Archive for the ‘NASA’ Tag

Mars Rover CURIOSITY Is Coming to Town!   38 comments

 

CURIOSITY Phone Home!

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Launched by NASA aboard an Atlas V 541 rocket on November 26 2011 the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) – Mars Rover ‘Curiosity’ due to land 05:31 GMT (06:31 BST) on clip_image003August 6, 2012, (22:31 PDT August 5,2012) in ‘Gale Crater’- in the region of Mars 5km high Mountain, Aeolis palus (Mount Sharp) having travelled 570 million km (352 million miles) to reach Mars. It’s mission, part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program; managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of California Institute of Technology is expected to last for a minimum of one Martian year (687 Earth days) and will cover an area of 5 x 20 km – larger than any other previous Mars Rover.

clip_image006 AtlasV Rocket Launching_Image Credit: NASA

                                                                                                                                      

Curiosity will have four scientific goals and objectives:

  1. Discover if the Martian environment is or was ever capable of supporting life

  2. Martian climate study

Mars Curiosity Rover_Image Credit: JPL-Caltech/NASA-APMars Curiosity_Image Credit: Reuters

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Curiosity in its disposable capsule heading for Mars_Google Images

  3.  Study of the Martian geology

  4.  Planning and preparation for a future manned Mars mission

    • Including the measurement of internal spacecraft radiation exposure during flight to Mars

Curiosity’s progress can be followed HERE!>>>

Follow Curiosity Rover on Twitter!Curiosity visits Times Square USA!_Image Credit: news.discovery.com <<<And here!! (Times Square USA)

The Great Galactic Ghoul!   39 comments

The Curse Of The Great Martian Galactic Ghoul!

Phobos GruntThe Martian Curse

As the ill-fated Russian space probe “Phobos Grunt” (Phobos Soil) meets it dramatic demise, crashing back to Earth in a blaze of flame and fire once again the Mars curse of the Great Galactic Ghoul lives up to it’s reputation as a (fictitional) space monster that lives very happily on a diet of Mars probes!!

Originally dreamed up by NASA space engineers, it was designed to counter the disappointment of the hazards encountered by and only occasionally survived by, seemingly endless failed Mars missions with a sense of humour, in the form of a fantasy space ghoul!

The Great Galactic Ghoul is supposed to be a sea serpent lying in malevolent and hungry wait en route to Mars. It is akin to the mischevious gremlins RAF pilots in WW2 often held responsible for their aircraft problems.

Phobos Grunt Crashing Back to EarthMars’ Ghoulish Curse of Terror!

Mars itself has long been associated with war and destruction, its best known guise being the Roman God of War, It was known by the Egyptians as “The Red One” and by the Babylonians as the “Star of Death.” By the 20th century it was widely considered to be inhabited by dangerous and violent aliens whos warmongering natures would lead them to destroy mankind and claim the Earth for themselves.

The dawn of the space age brought with it a whole new reign of terror of a very different kind. Despite the Red Planet proving to be a benign and lifeless world it also proved to be a ghoulish curse of terror devouring galactic technology as fast as it could…

Missions Impossible!

  • 1961/62: FIVE missions to Mars failed, of which FOUR never made it past Earth’s gravity
  • 1964: NASA MARINER 3 failed to deploy its solar panels and the batteries went flat
  • 1965: Russian probe ZOND 2 was lost contact with and lifeless as it was simply floated straight on past its target
  • 1971: RUSSIAN LANDER crashed into Mars creating the first man-made crater
  • 1993: MARS OBSERVER (NASA) went AWOL spinning out of control with a leaking fuel tank
  • 1999: MARS CLIMATE ORBITER burned up in Mars’ atmosphere during the crafts approach
  • 9 November 2011: Russian probe PHOBOS GRUNT (SOIL) launched to collect and return to Earth, soil samples from Mars’ moon Phobos. Stopped communicating within hours with mission control. Crashed back to Earth in a pile of junk January 2012.

clip_image006Search Continues for Lost Mars Lander Beagle 2

The 33 kilogram (73 lb) Beagle 2 separated from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express satellite in Mars orbit six days before atmospheric reentry… then nothing…silence. Nine years later, we still have no idea, to this day, about what happened to Britain’s sole British Mars mission. If you feel like doing a spot of lost Beagle 2 searching, here are some instructions about how to do so.

