While such feats seem routine today, the skill of Western spacecraft
designers was underscored recently when a Russian probe destined for
Mars failed. The Russian space agency had invested an estimated $170
million and a good bit of its reputation in the success of its
Phobos-Grunt spacecraft. Aiming for the Martian moon Phobos, the probe
never made it out of Earth orbit when an engine designed to push it on
its way to Mars failed to ignite. The probe crashed into the Pacific
Ocean in January.
Of course, the Americans, too, have made their
share of mistakes. The U.S. Mars Climate Orbiter was lost in 1999
because engineers had used two measurement scales for the navigation
data. JPL used the metric scale for its calculations; contractor
Lockheed Martin Astronautics provided acceleration data in inches,
feet and pounds. Nobody realized the mistake until after launch. It has
not been repeated since.
The most ambitious science probe ever
to be sent to a planet’s surface is to the Red Planet. The Mars Science
Laboratory landed at Gale Crater in August using a risky new sky crane
technique. The lander, dubbed Curiosity, is powered by a plutonium power
source that is expected to last about 687 Earth days. Given the history
of earlier probes like Voyager and Opportunity, it’s safe to say
Curiosity’s life span could be much longer than expected.
planetary missions represent humankind’s first attempt to understand the
formation of our solar system. It’s hoped they will help explain how a
rocky, ocean-covered planet situated about 93 million miles from its sun
Once we understand that, we can begin looking for neighbors in nearby solar systems.
If our species manages to survive, one day in the very distant future, we may manage to make contact.
Sagan, the Cornell University astrophysicist and cosmologist who helped
conceive the Voyager program, famously said: “If we are alone in the
Universe, it sure seems like an awful waste of space.”
The electronics revolution of the last four decades has contributed mightily to humankind’s attempt to test Sagan’s theory.
We are NOT alone I was told. But we are the only ones who know that.
Deep space exploration is still exciting to follow as is deep water discoveries. Thre is so much we don't know about our environments and about ourselves. Onward, with the looking glass.
The universe is not wasted space if, as Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork." It's only wasted if we don't get the message. Here we are, trying to make contact, and the message has been streaming in.
This is very fascinating to me. But also points out how much we have to do to make space exploration even remotely feasible.
It took 35 YEARS merely to get a couple of spacecraft to the edge of our own solar system. Gad-zooks. We need major breakthroughs here, guys, or you can forget visiting even the closest star system (Alpha Centauri). Never mind the Delta Quadrant.
I love it! from Wikip.: The Delta Quadrant is home to the Borg Collective, the Kazon, the Vidiians, the Talaxians, the Ocampa, the Hirogen, the Malon, as well as many others. Species 8472, beings from "fluidic space", are first encountered in this quadrant, although they are not native to this region or physical dimension.
WE are NOT alone!
This is something that US should always will be proud of. With Chinese invading all of the consumer electronics products all over the world, US still keeps its strength and ingenuity when long lasting reliable electronics is required.
It's really that space vehicle electronics are extremely low-volume "product" and so haven't felt the need to be economically driven by Moore's law. The US had to put cold war politics above cost for this to go. Now there is no cold war, cost is the most powerful force. Ensuring reliability is actually too expensive for many consumers.
It is a mistake to confuse the design lifetime of something with an estimate of how long it will last. Something that is designed to last a few years usually lasts much longer. Especially if it designed to last those few years in a hazardous environment. This is because it has to be designed for the worst case, and that rarely happens. That NASA's craft have outlasted their design lifes only says that the Engineers did their jobs. This is not to say the fact that we have done this consistently is not something to be proud of. It is something to be very proud of. I am not taking exception to the acheivement, only to the idea that these craft should not be expected to outlive their missions.
Even educated people often have no perspective on how big space is. I once compared the orbit of Pluto to a pencil dot on the floor, and pointed out that on that scale Proxima Centari would be on the ceiling. Today, I will add the comment that on that scale, the helio-pause would be about the size of a BB. We can talk about the idea that Voyager is now an interstellar spacecraft, but it will be several hundred years before it is closer to another star than it is to our own.
I suspect that the longevity may have something to do with the extremely low temperatures the electronics is now running at. If lifetimes double for every 10C reduction then at close to absolute zero this could be very long indeed.
January 2016 Cartoon Caption ContestBob's punishment for missing his deadline was to be tied to his chair tantalizingly close to a disconnected cable, with one hand superglued to his desk and another to his chin, while the pages from his wall calendar were slowly torn away.122 comments