atmosphere scientists believe Titan may possess similarities to the conditions found on Earth millions of years ago. Thus sets the scene for the Cassini-Huygens mission.
The purpose of the Huygens probe is to determine the surface conditions and composition of the moon's surface. The information gained from the success of the Huygens probe willno doubt be valuable to the scientific space community, however, there is another issue that arises from the the legacy of the Cassini-Huygens mission. With the resounding success of the Huygens probe mankind has finally successfully landed a probe upon a celestial body in the outer solar system. This achievement opens doorways to a new and exciting future.
While the scientific success of the mission is not yet ensured, the mission is a definite enginneering success. Engineering has always been an intragal part of the space exploration process, and with an outer solar success our solar system has become a much smaller space. With the robotic accomplishments of Mars rovers Spirit and Opertunity it is not difficult to see the ever expanding influence of mankind and its technological achievments throughout our solar system. As we see an increase in robotic and engineering advancements we continue to push the boundaries of our solar "backyard"making our solar system just a little bit smaller.
Posted by DenommeX on 01/14/2005 at 2:42 PM
Browser War 2005: Mozilla vs. Microsoft
We all remember the days when Netscape Navigator ruled supreme as the browser of choice. The Netscape dynasty was short lived as Microsoft's Internet Explorer exploded onto the scene with much controversy. IE 1.0 launched in August 1995 as part of the Windows 95 PLUS pack. Microsoft, way behind Netscape fought back against Navigator releasing IE 2.0 in only three months! And here is where the war started; IE 2.0 was shipped for FREE with Windows NT 4.0. With Netscape Navigator at the top of it's game and IE just starting out, 1996 was a tenuous turning point in how people surfed the web.
The war was not based solely upon the quality of each company's product but also on delivery methods. Netscape was a commercial product that held 80%+ of the internet browser market share in 1996, Internet Explorer was distributed free of charge and bundled with each new Microsoft operating system release. The challenge for Netscape was how to compete with a nearly equivalent browser offered at no charge that had almost inexhaustible resources supporting it. Thus began the beginning of the end for Netscape, or so the world thought.
Netscape's demise was quick and IE's hunger for market share was voracious for any scrap available. By 1998 both Navigator and IE held claim to 46% market share, in only two years Netscape went from a 72%+ market lead to breaking even with Microsoft. Navigator's rapid demise forced Netscape in January 1998 to announce that Navigator would henceforth be free. Netscape's brilliant final stand in the browser war was to unleash its quality source-code to the masses, and rely upon open-source processes to advance browser development. Thus the Mozilla Project was formed.
Over the next three years very little was heard in the media about the Mozilla Project and its doings. With the lack of choice in browsers and under the shadow of the anti-Microsoft monopoly movement, the open-source movement blossomed and has produced some wonderful alternatives to the "corporate solution".While first only embraced by the technologically advanced and the "computer geek" contingent of the internet population, the open-source movement has in recent years crept into the mainstream. And the mainstream internet population has definitely accepted open-source with open arms.
On November 9th 2004 the Mozilla Foundation, the non-profit corporation that administers the Mozilla project, released Firefox 1.0. Firefox is shaping up to be a major competitor to IE 6.0, with over 8 million downloads of preview releases.
"Our browser is moving into the mainstream," said Mitchell Baker, president of the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, "Being an alternative browser in today's market is a challenge, but people have begun to realize that the browser matters, that the browser you get with your computer can be a beginning point and not an endpoint."
With the launch of Firefox 1.0 the smell of battle is once again in the air. While not yet claiming a large percentage of the market share, it is not hard to look back a handful of years to an upset in a browser war, where the then challenger is now the reigning browser. However, where Microsoft could undercut Netscape to attain superiority, what can Microsoft do to defend against the free and ingeniously developed Firefox 1.0? Microsoft has to deal with a much greater threat than Netscape in the last browser war, Microsoft had to develop successive versions to eventually rival and exceed, where Firefox 1.0 has erupted fully formed and is ready for competitive distribution.
Netscape has surely sealed its revenge with Mozilla, and with Firefox's increasing popularity it will be exciting to see if Netscape's final stand will provide the open-source answer to Microsoft's IE dynasty. With such features as tabbed browsing, pop-up blocking, built-in download manager, themes, instant plugin updates, passwords, and other unique features it will be interesting to see how Microsoft answers Firefox 1.0; the first blow in the renewed browser war!
Posted by DenommeX on 01/12/2005 at 4:26 PM