The Ghoul seems to have developed something of a taste for Russian space craft…. Phobos-Grunt crashed back to Earth recently after its rocket failed, 15 years after Russia’s first Mars mission.. Prior to that in 1989 Phobos 2, although it did manage to arrive at Mars in one piece, was knocked out by a faulty computer before mission completion. Phobos 1 had the grave misfortune to mysteriously vanish before it even got to Mars after losing its lock on the Sun. This resulting in a fatal system failure due to the additional loss of vital solar power, all caused by yet another computer error.

Between 1961 and 2011, 22 space craft were lost to the Great Galactic Terror!

New Discovery! Great Lake On Jupiter’s Icy Moon Europa!   40 comments

Great Lake of Europa

INTRODUCTION –SEARCHING FOR LIFE BEYOND EARTH

A large liquid lake has been discovered just below Europa’s icy shell may provide a habitat for life.

Europa's icy surface_plains of bright ice

Europa’s icy surface, as viewed from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft. Visible are plains of bright ice, jumbled cracks an indication of a sub-surface heat source that run to the horizon, and dark patches that likely contain both ice and dirt. CREDIT: NASA/Ted Stryk

HOW HAVE SCIENTISTS DETERMINED THE EXISTENCE OF THESE LAKES ON EUROPA?

  • New research studies show Jupiter’s moon could have numerous large lakes just beneath its icy shell, and consequently closer to energy from the Sun, potentially providing a habitat for life.

JUPITER’S ICY MOON EUROPA IN BRIEF

  • Europa is one of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter which has at least 63 moons in total including Europa
  • Europa is slightly smaller than Earth’s moon and orbits Jupiter every 3.5 days. It has an iron core, a rocky mantle (shell), a radius of 1,569 km and it is 670,900 km distant from Jupiter.
  • Although Europa is about 500 million miles away from earth it comes closer to resembling our planet and providing potential for life than anything else in the solar system
  • There is a large, subsurface ocean of salty water deep beneath its frozen, ice pack crust thought to be in some areas tens of kilometers thick.
  • Recently discovered lakes appear to be embedded closer to the surface.
  • Europa has more water than all the oceans of Earth

EUROPA’S GREAT LAKE

  • New research: A large liquid lake discovered approximately just 1.5 miles (3km) below Europa’s icy shell. Estimated to be equal in volume to all the North American Great Lakes combined.
  • Europa could have numerous large shallow lakes just beneath its icy shell placing them closer to energy from the Sun.

Thera Macula

One such lake lies underneath Thera Macula, one of Europa’s chaos terrains. Thera Macula (false color) is a region of likely active chaos production above a large liquid water lake in the icy shell of Europa. Color indicates topographic heights relative to background terrain. Purples and reds indicate the highest terrain.
CREDIT: Paul Schenk/NASA

  • Research also explains how nutrients and energy could get from the moon’s surface to its buried ocean.
  • In doing so they could possibly provide a habitat for life which would be a key finding in the search for places where life might exist beyond Earth.

Europa's Great Lake

Europa’s "Great Lake." Scientists speculate many more exist throughout the shallow regions of the moon’s icy shell.
CREDIT: Britney Schmidt/Dead Pixel VFX/Univ. of Texas at Austin

HABITAT FOR LIFE

Scientists believe that

  • The interaction between the Europa ice pack and the subsurface bodies of water transfer nutrients and energy that may lead to life existing under the Europa surface.
  • Life in the oceans of Europa would be similar to that which exists deep beneath the oceans on Earth where light does not penetrate.
  • Liquid water is thought to be necessary for life,
  • Microbial organisms may survive in this buried sea.

The “lake” holds potential as a habitat for life, and there may be many more such lakes throughout the shallower regions of Europa’s shell, said lead author Britney Scmhidt, postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Geophysics.

“The potential for exchange of material between the surface and subsurface is a big key for astrobiology. Europa’s subsurface harbours much of what we believe is necessary for life but chemical nutrients found at the surface are likely vital for driving biology.”~Wes Patterson, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. and a co-author of the study.

