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A wristwatch for NASA's curiosity team.
September 16, 2012 8:20 AM   Subscribe

A wristwatch for NASA's curiosity team. What do you do when you are supposed to show up for work 39 minutes later than you did the previous day? You commission a special wristwatch to keep you on time.
posted by fieldcannotbeblank (44 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'd buy one of these just for the novelty value, but I have a 10-year-old Casio WG-300 that I love to death, and that has never given me a single problem. Didn't swatch do something like this back in the 80's with an 'Internet Time' watch?
posted by Fferret at 8:35 AM on September 16, 2012


*places wallet on counter*

Just do what you have to do.
posted by The Whelk at 8:36 AM on September 16, 2012 [18 favorites]


I thought the Spirit and Opportunity link was interesting, too...

I imagine it would have been hard to find a wrist device that was hackable enough to do this in 2004, thus the mechanical timepiece... although a PDA would have been a much more accurate if slightly less portable option. Cool conversation piece, though...
posted by Huck500 at 8:37 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


So Mars only has one timezone? Martian coders have it sweet.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:37 AM on September 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


It'd be pretty cool to have a watch timed up with your mission on another planet. I'd imagine looking at it and saying to friends and family, "oh look, Spirit is probably just now waking up to the birds on Mars." They'd all be tired of me real quick.

But I don't understand in the first link where they asked around to other watchmakers who replied that it couldn't be done. Is this just an extremely myopic view? Wouldn't all the adjustment that is needed is to change a gear ratio? I realize that in and of itself is really complicated in making it fit inside of existing watches that they had purchased. Isn't the trick in implementation which doesn't seem impossible?

Ah upon re-reading I now realize it was probably a business decision that said it couldn't be done.
posted by Phantomx at 8:38 AM on September 16, 2012


Thanks for the link. Already have the Android app, but this would be fun too.

Also, I did not know there was a watch designed to be hackable for only 50 bucks. I'm not sure what I would do with it, but that's very hard to pass up.
posted by honestcoyote at 8:39 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Were they special wristwatches, or normal watches customized to run slow?
In order to make the watches useful to the Mars Exploration Rover team, Garo had to physically attach additional specific lead weights thus precisely altering the movement of the wheels and hands on certain existing famous-maker wristwatches. Working on the 21-jeweled self-winding mechanical wristwatches was sometimes frustrating.
Very keen, thanks for posting!
posted by filthy light thief at 8:40 AM on September 16, 2012


TI did a lot of things right with the MSP430 microcontroller. The development platforms in particular are cheap and very nice. That watch is great.
posted by ryanrs at 8:42 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


After Googling for a sec:

Fossil made a Palm-based watch that sold in 2004... $50 less than the mechanical one, and you'd just need someone to write the code... at JPL...
posted by Huck500 at 8:42 AM on September 16, 2012


There is no logical reason to explain why I want one of these.
posted by etc. at 8:43 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Wikipedia article Timekeeping on Mars is fascinating:
Mars has an axial tilt and a rotation period similar to those of Earth. Thus it experiences seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter much like Earth, and its day is about the same length. Its year, however, is almost twice as long as Earth's, and its orbital eccentricity is considerably larger, which means among other things that the lengths of various Martian seasons differ considerably, and sundial time can diverge from clock time much more than on Earth.

[...]

MTC is a proposed Mars analog to Universal Time (UT) on Earth. It is defined as the mean solar time at Mars's prime meridian (i.e., at the centre of the crater Airy-0).

[...]

Each lander mission so far has used its own time zone, corresponding to average local solar time at the landing location. Of the six successful Mars landers to date, five employed offsets from local mean solar time (LMST) for the lander site while the sixth (Mars Pathfinder) used local true solar time (LTST).

[...]

The term sol is used by planetary astronomers to refer to the duration of a solar day on Mars.[6] A mean Martian solar day, or "sol", is 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35.244 seconds.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:45 AM on September 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I expected to hear that NASA spent $300k per watch or something crazy like that. Nice to see it was not what I thought it would be
posted by 2manyusernames at 8:54 AM on September 16, 2012


Like NASA has that kind of money.....
posted by The Whelk at 8:56 AM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


They have a several credit cards reserved for emergencies.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:12 AM on September 16, 2012


I saw this when it first turned up on Hackaday and found it interesting that he took and incorporated the suggestion of one of the Hackaday commenters (who *cough* beat me to it) for sharpening the accuracy.
posted by localroger at 9:47 AM on September 16, 2012


What do you do when you are supposed to show up for work 39 minutes later than you did the previous day? You commission a special wristwatch to keep you on time.

I guess you'd still have to have a special watch, but I still prefer Kim Stanley Robinson's solution: 39 minutes of blank time. The clock shows 12:00 for 39 minutes, then shows 12:01. Naturally no work or anything is done during that time.
posted by DU at 9:55 AM on September 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Came here to make the Mars Trilogy reference; was beaten. Good to know.
posted by thecaddy at 10:06 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Naturally no work or anything is done during that time.

Yeah, well, I'm still invoicing for that 39 minutes.
posted by notyou at 10:06 AM on September 16, 2012


I have a few friends from undergrad involved with the Mars projects - one summer, they were kind of sequestered on Mars time doing science. It was awesome.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:09 AM on September 16, 2012


I was just thinking about the Mars Trilogy slip too.

