It used to be the case that only governments had the technology and money to go into space. Those times are changing thanks for people like Elon Musk and Spacex. There are other areas of space that are changing too.
NASA launched the space probe International Cometary Explorer in 1978. After it’s mission was completed it continued on it’s way around the sun but NASA stopped communicating with it. Now the probe’s orbit has brought it back our way. The irony is, NASA no longer has the equipment to communicate with it!
Enter a group of college students.
Using the massive radio telescope at Aracebo and information NASA gave them, they came up with a way to communicate with the ancient probe.
That’s really cool! This is an example of technology empowering creative people. (more here)
Another example is with a Spacex launch back at the end of April. This launch was historic because it was the first time the first stage had landing legs on it. As a test they tried to land it in the ocean and succeeded! Unfortunately they were not able to recover the rocket but it did transmit the video it took on descent. The problem was the video was badly garbled.
Spacex owner Elon Musk then asked on the Internet for people to help fix the video. What as since transpired is truly amazing. People from all over the world with expertise in video have converged on nasaspaceflight.com and have managed to setup a system where they can fix the video. It’s painstaking work but they have really improved it a lot!
As of today the thread they are working in has over 1300 posts and 294321 views!
You have to understand the significance of this. Nobody is paying for this. Nobody told them how to do it. Nobody put anyone in charge. It was self organizing and completely democratic. The people involved are a self assembling, ad-hoc group which is how many tasks will be done in the future. This is the sort of work we need to be training students for.
In the process of fixing this video everyone involved learned a great deal as well. It’s learning by doing and should be a guide to what education in the future will look like.