“Now we see evidence that it’s a thick ice shell that can mix vigorously, and new evidence for giant shallow lakes. That could make Europa and its ocean more habitable. The material cycled into the ocean via these lakes may make Europa’s ocean even more habitable than previously imagined. The lakes may even be habitats themselves."~Britney Schmidt, lead author.

CHAOS TERRAIN ON EUROPA POINTS TO SUBSURFACE LAKES

Determining the existence of such a body of water

Chaos terrain on Europa

Chaos terrain on Europa points to subsurface lakes. (NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk)

  • Europa’s surface is cold, around minus 170 degree Celsius (minus 100 K). The bottom of the ice is slightly warmer.
  • Two circular bumpy features on Europa’s surface called "chaos terrains." similar to features on Earth suggest that Europa is still geologically active heated likely by tidal forces. These tidal forces provide more heat on Europa than would normally be the case for a celestial body that far away from the sun.
  • That means plumes of warm water well up against the Europa ice cap, fracturing them, to churn the ice and subsurface water causing the "chaos" terrain features.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE POSSIBILITY OF LIFE ON EUROPA?

Nutrients and energy are transferred from the frozen surface to the vast ocean below resulting in the possibility that environments suitable for life could exist under the Europa surface. Life in the oceans of Europa would be similar to that which exists deep beneath the oceans on Earth where light does not penetrate. This could also mean that Europa is more likely to harbour extra-terrestrial life than Mars.

"On Earth, it is the volcano [melting the ice]. On Europa, it is the warm ice plume coming up from below” ~Schmidt

"You and I might not notice the difference, but geologically it’s very different. Heat melts some of the ice into enormous lakes beneath the crust. Think of Europa as one giant ice shelf floating on a global ocean, with a really rocky core.” ~ Paul Schenk, of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.

Europa rising above Jupiter

The icy moon Europa rising above Jupiter’s cloud tops. The picture was one of a handful of the Jupiter system that New Horizons took primarily for artistic, rather than scientific, value.
CREDIT: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

CONFIRMATION? – the next step in confirming liquid water under Europa?

  • Confirmation of the existence of these lakes will involve a thorough investigation of both above and below the icy surface of Europa meaning a future mission to Europa is essential. The National Research Council’s Planetary Science Decadal Survey gave such missions one of the highest priority ratings.

FUTURE EUROPA EXPLORATION MISSIONS PROPOSALS

A joint NASA/EUROPEAN SPACE STATION SPACE mission to Europa known as the EUROPA JUPITER SYSTEM MISSION is being considered. The intention being that the EUROPA ORBITER probe, which is estimated to launch in 2020 arriving in orbit off Europa in 2028 will by remote study hopefully give clues as to how the ice layers and the subsurface ocean interact. It will also study the organic exchange between them which could result in the existence of microscopic life in the subsurface ocean and lakes.

The EUROPA ICEPICK MISSION would involve the drilling through of Europa’s ice pack and a unique opportunity to explore the subsurface ocean, in the hope of finding some form of life and also other valuable scientific data.

"Europa is likely to have a deep ocean of liquid water beneath its icy crust, making it an object of enormous interest as a possible abode for life," ~Planetary scientist Steve Squyres, with Cornell University

Funding for such missions to Europa is very uncertain. Most likely the Europa landers would cost anything from $800 million to $2 billion and that is only a rough estimate. This would involve input from several nations in order to obtain the necessary funding to make any one of these missions a reality.

NASA Discover Alien Planet Earth Twin –Kelper-22b   46 comments

 

Alien Earth-Twin: Planet Kelper-22b

NASA Kelper: Planet Hunting Spacecraft

Kepler 22b, the new alien planet discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, which NASA scientists say embraces the most hopeful possibility to date for potential future human habitation. Scientists also believe there is a tantalising option for the presence of continents, oceans and even alien life forms living on its surface. Kepler-22b is the first of many such planets that it is hoped will be discovered by the Kepler space telescope.

