He didn’t know it at the time, but in 1990 Eric Fossum started a revolution. In the early ‘90s, NASA was firing rockets into orbit every other month. And to take images of outer space, each spacecraft was equipped with cameras.
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The problem was, these cameras were absolutely huge—roughly as big as a double-door fridge. Cameras used on spacecraft are similar to digital cameras, except they have to be a lot tougher. And they required tons of heavy wiring to work.
So NASA hired hotshot engineer Eric Fossum straight from Yale, and tasked him with miniaturizing NASA’s cameras. Within two years, Fossum created a “camera-on-a-chip”—a new type of image sensor that was smaller and consumed 100X less power.
Image sensors are tiny computer chips that essentially give cameras a set of “eyes.” They process light from the outside world and transform it