NASA’s next lunar rover will run open-source software
In 2023, NASA will launch VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover), which that will trek across the surface of the moon and hunt for water ice that could one day be used to make rocket fuel. The rover will be armed with the best instruments and tools that NASA can come up with: wheels that can spin properly on lunar soil, a drill that’s able to dig into extraterrestrial geology, hardware that can survive 14 days of a lunar night when temperatures sink to ˗173 °C.
But while much of VIPER is one of a kind, custom-made for the mission, much of the software that it’s running is open-source, meaning it’s available for use, modification, and distribution by anyone for any purpose. If it’s successful, the mission may be about more than just laying the groundwork for a future lunar colony—it may also be an inflection point that causes the space industry to think differently about how it develops and operates robots.
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Protecting High-Level Personnel from IMSI Catchers
In September 2019, attribution was given to Israel for the IMSI catchers discovered in Washington, D.C. two years earlier, shining light on the prevalence of these types of spying devices. Once used solely by law enforcement as a way of finding the international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) linked to a criminal suspect’s SIM card for investigative purposes, now just about anyone can acquire or build an IMSI catcher to intercept a target’s communications. With such low barriers to entry, it’s no longer just the bad guys who need to be worried about these devices.
At a basic level, an IMSI catcher – also known as a cell-site simulator, fake cell tower, rogue base station, StingRay or dirtbox, to name a few of its many descriptors – consists of two main parts: a radio frontend for sending and receiving radio waves and a network backend for simulating a cellular core network. Today, anyone with a software-defined radio (SDR) and a computing device running an open-source base station program (like OpenBTS) can effectively operate an IMSI catcher.
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