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The Software of Space Exploration

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Software

Several of the internet's pioneers have recently become space exploration pioneers as well. Paul Allen, cofounder of Microsoft, funded the company that created SpaceShipOne and is financing the construction of the Allen Telescope Array, which will provide dedicated radio telescopes to SETI researchers. Elon Musk, cofounder of PayPal, started SpaceX to develop a series of low-cost expendable rockets. Amazon's Jeff Bezos and id Software's John Carmack are both working on vehicles for space tourism at Blue Origin and Armadillo Aerospace. Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Thawte and the Ubuntu Foundation, also became the first African in space and the second space tourist when he visited the International Space Station in 2002.

It is not just these internet entrepreneurs who are bringing changes to the space community. NASA and other space agencies and organizations have been adopting the tools and processes of the internet to change the way they conduct missions and how they collect and analyze data. For example, NASA has released software to the open source community and has also used existing free and open source software for its own missions. This article surveys some of the most interesting software being used for space exploration.

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