The Kepler Mission is a NASA Discovery Program for detecting potentially life-supporting planets-. those where liquid water might exist on the surface of those around other stars in the habitable zone. Terrestrial planets. (i.e. those one half to twice the size of the Earth)

Kelper Telescope

NASA’s Kelper planet-hunting spacecraft, a Space Observatory, that has been orbiting Earth since it was launched in March 2009 is the most powerful telescope in space. It needs a large field in order to observe the necessary large number of stars.

Beginning in the Star Fields

Kelper will be searching constantly in the Cygnus star field, staring unblinkingly at around 155,000 stars every half hour, looking for tiny drops in brightness that betray the presence of planets, for the duration of it’s 3.5 years+ mission. Cygnus is ideal as it lacks in bright stars that would hamper the instruments and it contains many stars similar to our Sun

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Kepler’s targetd star field in nearby region of the Milky Way. Credit: NASA

The star around which Kepler 22b orbits in the region of the constellations of Lyra and Cygnus, is slightly smaller than our Sun and about 25% less bright. The alien planet was discovered after making a "transit" across the front of its parent star – when a planet crosses in front of its star (Sun) it blocks a small fraction of the light from that star.

                               Cygnus Star field                                       Kelper's Transit Method

Image 1. Kepler’s targeted star field. Credit: Carter Roberts of the Eastbay Astronomical Society   \mage 2. Artist’s rendering of Kepler’s Transit Method of Detecting Extrasolar Planets. Credit: SETI Institute

It is these microscopic variations in the star’s brightness that Kelper can detect. These tell the planet size. The time between ‘transits’ indicates the size of the planet’s orbit and estimates the planet’s temperature. These factors determine possibilities for life on the planet.

Alien Planet Kelper-22b

kepler22b-artwork

This artist’s conception illustrates Kepler-22b, a planet known to comfortably circle in the habitable zone of a sun-like star.
CREDIT: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

2.4 times the size of earth Kelper 22b orbits a star similar to, but smaller and cooler than, our own sun. Scientists say it is 15% closer to its own star than Earth is to our Sun and is located at the somewhat daunting distance of 600 light years away from our own Solar System. At 290 days, the duration of a year on Kepler-22b is not far off our own and the planet’s surface temperature is an agreeable 22deg C. (72deg F) (Sign up here if you wish to join Wolfie on a summer holiday) 😉

Its atmosphere is of a nature that could potentially support life and Kepler-22b is the first “Earth twin” known that is situated in the ‘habitable zone’ of another Sun-like star. This allows for temperatures fitting to the existence of liquid surface water throughout its orbit. I.e. Kelper- 22b could have Earth-like continents and oceans…and where there is liquid water there is also a strong possibility of life. It is even possible, according to scientists that Kelper-22b is in fact already inhabited!

However scientists have yet to figure out whether Kepler-22b is of a primarily rock, liquid or gas composition. A rocky surface would be the best ideal for life. However, a certain Professor Abel Mendez of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory has pessimistically suggested that the chances are that the new and alien planet is likely to be too big to be a habitable world… well there’s always one!

To date the Kepler space telescope has discovered a grand total of 48 planets in the habitable zone of their own solar systems. (The “Goldilocks zone”) Kepler-22b is just the first alien world within such a zone to have been confirmed by other telescopes observations.

NASA announced the discovery of Kepler-22b on Dec. 5 2011.

 Planets and orbits to scale

Comparison chart of our own solar system and  Kepler-22, a star system containing the first "habitable zone" planet discovered.

"This discovery supports the growing belief that we live in a universe crowded with life," ~ Dr Alan Boss, from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC, helped identify the planet from data collected by the Kepler space telescope.

"This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth’s twin," ~ Douglas Hudgins, a member of the Kepler telescope team.

“Fortune smiled upon us with the detection of this planet," ~ William Borucki, who led the team that discovered Kepler-22b.

Snow White And The Frozen Dwarf   27 comments

 

Snow White – World of Ice and Methane

Snow White (Photo Credit: NASA)US Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have discovered that the dwarf planet 2007 OR10 known as Snow White –once a small volcanically active world firing slushy water ice from ancient volcanoes, and boasting an atmosphere, is today an icy, frozen, dead world, tinged red and enveloped in a thin layer of methane that is slowly slipping away to be lost into space.

