Newsletter Issue: "Gemini"

Hello everyone,

53 years ago this week - November 11, 1966 to be exact - saw the launch of Gemini 12, the last launch of the Gemini space program. Gemini capsules were just barely large enough to hold two people. Gemini 12 was piloted by Buzz Aldrin and James Lovell. Buzz Aldrin famously accompanied Neil Armstrong on that famous Apollo 11 flight just about 30 months after this Gemini 12 mission. James Lovell later command Apollo 13, whose story has been forever captured in the 1995 movie of the same name.

Here's a photo of the Gemini 12 rocket:

The crew stuffed themselves into the capsule, which is that very tiny black section way up at the tippy top. The small white section just below that is the "service module". (The service module contained their oxygen supply, a small engine for steering, and other necessary machinery.)

But the entire rest of the rocket is nothing more than a giant gas can. Once lit, the rocket burns an unimaginable amount of fuel in order to propel them into orbit. Then, the rocket falls back into the ocean, and only the capsule and service module remain.

If you're wondering if this story has any connection to constructing research software, there is :-)

When you're working with a software development team, a lot of time will be spent collaborating on the user interface of your software, especially if you're building an app for a smartphone or the web. The user interface, the part that your study participants will see and interact with, is like the Gemini capsule: it's where humans will intersect with the project.

But your software team will also have to spend a lot of effort on the infrastructure that will support that user interface.

If that infrastructure is designed poorly - perhaps the data you need to collect isn't collected properly or isn't stored safely - then building your app will have been a wasted effort and your study's results could be in peril.

Make sure you spend just as much time collaborating on the "behind the scenes" infrastructure as you do that UI. Data collection, security walls, audit trails, system monitoring, data breach procedures, and quality control become the "gas can" that will get your study off the ground. (Ok I'm done with the puns for now :-)

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