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David Hall
2002-May-11, 05:27 PM
Interesting, amusing, and vaguely disturbing article in the NY Times today. NASA is in such need of otherwise obsolete parts that their searching Ebay and such for old equipment to scavenge.

http://nytimes.com/2002/05/12/technology/ebusiness/12NASA.html (requires free registration)

Chuck
2002-May-11, 06:56 PM
I shouldn't have thrown out my TRS-80.

John Kierein
2002-May-12, 02:11 AM
NASA is always scrounging for parts. They took the antenna out of the Smithsonian to make the radar map of Venus with the Magellan S/C.

Timm
2002-May-12, 10:25 PM
On 2002-05-11 22:11, John Kierein wrote:
NASA is always scrounging for parts. They took the antenna out of the Smithsonian to make the radar map of Venus with the Magellan S/C.


Not really? ... Yes?
I can understand that they rely on the old chips, as they are used in the diagnostic systems of two huge flying bombs. I wouldn't want to use a new, probably unstable system there either, but an old antenna? They should have better sensors right now...

John Kierein
2002-May-13, 06:18 PM
http://www.nasm.si.edu/nasm/dsh/artifacts/SS-Voyager.htm

As I remember Charlie Brown's Spacecraft Design course at the U. of Colorado, they first borrowed it for testing and then actually flew it when they really had to save more money or the program would be cancelled. It was a case study in the course.

Gsquare
2002-May-14, 01:39 AM
Nice article, John. Apparently scavenged parts are more reliable.

Let's see... I could send them my old TV satellite dish if that would help; how about a 900 mhz transmitter from my ATT (broken) wireless phone; and of course, I still have a real old watch loaded with radium coated dials-(really hard to come by these days).

Of course I would want a tax deductible receipt; it wouldn't seem right to send that wonderful junk all the way to Pluto without some evidence of my contribution./phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif

G^2

Timm
2002-May-14, 10:32 PM
Hey, thanks. Interesting Story...

Tom
2002-May-15, 04:07 PM
There's a topic at http://www.snopes2.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=39;t=000262 on this subject. Basically, it seems silly to scrounge on ebay when the parts are available at, say, jameco, in quantities. New. Our tax dollars at work?

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Tom on 2002-05-15 12:08 ]</font>

David Hall
2002-May-15, 04:56 PM
On 2002-05-15 12:07, Tom wrote:

Basically, it seems silly to scrounge on ebay when the parts are available at, say, jameco, in quantities. New. Our tax dollars at work?


I'm sure that would be ok for some items, like the more common processors, but there are probably other things that NASA needs and nobody is selling anymore. That's when you really need to scrounge.

Or maybe they have just discovered that it's easier or cheaper to go this route than to go through traditional suppliers.

The article makes it clear that they generally aren't hunting for old individual PC's or such to tear chips out of. I think the point of it is more that, when looking for out-of-date merchandise like this, they are now using the internet's resources, such as Ebay, to find what they need.

Most likely Ebay was specifically mentioned because this is the exact kind of thing you can find there; bulk quantities of older parts being auctioned off to the highest bidder. And they are probably being auctioned by the very companies that used to try to sell the stuff direct.

When you really need it now, then Ebay may be the best place to start.

David Hall
2002-May-15, 05:06 PM
Another note: I think Jameco and companies like it are probably exactly the kind of thing the article is talking about when it says NASA is searching online. It never said Ebay was the only place they were looking.

Tom
2002-May-15, 05:07 PM
On 2002-05-15 12:56, David Hall wrote:
I'm sure that would be ok for some items, like the more common processors, but there are probably other things that NASA needs and nobody is selling anymore. That's when you really need to scrounge.

Well, in the article it said they were scrounging for 8086 processors. Jameco has them in bulk for about a buck apiece. If it doesn't have to be "flight certified", off-the-shelf will do. I would be that any electronic component made in the late '70s on is still available. You can still buy tubes, fer cryin' out loud!

NASA has followed the unfortunate track of having everything custom built, even when industry began to produce compatable and reliable equipment, that would do just as well "off the shelf" with only minor, if any, modifications. The "custom" for space flight is a hard mindset to change. Granted, a lot of stuff is unique, (at least in function).

Perhaps they're buying back old NASA equipment. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_wink.gif

Tom