Monday 19 April 2021

Dare Mighty Things

As a data engineer (of sorts) I've handled some cool data in my times, and created some interesting plots.

I still remember when I used rpad with stddev() in SQL*Plus to prove the data we had formed a bell curve.

More recently I've used Oracle APEX activity logs to identify bottlenecks and high frequency pages.

But this evening I was in awe as I saw a simple plot appear on my smartphone. This plot used data that spent at least 15 minutes travelling almost twice the distance from the Earth to the Sun to reach us, across an incredible network of computers.

Data from a craft that made history as it made controlled, powered flight on another planet.

First Martian flight plot

Sure, it's no secret I'm a big fan of all things space, and some may say that this achievement is a little overhyped. 

Not me. 

This is one of those moments that's going to inspire little future engineers that see a diverse group of people around the control room creating a moment in history that's justifiably likened to the first powered flight on Earth over 100 years ago.

This event is going to be the baseline for exploring Mars in ways that have only been dreamed about so far. And the drive to improve technology to improve the capability of this exploration is going to continue to benefit those of us living on Earth.

This doesn't mean us humble data engineers crawl deeper into caves of inadequacy. It may have taken a few people to cobble together a small engine on some timber roped together to fly a few hundred feet, but it takes a team of all sorts to send a rocket containing a nuclear powered rover containing a battery powered helicopter to another planet, land it, then fly it in an atmosphere so thin. 

And I feel for that team right now who can't hug their colleagues during tears of triumphant joy at their pent up success. Well done JPL.

We just need to dare mighty things. Even with our little apps - they make a difference to someone.

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