When the first humans set foot on Mars, the moment will be more significant in terms of technology, philosophy, history and exploration than any that have come before it, all because we will no longer be a one-planet species !
I mean seriously what do these engineers & scientists at NASA are made of ? How do they come up with such awesome cool stuff every time ! This time, it’s something you would not have even thought of. Yea… we are talking about NASA’s Starshade ! (watch the video below)
The project, also referred as New Worlds Mission comprises of sending a large occulter in space to block the sunlight of nearby stars(bright stars like sun) in order to observe other exoplanets(planets that orbit star other than Sun) & their orbits. The deployable structure called the Starshade is being developed by NASA’s JPL (JET PROPULSION LABORATORY) in Pasadena, California. The hunt is on for planets that resemble Earth in size, composition and temperature. Rocky planets with just the right temperature for liquid water — not too hot, not too cold — could be possible home for life outside our solar system.
Picking out the dim light of a planet from a star billions of times brighter is similar to finding a needle in a desert. In order to achieve this feat, researchers are developing techniques to block out the starlight while preserving the light emitted by the planet. This is called starlight suppression.With the starlight supressed, astronomers would be able to take actual pictures of the planets. Unlike the other space instruments, it’s one part is the starshade which will block the light while the other one – the space telescope will capture photos.
Jeremy Kasdin, a reseacher in Princeton is the principal investigator of the Starshade project. “Our current task is figuring out how to unfurl the starshade in space so that all the petals end up in the right place, with millimeter accuracy,” said Kasdin.
The flower-shaped petals are part of what makes the starshade so effective. “The shape of the petals, when seen from far away, creates a softer edge that causes less bending of light waves,” said Dr. Stuart Shaklan, JPL’s lead engineer on the starshade project. “Less light bending means that the starshade shadow is very dark, so the telescope can take images of the planets without being overwhelmed by starlight .”
“One of the starshade’s strengths is simplicity. Light from the star never reaches the telescope because it’s blocked by the starshade, which allows the telescope system to be simpler.” said Kasdin. The starshade has thrusters that will allow it to move around in order to block the light from different stars.
The starshade idea isn’t new: Lyman Spitzer, the Princeton University astronomer who lobbied for the creation of what became the Hubble Space Telescope back in the 1960s and 1970s, also suggested using such a screen in a 1962 paper. But it wasn’t until recent years that technological advances made it feasible to build one and operate it in space according to the extremely precise specifications necessary.
A video showing complete animation of the Starshade splitting of with the telescope & then moving to a position to block the sunlight !
NASA’s starshade team of engineers strongly believe that this mission is gonna be a huge success & it will lead to major exoplanet discoveries in the future. Kasdin ends up by saying,
We’ll be able to show people a picture of a dot and explain that that’s another Earth.
Human being started using animals to carry load when it exceeded his carrying capacity. Then he started building machines to carry even more load & to transport faster. Today huge trucks carry massive amounts of load & the best example is the biggest truck in the world – The BelAZ 75710 which can carry 450 tons of dirt. Still, there was something left, something to be made to carry these massive rockets & space shuttles. So how are they transported ? The answer is – CRAWLER !
Crawlers are a pair of tracked vehicles used by NASA to transport rockets & space shuttles from NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to the Launch Complex 39 ! where,
Launch Complex 39 (LC-39) is a rocket launch site at the John F. Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island in Florida, USA. Launch Complex 39 is composed of three launch pads—39A, 39B and 39C. The Crawlerway is a 40 m double pathway at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It runs between the Vehicle Assembly Building and the two launch pads at Launch Complex 39.
The crawler-transporter is the largest self-powered land vehicle in the world.
The crawler has a mass of 2,721,000 kilograms (5,999,000 lb) and has eight tracks, two on each corner.
The vehicle measures 40 by 35 metres (131 by 114 ft). The height from ground level to the platform is adjustable from 6.1 to 7.9 m (20 to 26 ft), and each side can be raised and lowered independently.
As of 2003, each crawler had 16 traction motors, powered by four 1,000 kW (1,341 hp) generators, in turn driven by two 2,050 kW (2,750 hp) V16 ALCO 251C diesel engines.
The crawler’s tanks holds 19,000 liters (5,000 U.S. gal) of diesel fuel, and it roughly burns 296 liters per kilometer (125.7 U.S. gal/mi).
The new upgrade to one of the crawlers increased it’s capacity from 5,400,000 to 8,200,000 kg.
The crawler is controlled from two control cabs located at either end of the vehicle, and travels along the 5.6 km (3.5 mi) crawlerway.
The maximum speed of crawler is 1.6 km/h (1 mph) loaded, or 3.2 km/h (2 mph) unloaded.
The average trip time from the VAB along the Crawlerway to Launch Complex 39 is about five hours.
Kennedy Space Center has been using the same two crawlers, nicknamed “Hans” and “Franz”.
Each of the two crawlers cost about US $14 million !!!
