News, Science, Technology

Time For A Change As NASA Upgrades Its Launch Clock

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The countdown clock. Image: NASA
The countdown clock. Image: NASA

There are some pretty famous clocks in the world: London’s Big Ben, and the clock on the Peace Tower in Ottawa, to name just two.

But the most watched clock in the world may be NASA’s launch clock. It counts down the seconds before the launch of a spacecraft.

But its time was up and it has been replaced by a new, digital clock that shows images as well as counts down the launch time.

The old clock was built in 1969 and was about six feet high and 26 feet wide. It counted backwards until the launch time until the exact second of the launch, and then its job was to count forward, to measure the time of the mission. Its numbers were lit up by a series of 40-watt lightbulbs, like the ones used in people’s homes.

However, over time the famous old clock has been damaged by the wind, rain and sun in the sometimes challenging Florida climate. It has also been difficult for NASA to maintain its old technology and keep it in perfect working order.

The new clock is an enormous digital screen, much like you might see in a sports stadium. It can show videos of the mission as well as the launch time.

The new clock cost NASA $280,000 (US) and is about seven feet high and 26 feet side. Its first job was today’s launch of the Orion spacecraft.

The old clock has been moved to NASA’s Visitor Centre.

UPDATE: The Orion lift-off was scrubbed on Thursday, but it happened successfully on Friday morning. Here’s an excellent NASA YouTube video of the launch.

 

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
By Jonathan Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
“Time for a change” is a pun. A pun is a joke that uses different meanings of a word to make a saying funny. Can you explain what the pun in the title means? How many puns can you come up with for this story?

Reading Prompt: Extending Understanding
Today’s article begins with the following sentence: “There are some pretty famous clocks in the world: London’s Big Ben, and the clock on the Peace Tower in Ottawa, to name just two.” Why are these two clocks famous? Can you think of any other clocks that are famous?

Junior
Extend understanding of texts by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Intermediate
Extend understanding of texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts, by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Language Feature: Writing Numbers
There are a lot of numbers included in this story. For example, the following sentence states: “The old clock was built in 1969 and was about six feet high and 26 feet wide.” In this sentence, numbers are written using numerals and words. Why are they written differently? What is the rule for how to write numbers?