Snow White — orbits the sun at the edge of the solar system and is about half the size of Pluto, making it the fifth largest dwarf planet. Part of a larger group of icy bodies called Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs).Ironically Snow White has actually proved to be one of the reddest objects in the solar system.

However last autumn using a newly designed instrument called the Folded-port Infrared Echellette (FIRE), with the 6.5-meter Magellan Baade Telescope in Chile, Adam Burgasser, a former graduate student and now a professor at UC San Diego, and Wesley Fraser, postdoctoral scholar were shocked to find out although Snow White was indeed red, it’s surface was also covered in water ice.

“Water ice is not red! Although ice is common in the outer solar system, it’s almost always white~ Mike Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor and professor of planetary astronomy.

One other dwarf planet that shares these characteristics is Quaoar, discovered in 2002. Slightly smaller than Snow White, Quaoar is still big enough to have had an atmosphere and a surface covered with volcanoes that sent-up and slush and ice, which as with Snow White flowed over the surface before freezing solid.

But smaller than dwarf planets like Pluto or Eris, it was unable to hold onto volatile methane, carbon monoxide, or nitrogen compounds as long. And two billion years after its formation Quaoar inevitably began to lose its atmosphere to space; now, and today all that remains is the space-irradiated methane which rests on the icy surface Quaoar’s, giving it a glowing reddish hue.

It is clear from indications on the spectrum of Snow White 2007 OR10 which clearly shows the presence of water ice that it too for the last ½ billion years it has followed in the footsteps of Quaoar, still and silent amongst the stars, slowly losing its atmosphere into space until now only a small part remains."

The existence of methane is still open to debate. But the use of a large telescope such as the Keck Observatory will show clearly whether methane exists on Snow White or not. If this proves to be so it will join Quaoar as one of only two dwarf planets that bridge the gap between the tiny selection of entities large enough to hold onto hazardous composites, and the smaller entities that constitute the vast majority of KBOs.

NASA Remembers September 11th: 10 Years Later   22 comments

10th Anniversary of 9/11

Message From NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

NASA Remembers September 11th_10 Years Later

 

“NASA joins the nation and the world in marking the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on our country. On this solemn occasion, we pause to remember the lives of those we lost that tragic day, and to offer comfort to the families they left behind.

A NASA astronaut aboard the International Space Station was able to photograph the devastation of that terrible day, which could be seen even as far away as the vantage point of low Earth orbit. The photos of Frank Culbertson, the only American off-planet at the time, are an historic reminder that this small dot in the universe still has big challenges to overcome.

America’s first responders and many ordinary people became heroes on 9/11 and our government has continued since to take the steps that have kept our nation safe. More than two million of our troops have served in war zones. These brave volunteers are protecting our nation beyond its borders and preventing threats before they can reach our shores. They have upheld the virtues of service, sacrifice, and selflessness that have always been the source of America’s strength. As the beneficiaries of their service, we have a sacred duty to support all of our troops, military families and veterans.

Frank Culbertson returned to a different world than that from which he launched. But all of the space station’s international crews have demonstrated how space exploration can bring our world together, erase borders and improve the lives of people across the world.

We will never forget 9/11, but we are nevertheless optimistic about the future. It is a bright future for the kind of cooperative exploration that will inspire humanity and lift our thoughts to the higher potential of which we are capable.

NASA is uniquely positioned to continue building bridges in a global enterprise that helps us uncover the secrets of our planet and the universe and brings scientists, engineers and explorers from all walks of life together no matter their race, religion, national origin or background. This is the legacy not only of the ISS, it is a path that we are pursuing for the future.

I hope you will participate in the National Day of Service and Remembrance that will be observed on 9/11. Our nation’s unity and the many ways we help each other through adversity are among our greatest assets.

We are resilient. Our nation draws strength from diversity, and we can do whatever we set our mind to not just because of our military power, but because of the power of our ideas, because of who we are: one nation, dedicated to building a more perfect union.

The families of the victims and the continued healing of our nation are foremost in our thoughts and prayers today. Let us join in remembrance and raise our sights to tomorrow’s promise.”