In their lifetime, they have traveled more than 5,500 km (3,400 mi), about the same driving distance as from Miami to Seattle.
After an overwhelming success of Mars rover mission 2012, NASA’s next nuclear powered Mars rover is planned to launch in 2020. Scientists say that – it is gonna be way more smarter & efficient than Curiosity, which is currently exploring the red planet.
Curiosity had an awesome design, heck lot of instruments, also its launch & entry into atmosphere of Mars & its landing – all went perfect as planned.
The rover 2020 mission is planned to explore a selected site which is geologically diverse & gives signs of having a past life.
This rover will collect samples of soil & rock and drop them at a selected point. Later those samples will be scooped up another mission to deliver the specimens collected back to Earth. The development of this mission is a combination of the “old” and the “new,” said Gentry Lee, chief engineer for Solar System Exploration at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California. Mission engineers said that the rover is going to get a new refined design.
Curiosity has been battling wear & tear on its wheels.
The 2020 rover wheels are going to become more heavy along with the rover’s body becoming a little longer. That may change the rover’s mobility system.
We are really looking at ways to make this largely heritage, built-to-print rover drive faster and do more science on the surface of Mars
said Jennifer Trosper, JPL’s mission manager on Mars 2020.
The future rover would have machines which will increase the speed of it even on rough terrains, Trosper said.
The mechanical design & additional instruments would make mission efficiency jump from Curiosity’s roughly 55% to 80% !! Eagerly waiting for _______ !
The Mars Space Laboratory mission rover names – 1st was SOJOURNER; 2nd was OPPORTUNITY & it’s twin SPIRIT; 3rd was CURIOSITY; all giving a positive inspirational, motivational feeling !
What do you think would be 2020 rover’s name ? Share with us in the comment section below…
NASA has performed a nearly 9 minute long test of the engine called RS-25 which will be used for next generation mega-rockets which will take the astronauts to Mars & other deep space missions.
The agency successfully tested an RS-25 engine at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. A total of four RS-25 engines will be used to power the SLS rocket (Space Launch System).
The engine was tested for 535 seconds, which is the same amount of time the engines will fire uring actual SLS launch.
The test was the sixth of seven planned hot-fire trials for the RS-25, which also served as the main engine for NASA’s now-retired space shuttle fleet, ‘Space.com’ reported. The seven-test series is “designed to put the upgraded former space shuttle main engines through the rigorous temperature and pressure conditions they will experience during a launch,” NASA officials said.
“The tests also support the development of a new controller, or ‘brain,’for the engine, which monitors engine status and communicates between the vehicle and the engine, relaying commands to the engine and transmitting data back to the vehicle,” the officials added.
Watch the miraculous masterpiece of mechanical, thermal & cryogenic engineering in action ! The raging RS-25 – (must watch; feel the power)
Engineers at JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) are working on a new class of robotic probe designed to stay aloft for a long time without wings or hot-air balloons in atmospheres of giant planets.
There is no shortage of
something different, challenging & cool things
at NASA & we know that very well. One of them is this- WINDBOTS, the new class of robots.
Unlike moon & Mars which are already been explored by the robotic rovers, the giant gas planets like Jupiter & Saturn have no solid surface on which the rovers can land on. Hence there was a need to think about the probes which can stay aloft for long period of time. In 1995, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft dropped off an atmospheric probe that descended into Jupiter under a parachute. The battery-powered probe survived only about an hour due to high heat and pressure as it fell into the planet’s deep atmosphere.
INSPIRATION – Every masterpiece of Engineering is been inspired by one or the another form, directly or indirectly from Nature. Here, the team is inspired by the dandelion seed.
A dandelion seed is great at staying airborne. It rotates as it falls, creating lift, which allows it to stay afloat for long time, carried by the wind. We’ll be exploring this effect on windbot designs.
says Adrian Stoica, principal investigator for the Windbots study at JPL.
POWER SOURCE – The Windbot must be able to use the energy resources available there. Solar would not be a good option as the probe would find itself on the planet’s night period for an extended period. The team thinks it might generate power by the same way some wristwatches make, by shaking. During the study, the team suspects that to harvest energy, turbulence can be used because in a dynamic, turbulent environment there are gradients – differences in energy from high to low – that can be used.
Windbots would also prove helpful to scientists to study turbulent weather on earth like tornados & hurricanes by transmitting data all the while.
The team has recently begun studying their question, thanks to a one-year, $100,000 study, funded by NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.
Our daily life Internal Combustion Engines used in cars & bikes can be cooled by air & water or coolant circulating around it. But what about rocket engines ? How rocket engines cooling system work ?
The engines of rocket heat up upto 6000°C. At this temperature, the metals would become so hot that they would melt & even some of them would vaporise. Circulating water or a normal coolant around it wasn’t going to help. Finally, rocket scientists have to take the engine cooling to a whole new level.more “How rocket engines cooling system work ?”