Enviaremos barcos al espacio

Flotas de velas solares podrán llegar a las lunas de Júpiter y Saturno y regresar a la Tierra cargadas de miles de datos

 

Al igual que hace siglos los barcos partieron del Viejo Mundo para conquistar tierras desconocidas y regresaron cargados de tesoros, la humanidad pretende ahora lanzar a unos nuevos navegantes al espacio. Se trata de una nueva remesa de naves espaciales a vela que, según la empresa Thales Alenia Space, podrá estar lista en 2020, a tiempo para participar en las misiones a las lunas de Júpiter y Saturno. Estas velas solares, recubiertas de células fotovoltaicas, tienen la ventaja de poder almacenar y enviar a Tierra una enorme cantidad de datos, una tarea que a una nave tradicional le costaría varias décadas realizar.

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Joel Poncy, investigador de Thales Alenia Space, ha explicado en el Congreso Europeo de Ciencia Planetaria, que se celebra esta semana en Roma, que las velas solares incorporarán una especie de «recortador» de datos, una tecnología de memoria capaz de guardar y transmitir a una base en la Tierra elevadas cantidades de información, necesarias, por ejemplo, para realizar «el mapa global de un cuerpo planetario en alta resolución». A un orbitador tradicional, aunque tuviera una gran antena, enviar todos los bits de un mapa de, por ejemplo, Europa o Titán, «le llevaría varias décadas».

Por todo el Sistema Solar

 

La idea es que los «barcos de vela» espaciales vuelen cerca de un orbitador espacial, recojan sus datos y regresen a la órbita de la Tierra, donde la información sería descargada en la estación terrestre. Una flota semejante podría prestar servicio a misiones planetarias por todo el Sistema Solar.
Estos veleros utilizan el Sol como fuente de propulsión. «No necesitar carburante a bordo resulta una ventaja considerable», señala Poncy. «Mientras el hardware no envejezca y la nave sea fácil de manejar, la duración de su misión puede ser muy larga». A su juicio, el uso de estas velas podría llevar a una reducción del coste de las misiones de exploración. Las naves tradicionales en órbita podrían seguir enviando datos a la Tierra para conocer sus descubrimientos en tiempo real, pero la mayor parte de los datos que obtienen son menos urgentes, y esos son los que podrían recoger los veleros.

Ya hay una vela solar en el espacio. La japonesa viaja rumbo a Venus desde el pasado mayo. Si funciona correctamente, será la primera de su clase que tenga éxito.

www.abc.es

Como viene siendo habitual aprovechamos el post para dar un repaso a las ultimas noticias y videos de los diferentes eventos y misiones de las agencias espaciales internacionales. NASA, ESA, JAXA….etc

STS-133: Shuttle Discovery rolls to LC-39A for final mission

Space shuttle Discovery completed its last planned trip to the launch pad at 1:49 a.m. at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Technicians are connecting numerous cables and checking systems at Launch Pad 39A before the rotating service structure is moved over Discovery later today. Discovery left the Vehicle Assembly Building at about 7:23 p.m. Monday night to begin the slow, 3.4-mile crawl to the pad.

Discovery, which first launched Aug. 30, 1984, on STS-41D, is being readied for the STS-133 mission to the International Space Station. Liftoff is targeted for Nov. 1 at 4:40 p.m. EDT. This is scheduled to be the last mission for the oldest of NASA’s three active orbiters.

Astronaut Steve Lindsey commands a veteran crew for STS-133, including Pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Alvin Drew, Tim Kopra, Michael Barratt and Nicole Stott. They will take the supply- and equipment-laden Permanent Multipurpose Module to the station, along with the humanoid helper called Robonaut 2.

NASA SDO – Solar Eclipse September 27, 2010

SDO has entered eclipse season. Around the time of the equinoxes, the spacecraft, Earth, and sun can line up almost perfectly. Once a day for about an hour, Earth blocks SDO’s view of the sun. This is what it looks like in one of the extreme ultraviolet wavelengths. Eclipse season will be over on October 6, 2010.

Credit: NASA SDO / Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company

GOODS – The Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey

ESOcast 21 / Hubblecast 39 (multicast): The Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS)

Today’s telescopes study the sky across the electromagnetic spectrum. Each part of the spectrum tells us different things about the Universe, giving us more pieces of the cosmic jigsaw puzzle. The most powerful telescopes on the ground and in space have joined forces over the last decade in a unique observing campaign, known as GOODS, which reaches across the spectrum and deep back into cosmic time.

This is a very special “multicast”. We’ll be exploring a unique collaboration between some of the world’s most powerful telescopes both on the ground and in space. Now, to do this, we’ve set up a similar collaboration between the ESOcast, the Hubblecast, the Spitzer Space Telescope’s “Hidden Universe” (Dr Robert Hurt) and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory’s “Beautiful Universe” (Megan Watzke).

It’s the combination of deep observations from many different telescopes that makes this project so important. The longer a telescope spends looking at a target, the more sensitive the observations become, and the deeper we can look into space. But to get the full picture of what’s happening in the Universe, astronomers also need observations at a range of different wavelengths, requiring different telescopes. These are the key ideas behind the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey, or GOODS for short.

The GOODS project unites the world’s most advanced observatories, these include ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and many more, each making extremely deep observations of the distant Universe, across the electromagnetic spectrum. By combining their powers and observing the same piece of the sky, the GOODS observatories are giving us a unique view of the formation and evolution of galaxies across cosmic time, and mapping the history of the expansion of the Universe.

Now, this is not the first time that telescopes have been used to give us extremely deep views of the cosmos. For example, the Hubble Deep Field is a very deep image of a small piece of sky in the northern constellation of Ursa Major. This revealed thousands of distant galaxies despite the fact that the whole field is actually only a tiny speck of the sky, about the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length.

Now, with GOODS, many different observatories have brought their powers to bear on two larger targets, one centred on the original Hubble Deep Field in the northern sky, and one centred on a different deep target, the Chandra Deep Field South, in the southern sky. The main GOODS fields are each 30 times larger than the Hubble Deep Field, and additional observations cover an area the size of the full Moon.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope observed the GOODS regions at optical and nearinfrared wavelengths, to detect distant starforming galaxies among other things. Now, Hubble spent a total of 5 days observing the fields, spread over five repeat visits. Each of these was separated from the previous one by about 45 days. Now, by spreading out the observations like this, Hubble was able to watch for new supernovae appearing over the months, providing key information for studying the expansion and acceleration of the Universe due to the mysterious dark energy.

In the next couple of years, ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, currently under construction on the same plateau as APEX, will begin its first science observations. Also observing at submillimetre wavelengths, it will have much greater sensitivity than APEX, and resolution even better than Hubble. ALMA will revolutionise our understanding of the early Universe by revealing many more distant, dustobscured galaxies that cannot be seen at all by visible light and infrared telescopes.

These projects are an excellent example of how great observatories are joining together, across the electromagnetic spectrum, to give us a more complete view of galaxies over the history of the Universe. Already, astronomers have written over 400 papers based on these data, with even more in the pipeline! And on top of that, the observations of the GOODS fields will continue in the future.

These patches of the sky will be prime targets for the next generation of telescopes both on the ground and in space, and astronomers around the world use these data to learn new things about the Universe from them for many years to come …

http://www.eso.org/public/
http://www.spacetelescope.org/

http://www.spacetelescope.org/videos/archive/category/hubblecast/

Blue Mars

Then you’ve got one of the greatest collections of all time: the images compiled by the Hi-Rise camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Here is the latest in a series of stunning images of Mars surface… in a distinctive bluish cast. From University of Arizona/NASA/JPL.

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