(Graphic and Text Credit: NASA)


Today, Tomorrow, Ten Years From Now, We Will Remember!!

♥ For the husband who told his wife I love you one last time before his plane went down in a field ♥ For the wife who stopped in the stairs to call her husband to say I will love you forever ♥ For the mothers and fathers who kissed their kids goodbye the morning they died ♥ For the policemen who rushed in with the firemen to help get others out only to die themselves ♥ For the soldiers who fought back and lost their lives. ♥ Today, tomorrow, ten years from now, we will remember!!

Times of impact: 8:46 a.m. and 9:02 a.m. Time the burning towers stood: 56 minutes and 102 minutes. Time they took to fall: 12 seconds. 2819 dead from 115 different nations. 343 Fireman/paramedics, 23 NYPD, 37 Port Authority officers.

Let us not forget the Pentagon and the people who died in PA on this dreadful day.

The Last Day on Earth Lyrics–Kate Miller-Heidke

Flying Close To Another Sun   48 comments

Project Icarus ~ Flying Close To Another Star

 

icarus2 icarus-daedalus icarus

Icarus and Daedalus in Mythology

Icarus and Daedalus were characters from ancient Greek mythology. Icarus’s father Daedalus was a famous architect, inventor and master craftsman. In order to escape imprisonment by King Minos of Crete Daedalus built wings for himself and Icarus, out of feathers, held together with wax. Daedalus warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, as it would melt his wings, and not too close to the sea, as it would dampen them and make it hard to fly. Caught in the thrill of flying successfully from Crete Icarus became careless. He flew too close to the sun god Helios, “touching the sky” and the wax holding his wings together melted in the heat and he fell to his death drowning in the Icranian Sea, which was named after him. 

img_01Purpose of Project Icarus 

Project Icarus is a joint initiative with the Tau Zero Foundation and British Interplanetary Society (BIS). The aim of Project Icarus is to design and power an Interstellar probe to “touch the stars” and escape the boundaries of Earth. Over 30 years has now passed since its predecessor, the Daedalus Project. This was a BIS project in late 1970’s conducted over several years, to design an interstellar probe for a flyby mission to Barnards Star. In light of scientific and technological advances the time has come to re-assess the unique concept of the Daedalus design in the hope that such studies will bring closer the day when mankind reaches out to the stars.

Without such an assessment it is difficult to realistically project when and what might be possible, and exactly what will be involved to make it possible. The Project Daedalus study will inject a much needed dose of reality into what was previously nothing more than speculation on interstellar probes/travel. And whilst still at the design stage the Project Icarus concept is its successor that Tau Zero Foundation and BIS scientists are working on.

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Project Daedalus

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      • Began January 1973 as a study to determine the feasibility of Interstellar Space Flight
      • It was concluded in 1978 that Interstellar flight was possible
      • It would be powered by fusion rockets using radio-active pellets (Deutrium and Helium-3)
      • And ignited by electronic beams to create plasma to push Daedalus through space
      • Helium-3’s rarity on Earth would have meant 20 years of mining from Jupiter’s atmosphere by hot air balloon – supported by robotic factories
      • Designed to accelerate for approximately 4 years until speeds 12% speed of light were achieved, then to spend the next 46 years cruising

Project Icarusheader_3

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      • 5 year design study that began 30 September 2009 with aim of creating a credible interstellar probe and supporting the vision of manned space exploration. 
      • Icarus has two design power options:

  1.     Fusion Propulsion Engines:

Microwaves would be used to heat plasma to approximately 600 million degrees. This would fuse hydrogen nuclei to create Helium and the hot charged particles it produced would provide the necessary thrust. Presently the engineering necessary to set off a fusion reaction is unrealistically high, but Icarus designers are considering an experimental plasma engine ~ Vasimi. Besides demonstrating the concept it could also reduce to less than 40 days, the 9 month journey to Mars.

