Did Slack help NASA land on Mars?

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Image: Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP
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NASA spacecraft InSight successfully touched down on Mars today (Nov. 26) at 11:54 am Pacific time. The landing marks the eighth time in human history we as a species have descended on our red neighbor. It also may mark the first time humanity has used Slack to accomplish such a feat.

More commonly known for office communication, Slack has entered workplace ubiquity in the technology sector over the last few years. The rocketing success of Slack even prompted Microsoft to offer a competing service for free in July of this year.  But by that time, workers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were already hooked on Slack (pdf).

The InSight lander is designed to help us better understand geothermal activity on Mars, measuring beneath the crust of the planet as well as documenting seismic activity, or “marsquakes.” Audiences watching the live feed from mission control at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory as InSight approached its target today noticed the familiar sight of the Slack application window.

According to Slack, a small group of computer programmers at NASA’s lab started using the software as way to share product updates and files. Shortly after, the application spread across the 110 buildings at the California-based rocket lab. As Slack puts it, “building robots that explore the galaxy is complex, but with Slack, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory keeps communication between teams simple.”

Whether it was the lynchpin for JPL’s history-making success or not is still to be determined. Regardless, that’s one small step for Slack, and one giant leap for mankind.