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First email from space

Space Shuttle Atlantis astronauts sent an email to Johnson Space Center, using an Apple Portable computer, on 09 August 1991.

August 1991 was a good month for the Internet.

On the 9th, astronauts on the Space Shuttle Atlantis, mission STS-43, sent the first email from space. Three days earlier, Tim Berners-Lee had published the first website. Both feats were accomplished with computers made by companies Steve Jobs brought to life.

NASA Astronauts Shannon W. Lucid (Ph.D.) and James C. Adamson used a Macintosh Portable computer to send an email to Marsha S. Ivins at Johnson Space Center on 09 August 1981:

Hello Earth ! Greetings from the STS-43 Crew. This is the first AppleLink from space. Having a __GREAT__ time, wish you were here,[…] Have a nice day…… Haste la vista, baby,… we’ll be back!

Testing the AppleLink online service by sending email and disk files was only one of the reasons the Macintosh Portable was onboard. Astronauts also tested shuttle flight path tracking software that “present[]ed a real-time display of the shuttle’s orbital position against a world map along with day and night cycles, tracking stations, and emergency reentry information.”

Astronauts used the Macintosh Portable to record lower body negative pressure medical results. It was also a tool for other mission notes. And they tested four cursor control devices.

Finally, the “Macintosh acted as an alarm clock (in tandem with the WristMac).” Seiko had released the WristMac, which could be connected to a Macintosh, in 1988.

When it is time to snap photographs of a particular feature on Earth or in the cosmos, a Wristmac will sound an alarm and display a two-line individual chore reminder.

If schedules must be changed, National Aeronautics and Space Administration officials at the Johnson Space Center in Houston can transfer updated files to the orbiting Mac Portable from Earth-based Macintoshes via fax modem


Items being tested overhead range from file compression, the sound cues issued by a computer, the optimum size of a trackball, electronic mapping and transferring paper documentation to computer storage for hypertext retrieval.

The primary mission of the STS-43 mission was to deploy a fourth Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS), enabling “almost uninterrupted communications with Earth-orbiting shuttles and satellites.” It was the ninth Atlantis mission (02 August – 11 August 1991).

The Internet was still young, the Web an infant

The Internet had moved from imagination to possibility when the U.S. Department of Defense funded the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET). The technology allowed allow computers to communicate on a single network.

The next step was Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) which allowed computers from different networks to communicate.

ARPANET adopted TCP/IP on January 1, 1983, and from there researchers began to assemble the “network of networks” that became the modern Internet.

Berners-Lee envisioned a World Wide Web in 1989 and then crafted the software to make it happen (emphasis added):

Already, millions of computers were being connected together through the fast-developing internet and Berners-Lee realised they could share information by exploiting an emerging technology called hypertext.

In March 1989, Tim laid out his vision for what would become the web in a document called “Information Management: A Proposal”. .. his boss at the time, Mike Sendall, noted the words “Vague but exciting” on the cover. The web was never an official CERN project, but Mike managed to give Tim time to work on it in September 1990. He began work using a NeXT computer, one of Steve Jobs’ early products.

In May 1985, Apple’s board had “strip[ped] Steve of all executive duties.” He resigned in September and launched NeXT. In 1988, NeXT and IBM became partners.

In 1996, Apple would buy NeXT for $400 million. Its operating system would provide the foundation for Mac OS X.

Under the leadership of Jobs, Apple went from near bankruptcy to becoming the world’s most valuable company, introducing iconic products like the iPod, iPhone, and iPad along the way.

In addition to creating “the computer for the rest of us,” Jobs also contributed to making the Internet a space for all of us.

#scitech, #space, #computing (201/365)
📷 NASA Public Domain
Daily posts, 2022-2023

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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