Couldn't resist temptation and ordered the watch. When it gets in, I'll try the slip as a first project: make the watch stop for 39 mins and 35 seconds when it hits midnight, displaying "slip" on the watch face, and then pickup at 12:01 when its done.
posted by honestcoyote at 10:12 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


It could also be done with normal SI seconds and minutes by making each hour 61.2 minutes long, but obviously that doesn't provide for a daily 39 minutes of Zen.
posted by localroger at 10:40 AM on September 16, 2012


Serious comment: I hope someone is doing a concurrent study about the impact on the circadian rhythms of humans when you put them on a different day then the one we evolved with over tens of thousands of years. Efficiency people!
posted by dry white toast at 11:06 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


This sounds like a a modern remake of the old space pen vs pencil anecdote. Most of us would set an alarm schedule on our smart phone; NASA went and designed a special watch.
posted by ceribus peribus at 11:10 AM on September 16, 2012


Naturally no work or anything is done during that time.

Commie!
posted by dirigibleman at 11:14 AM on September 16, 2012


We goons get down and boogie in the Martian timeslip.
posted by Divine_Wino at 12:01 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


ceribus peribus: "Most of us would set an alarm schedule on our smart phone; NASA went and designed a special watch."

make that bought a $50 watch and someone in house changed a few lines of code to fix the firmware - this thing (hardware + development costs) is very likely cheaper than hiring a shop to do smartphone app development would have been
posted by idiopath at 12:09 PM on September 16, 2012


also I am totally buying one of those $50 watches - they come with a thermometer, accellerometer, wifi, barometer, and are very very hackable - think wrist arduino
posted by idiopath at 12:10 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just ordered mine from DigiKey. The RF functionality isn't wifi, but it can connect with a lot of sensors and other microcontrollers. You would be hard pressed to put together a simple card with all of the sensors and the CPU for the price of the watch, much less cram it all into a wristwatch form factor.
posted by localroger at 1:05 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why NASA’s rover team lives on Mars time
posted by homunculus at 1:12 PM on September 16, 2012


NASA to face 1.3 Billion Dollar Cut Next Year Under Sequestration
posted by homunculus at 1:14 PM on September 16, 2012


I wonder how hard it would be for a watch maker to adjust an automatic watch to keep mars time.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:25 PM on September 16, 2012


Curiosity Killed The Cat
posted by homunculus at 2:06 PM on September 16, 2012


This sounds like a a modern remake of the old space pen vs pencil anecdote. Most of us would set an alarm schedule on our smart phone; NASA went and designed a special watch.

Russian cosmonauts used pencils, and grease pencils on plastic slates until also adopting a space pen in 1969 with a purchase of 100 units for use on all future missions.[1] NASA programs previously used pencils (for example a 1965 order of mechanical pencils[2]) but because of the substantial dangers that broken-off pencil tips and graphite dust pose in zero gravity to electronics and the flammable nature of the wood present in pencils[2] a better solution was needed. NASA never approached Paul Fisher to develop a pen, nor did Fisher receive any government funding for the pen's development.[2] Fisher invented it independently, and then asked NASA to try it. After the introduction of the AG7 Space Pen, both the American and Soviet (later Russian) space agencies adopted it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_pen
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:26 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Most of us would set an alarm schedule on our smart phone...

Your smart phone is rated for space? (Protip: Van Allen Belt)
posted by DU at 3:51 PM on September 16, 2012


DU, the JPL guys aren't in space. Their rover is in space but they're just syncing with it to maximize throughput. The guys who need the watches are right here on Earth.
posted by localroger at 3:55 PM on September 16, 2012


Besides, the roaming charges for a space phone would be astronomical.
posted by ceribus peribus at 4:30 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


OIC
posted by DU at 5:05 PM on September 16, 2012


Couple of things...

Watches weren't built by NASA, scientists had to buy them for themselves.

There were sleep scientists involved in both MER rover missions and in the Phoenix mission, but not on the Curiosity. Not sure what they learned other than it helps if you are a night owl. I'm sure someone could find papers they wrote.

Mars time sucks.
posted by spaceviking at 5:09 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The guys who need the watches are right here on Earth.

They only work in space.
posted by dhartung at 7:11 PM on September 16, 2012


dry white toast: Cavers and South Pole researchers and other people without solar cues tend to run longer than 24 hours. I've heard 25 hours, specifically, mentioned a couple of times as a fairly typical quasi-diurnal rhythm. So the Mars team are not outside the bounds of human experience with that. (On the other hand, I've also heard that South Pole researchers all get very weird, but there are definitely other factors than diurnal rhythm there.)
posted by eritain at 7:56 PM on September 16, 2012


honestcoyote writes "Also, I did not know there was a watch designed to be hackable for only 50 bucks. I'm not sure what I would do with it, but that's very hard to pass up."

No kidding. The Mars watch is interesting, the sensor laden, user programmable wrist watch is like something out of science fiction. I love living in the future.

DU writes "I guess you'd still have to have a special watch, but I still prefer Kim Stanley Robinson's solution: 39 minutes of blank time. The clock shows 12:00 for 39 minutes, then shows 12:01. Naturally no work or anything is done during that time."

Power engineering? Air traffic control? ER? Security? Or was there some scheme in place to stagger the blank time?
posted by Mitheral at 8:11 PM on September 16, 2012


This seems like something the Pebble Watch could do pretty easily
posted by livejamie at 1:21 PM on September 17, 2012


Yeah, well the Pebble is three times as expensive and the battery only lasts a week instead of over a year. But it does have a general purpose graphic display and true internet capability, if you need that sort of thing on your wrist.
posted by localroger at 1:36 PM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Curiosity Rover Steps Right Into Ancient Riverbed on Mars
posted by homunculus at 8:08 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


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