iPads heading to orbit next week

The iPad is going where no tablet device has gone before. The CollectSpace.com web site reports that two of Apple's iPads will be shot into orbit on Sunday as part of the payload on the Progress unmanned vehicle. The rocket will be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and will later dock with the International Space Station.

It's somehow appropriate that iPads will soon be used by astronauts and cosmonauts on the ISS. After all, the iPads look a lot like those video pads seen on board the Discovery in 2001: A Space Odyssey (you know, before HAL 9000 killed most of the ship's crew). And of course Star Trek fans already think that the iPad is similar to the PADD (Personal Access Display Device) that was used frequently on The Next Generation and other Trek TV series.

Alas, it sounds like the iPads won't actually be used for serious work on board the space station. The article quotes a NASA spokesperson as saying the iPads will be used just for entertainment purposes by the station team members. That's too bad; we had this fantasy of the iPad being used to help save the station from some kind of crisis or perhaps used as a way to communicate with any visiting aliens ... they are up there somewhere right.

Still, at least the astronauts will be able to use the iPad for other tasks such as playing Angry Birds and updating their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Actually, that's still pretty cool.

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