  2.      hypothetical_antimatter_rocket_NASA's Marshall Space Flight Cenyter Antimatter driven sail for deep space mission to the Kuiper Belt Cred Hbar TechnosLLCElizabeth laguna Antimatter Propulsion Engines:

300 X more powerful than nuclear fusion reactions. The matter~antimatter reaction occurring in the antimatter engine would be the ultimate power source for Interstellar crafts. 100% mass of an Antimatter reaction is converted into energy. This releases billions of times more energy than a similar quantity of converted rocket fuel.

  •  
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      •  
        • It would travel at minimum 18 per cent of the speed of light (FAST!) to the nearest star, Epsilon Eridani, an orange sun-like star ~ 10.7 light years away
        • Communicating with it would necessitate bending radio signals around the Sun.
        • This involves a process known as Gravitational Lensing where light (radio waves) are bent around massive objects like stars and galaxies. In Icarus’s case ~ THE SUN. The same effect can be seen when light passes through a prism. At the focal point the signal is drastically amplified, making communication distance between Icarus and Earth much shorter.
        • It has however been conceded that it would not be likely to launch till the end of next century and even at the above speeds still take decades to reach its destination.

tzf_img_post

There are many different approaches necessary when striving for Inter-stellar flight ranging from the apparently simple Solar Sail to the warp drives of sci fi. Project Icarus is a half-way point taking an in-depth, no holds barred look at the “edge of projected technology in the context of a realistically demanding inter-stellar mission. It is a sequel to the seminal 1978 “Project Daedalus” of the BIS.”(Marc Millis – Icarus Consultant and Former Project Manager of the NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project, March 2010, and President of the Tau Zero Foundation)

Solar Sails   14 comments

Solar Sail Space Crafts

 

Space craft propelled directly by the power of sunlight (solar cells are indirect power).

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Two projects are set for launch this year:-

  •   IKAROS – launched by Japanese Space Agency JAXA
  •   SOLARSAIL-1 by US based Planetary Society

(These are demonstrations to show that it can work, but they are very tiny!)

Solar Sail Craft Basics

gossamer_solar_sail

Constructed from Gossamer – thin reflective sails capture photons

  •   Photons are packets of energy that make up sunlight

The sails gain momentum from the photons as they are reflected from their surface. Energy gained pushed the craft forwards gently. The force of sunlight is very little but this is fine as their CO2 acts against it in the vacuum of space.

Future sails could be made of nanotube mesh – 30 times lighter, and could increase acceleration dramatically.

nanotube_mesh

Travel and Speeds

With the Sun set to shine for a good billion years or so yet, it can be considered an endless fuel supply therefore a Solar Sail Craft could in theory, reach speeds of hundreds of kilometres per hour making travel to Pluto a mere three years and to the outer limits of the Solar System years rather than decades. NASA’s Voyager craft took thirty years to reach these limits. A Solar Sail Craft launched today would pass it in ten years.

                                               voyager_1 voyager_2

Other Solar Sails

They would need sails 100m across and a boost from a large and unrealistically expansive laser system as the Sun’s energy decreases with distance. However laser-boosted systems could see a Solar Sail Craft travelling at speeds of up to 20% speed of light (60,000km/hr or 45,000mph) every second. This would make visiting neighbouring stars in our lifetime our best possibility.

Brief History

  1. Concept first proposed by German astronomer Johannes Kelper in seventeenth century
  2. 1862 Scottish physicist James Clark Maxwell discovers that light exerts a pressure on a surface.
  3. 1867 Jules Vernes suggests light pressure could provide a mechanical means of propulsion.

solarsail4. 1924 Russian scientist Fridrickh Arturovich Tsander wrote “For flight in Interplanetary Space I am working on the idea of flying using tremendous mirrors of very thin sheets capable of achieving favourable results.“

Mariner Probe

5. 1971 When NASA’s probe Mariner ran low on steering thrusters fuel en route to Venus engineers angled its solar panels into the Sun and used solar radiation pressure to steer it back on course.

Cosmos-1

6. 2005 Cosmos-1 a Solar Sail designed by US Planetary Society failed its test, due to rocket failure on launch vehicle, resulting in it being unable to reach its intended orbit.

                                                                         Nanosail-DNanosail-D_(2)

7. 2008 NASA’s Nanosail-D mission, to test the Solar Sail’s deployment techniques. Lost during launch failure.