back to article El Reg touches down at the ESA's Spanish outpost, sniffs around

"Are you really going to wear that into the canteen?" That was the perfectly reasonable question posed by Emmet Fletcher, communication officer at the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) as my nephew Matt Haines braced himself for lunch sporting a Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) lab coat and pipe. Back in April …

  1. Bob H

    When is the 170GB ISO data torrent going to appear? ;-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Just as soon as the hackers have finished slurping it from, etc.

  2. MrT

    Excellent stuff...

    ... that article had me smiling. ElReg upholding the standards of boffinry, as expected.

  3. Elmer Phud


    A great Friday afternoon read - have one of these:

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Ta

      Thanks very much. I am heading to the fridge as we speak...

      1. Elmer Phud

        Re: Ta

        Am slightly disappointed that none of the boffins there took the opportunity of wearing the full official regalia - even though it was to hand.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Ta

        How come we only ever see photos of Haines The Younger? Is Haines The Elder worried his soul will be stolen by the magic lantern?

        PS, Great article. Must be nice to go on paid jollies every now and then :-)

      3. JeffyPoooh

        SMOS "...was the first spacecraft launched operating with L-band..."

        As quoted, not correct.

        Perhaps the first spacecraft launched to use L-band for scientific measurements (?), but (for example) the Iridium constellation uses L-band for communications. As does Inmarsat, and Sirius and XM satellite radio. Many other examples. All from the previous millennium.

        Lovely article. Above is a nitpick.

  4. Chris Miller

    I'm confused*

    Why do they need to keep a 1999 model computer running? I assume it can't be just to store data in esoteric formats, so presumably the answer must be that there are programs that are still needed and won't run on anything else, but I struggle to think what they might be. Probably, I'm just missing something obvious.

    * What, again?

    1. Vincent Ballard

      Re: I'm confused*

      Drivers for esoteric hardware? That's the classic reason for science labs to keep antique kit running.

      Or maybe they value stability over all else and don't want to risk a migration. That's the reason that a lot of hospitals still use WinXP. I was seeing IE6 in my logs for a clinical trial progress tracking website last year.

      Incidentally, I spotted the Sun Microsystems badge in one of those photos before I got to the line about kit from companies which don't exist any more. Been a while since I saw that logo.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: I'm confused*

        Been a while since I saw that logo.

        The Oracle kit that uses the technology from Sun still has it:

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: I'm confused*

      There could be several reason, software that otherwise should be rewritten (and heavily re-tested), parts and counterparts of mission hardware designed for, or to be connected to those rigs, and so on.

      IIRC, the last Hubble service mission needed technicians to work on '80s era hardware and software, because that is what is used on Hubble - and to be sure everything worked as designed they needed to test on the real test hardware, not on a simulated one.

    3. JeffyPoooh

      Re: I'm confused*

      It's because many a Program Manager, a.k.a. decision maker, has tried to plan, budget and manage a software project before, and had their fingers burnt.

      "Oh, it'll only take a man-month..."; and then it takes three years.

      They'd literally rather manage a 'rocket science' space mission than another 'simple code migration' software project.

      THAT'S why.

      You know I'm right.

  5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Hnag on!

    Where did the .int TLD come from? I can't say I've ever noticed that before.

    1. Chris Miller

      Re: Hnag on!

      .int was one of the original 7 TLDs*. It was intended for organisations set up by international treaty, and wasn't widely used, but NATO (for example) has always been at

      * gov edu org com mil net int (plus .arpa, of course).

  6. VeganVegan

    Think of the children!

    "there are alternatives to studying economics or finance or something like that"

    No truer words!

    How can we tolerate our children growing up to do naught 'cept count beans? (Our favourite in-house economist excepted, of course).

    More of this kind of article, please.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Think of the children!

      That's a good threat to use on children... Get learning your STEM or you'll end up like Tim Worstall.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Think of the children!

        What, not brainwashed?

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Think of the children!

          No, it was a close call, but the empathy section was completely removed instead.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...35 million objects this size (6 mm)..."

    There's about 180 million square km of Near Earth Orbit area, let alone the dimension of variable altitude. So that's at least dozens of cubic km of NEO space per fragment. Even at 8 km/s, each is carving out a volume of 0.0007 cubic km per day, assuming a roughly 1 sq m death zone.

    It's a bit like those aircraft tracking apps that give the impression that the skies are completely filled with commercial air traffic, but when I go outside and look up there are only one or two. It's because the app shows each aircraft not to scale, as if it were many km wide. Shown to scale, they're nearly invisible, and widely scattered.

    If all of these 35 million objects were painted bright pink and gently dropped straight down to rest upon the Earth, and you went looking for them, it's unlikely you'd ever find one. Some people would find a few, but not you.

    It's funny how '35 million' can be such a small number.

    We humans still need to figure out how to clean up this mess in NEO.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: "...35 million objects this size (6 mm)..."

      It's funny how '35 million' can be such a small number.

      Obligatory HHGttG quote here.

      We humans still need to figure out how to clean up this mess in NEO.


      Worthwhile article, BTW.

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