Most people would probably expect to find millions of dollars worth of cutting-edge equipment at a NASA research facility. And they would be right, of course, but there may also be some surprises waiting for the unsuspecting visitor.
Indeed, some of the Engadget crew recently toured NASA's Swamp Works research facility and happened to catch a glimpse of a humble Arduino Uno on the desk of Dr. Eirik Holbert, described as NASA's "lighting guy."
Apparently, NASA is using the developer board to build and test certain research products. For example, the Arduino board sitting on Holbert's desk was connected to a light fixture that is under development to become part of NASA's future deep space habitat concept generator. The goal of the project? Using the Uno is to create artificial sunlight of sorts.
Essentially, the project seeks to simulate Earth-like lighting patterns to help keep the crew alert and ready their bodies for evening sleep.
Using the cheap Arduino Uno also helps NASA engineers and researchers to save money, which is a big deal, especially when working under current budgetary constraints. Holbert was able to use the Arduino Uno, shields from Sparkfun, and some ingenuity to create the light fixture needed for under $500.
"I'm all about interchangeability. If they can make something space compatible, I'd be all for it," said Holbert.