Blog posts with the tag space travel | Interested In Everything

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Blog posts with the tag "space travel"

It looks like ESA and Rosetta are happily talking to one another!  Following on from my earlier post about the Rosetta probe and its long hibernation, I’ve just had a quick look at the ESA website and it appears that it successfully woke up on 20th January.  Apparently, the first “health checks” have been carried out and Rosetta is transmitting a signal back to Earth.  The flight control team had expressed some concerns that the solar panels were generating enough power, but the probe’s systems seem to be functioning correctly so far.  When you stop and think about this, it’s a little more complicated that the little solar panels on my rechargeable garden lights not quite getting enough power in the winter!  Rosetta is currently 673 million kilometres from the sun.  Read that again. 673 million.  Let’s do a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation.

Light travels at (approximately)* 3 x 108 m/s

673,000,000 km is equivalent to 6.73 x 1011 m

That means that it takes something in the region of 37½ minutes for the light to reach Rosetta’s solar panels from it leaving the sun.  I’m reminded of a quote from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy here:

“Space,” it says, “is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

And who can argue with Douglas Adams?

*Light actually travels at 299,792,458 m/s.  I’m not going to lose sleep over my lack of accuracy…

On Saturday evening, my sister-in-law called.  Apparently, I missed what she described as “what looked like a meteor shower”.  I was slightly annoyed by this, as it was Saturday night and, instead of being in the Royal Oak (where I belong), I was at the kitchen table marking second year design assignment. The prospect of a good meteor shower would have livened things up a bit.  In fact, I’ve not seen much happening in the sky for quite a while as it’s been way too cloudy over this corner of North East Derbyshire and all I’ve seen is the reflected glow of thousands of sodium street lamps.  The faithful 6” reflector telescope that the Mrs bought me for my 40th is currently sitting gathering dust in the back bedroom and didn’t even manage to get an airing during Brian and Dara’s annual extravaganza the other week.

 

However, someone with much more money and better gear to play with than I can begin to dream of has been looking skyward. The European Space Agency appear to be about to wake up their Rosetta probe that has been quietly snoozing while it hurtles through the vastness of the solar system, so, at some point early next week—probably while I’m sitting in a Formula Student board meeting—it will begin doing some rather exciting space exploration.  While I’m discussing this year’s chassis modifications, the probe will be heading towards this beast.

 

Once it gets there, it will circle the comet, put down its lander and scan the 4.6 billion year old body in order to try and find out more information about the origins of our solar system.  All in a days work for your run-of-the-mill space probe, no doubt, but I have to take my hat off (and I don’t do that very often these days, I like to keep the bald patch insulated) to the engineers who put Rosetta where she is.  Just think – that lump of hardware is now so far away that there’s barely enough light reaching its solar panels to give it any kind of power!  Even so, the folks at ESA are going to attempt to get it to perform a braking manoeuvre to try and slow it down from its estimated velocity of 3,500kmh—from this distance!

 

And I thought getting a Mark 2 Cortina to slow down from motorway speeds could be a challenge!

 

I’m going to be watching this one with much interest, both from the point of view of the professional engineer of 25 years’ standing and from that of the excitable nine year old who still lives inside my head and is fascinated by space exploration!

One of my earliest childhood memories is back in 1969 when my mother pointed at the moon and said to me, “There’ll be somebody walking on that next week”.  Of course, I was far too young to fully appreciate the significance of such a thing, which is why I got quite excited when Mars One—a Netherlands-based private spaceflight project—announced that the first contracts to develop concepts for a Mars lander have been awarded. The possibility of landing a person on the red planet has just moved a tiny bit closer.

 

Apparently, if a manned exploratory mission scheduled for 2018 is successful, then this might mean it will be possible to start colonising Mars by 2025!  Does this mean that we might actually be getting nearer to the shiny, space-age world I was promised when I was a small boy?  I know that many words have been spoken on the subject of getting living humans to the surface of Mars over the years, but it would be great to think that it might be achievable after all. The mission’s date has been put back by two years, but what’s a couple of years in the grand scheme of things?  It gives me a bit extra time to work out which shirts I need to pack.

 

I wish the applicants who have signed up for the mission all the very best. Though this misshapen old body certainly won’t be able to withstand the punishment of space travel, I’ll be with them in spirit. The CEO of Mars One, Bas Lansdorp has compared the value of the mission’s video footage of the solar system to broadcast rights from the Olympic Games. As impressive as the last Olympics were, I’ve got to admit that I would much rather watch a Martian sunset. I’m slightly too young to have been able to appreciate the Apollo missions for what they were, so this time I intend to have a front row sit.