Archive for category Space
The Sad News
I was quite disappointed to read a number of articles in the news last week (ABC News – Mars rover to remain stuck forever, and New Scientist – Trapped Mars rover’s driving days are over) which announced that Spirit (one of the Mars Rovers) was permanently stuck. The idea that these little rovers continued to drive around the Martian making scientific discoveries, well past there expected “use by date”, was very appealing.
The stories that these rovers continued to tell, making discoveries, photographing new vistas, has been one of the most entertaining in current space exploration. The discoveries that these two rovers have made of the geological history of Mars, have been very entertaining, and revealing.
NASA does not have many ongoing projects, which surfaces regularly in the popular press. These rovers have been one of the success stories for NASA. The rovers have continued to work well past their “use by dates”. This has continued to keep the “message of space exploration” in the public arena.
The Future For Spirit
If NASA can get the rover aligned appropriately (to maximise the solar cell sunlight collection), and if it makes it through the Martian winter (without freezing), then it will become a “stationary science station”. What the rover will discover about the Martian Weather, and the composition of the core of Mar, we will wait and see. But, the excitement of finding new rock types, new geological features, and building an understanding of the geological history of will be over.
I have been watching the progress of both of the mars rovers for as long as they have been mobile on the surface of mars. They have out lived the NASA
“use by" date by many years. The information about the surface, geological history, and environment has been fascinating to watch filter into the press, or New Scientist, at least.
I was aware that Spirit had got itself bogged some time ago. The silence on the subject has probably been for to reasons:
- a Martian winter, and
- the planning NASA has done to figure out how to get the rover out of the sand trap.
NASA has now started sending the command which will hopefully instruct the rover to get out of the sand trap. NASA to Begin Attempts to Free Sand-Trapped Mars Rover.
I’ve my fingers crossed for the plucky little rover. I’d love to see it escape and continue on its journeys around the Martian landscape.
Background and History
Well a long held dream gets one step closer. The idea of a space elevator has been the fodder of Science Fiction for many years.
There are a number of hurdles to overcome (see Space Elevator Trips could be agonisingly slow). The wining of this NASA prize signals that significant progress has been made in a couple of those technology areas.
- These technology areas are getting power to the “climbing robot”. This is not as simple as it sounds, you cannot just run a power cord out to the robot, because as it climbs the weight that it would have to drag up would be continuously increasing. The power for the “robot climber” has “beamed” to the robot.
- Climbing. It may seem a simple process for a human, but for a robot it is not a simple operation. Climbing at a reasonable speed, whilst not destroying the cable which is being climbed is a technically “very hard” problem to resolve.
It would appear that we are a step closer to technically being capable of building a space elevator. There are still numerous technical problems to over come, all of which are “show stoppers” at present.
Mustering the technical capabilities to build a space elevator is only one step on the road to realising this dream. Even if the current technical issues are resolved there are are still a number of “show stoppers” to be overcome. These include:
- The cost of building on could be another “show stopper”. Today, with a world financial crisis still unwinding, having money to build a space elevator is very much a “pipe dream”.
- Lifting it all into orbit. The whole elevator cable, and satellite which acts as the terminus to the elevator, will need to be lifted into orbit as part of the assembly process. This will be a massive amount of equipment to be lifted into orbit. How many Ares rockets it would take to get everything up into orbit is an open question.