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Personal Digital Astronaut: PDA Travels Into Space

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When the Russian Soyuz rocket launched yesterday, bound for the International Space Station, South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth, the first African to venture into space, took with him a Palm(TM) m125 handheld — the only handheld computer to be approved for space travel on the Soyuz.

Because Mark’s activities in space are scheduled down to the minute, a special scheduling application was needed to meet the unique requirements of the project. Palm South Africa worked with the “First African in Space Project” coordinators and a South African Palm OS(R) developer company, Rafale, to create a customized Date Book application so that Mark’s events could be programmed on a minute-by-minute basis.

“When we found out that Mark was taking a Palm handheld into space, we immediately approached a Palm OS developer to build an application to the project’s specifications,” said Sean Heyes, country manager for Palm South Africa. “It’s been an exciting time for us, to be part of this historic occasion and have the opportunity to show the flexibility and growing reach of Palm products.”

The application built by Rafale allows Tsup (Moscow Mission Control), which manages all the communication between the International Space Station and Earth, to update Mark’s activity schedule in an Access Database and send it to Mark via email. On receipt of the email, Mark saves the updated information to his Palm Desktop software on his laptop and then synchronizes it to his Palm m125 handheld. Mark has a mobile activity schedule on his handheld in a matter of seconds, negating the need for him to keep going back to his laptop to check his schedule.

For the duration of Mark’s mission, Palm handheld users can download Mark’s daily activity schedule at the Palm South Africa (www.palmusergroup.co.za) and the First African in Space (www.africaninspace.co.za) websites.

About Dave Conabree

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