Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Robots in Space!

Space exploration, to date, has a number of steps its fundamental planning. The first is observation from Earth (or, even from a while ago, from Earth's orbit). All the sensors for information that we can receive are assembled, checked, run, checked again, and then we ponder the results. The second part is the vaguest, yet among the most immediate concerns to physical exploration: theorising with regards to what's there, the obstacles that need facing and/or piles of cosmic trivia that ends up useful immediately or later on, all based on part one. Part three is building the craft. All it takes is lemon juice to mess this part up, but it can be used more creatively in other parts to similar effect. Once the explorer is constructed, it's time to fire it off wherever it's going; part four. With the potential to yield the massive fruit of all the other parts, there are various ways this could be designed to end (either it makes it back to earth ok, it crashes on earth, or it's just annihilated by the environment it's observing*).

Though the article wasn't solely related to this point, "Interplanetary Pioneers" from Space: 50 Years and Counting, it goes over the basics of what spacecraft were capable of and what we want them to do now. Among the things I read here that I found interesting was that the Moon is theorized to have once been part of the Earth, but some event split us apart "in the early days of the solar system". Probe launches in the future and more or less recent past include:

-Clementine (1994)
-Lunar Prospector (1998)
-Messenger (2004)

-Chandrayaan 1 (2008)

E.U. with Japan:
-BepiColombo (2013)

*"Some simply fell silent, their fates shrouded in mystery."
Space: 50 Years and Counting, 2007)

1 comment:

Christina said...

MESSENGER is actually going to Mercury (just finished fly-by 1). It won't be until 2011 until it goes into orbit. See more, including very cool pictures at: http://messenger.jhuapl.edu

Welcome to the blogosphere. BTW- as I told your father, I can point you to some proponents of robotic vs. manned spaceflight as far as getting science done.