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New Horizon – Journey to Pluto

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On July 4, 2015, a NASA spacecraft called New Horizons was 5 billion kilometers away from Earth. It was only 10 days away from Pluto, after flying for 9.5 years, when it suddenly dropped out of contact.  But let’s back up a little.

As of 1989, mankind had successfully sent a craft to every known planet in the solar system except one—Pluto. You may have heard that astronomers don’t consider Pluto or its brethren to be planets. However, most planetary scientists still do, which is why we’re using that terminology here. There’s a limited amount we can learn about Pluto from Earth because it’s so far from us.

Pluto, however, is a scientific goldmine. It’s located in a region called the Kuiper Belt, home to many small planets, hundreds of thousands of ancient icy objects, and trillions of comets. This mysterious region holds clues to the  formation of our solar system, and it was long, tantalizingly beyond our reach.

New Horizon

Until New Horizons. Its objectives were to explore Pluto, collect as much scientific data as possible, transmit it back to Earth, then explore farther out in the Kuiper Belt. To achieve this, the New Horizons team outfitted their craft with even state-of-the-art scientific instruments. Those included Ralph, a set of cameras powerful enough to capture features the size of city blocks in Manhattan from tens of thousands of kilometers away. And REX, designed to use radio waves to measure Pluto’s atmospheric pressure and temperature. All of the onboard equipment had to be built to be both reliable and lightweight because New Horizons had an additional challenge; it had to reach its target as fast as possible. Why?

 

New Horizon

New Horizon

Around 2020, Pluto will reach a point in its orbit where its atmosphere could freeze. And due to the tilt of its axis, more and more of Pluto’s surface is shrouded in darkness every year. Pluto completes a full orbit once every 248 Earth years, so it would be a long wait for the next prime opportunity to visit. To see how New Horizons got to Pluto in time, let’s jump to its launch.

The launch of New Horizon


Its three rocket stages accelerated New Horizons to such great speeds that it crossed the 400,000 kilometers to the moon in just nine hours. About a year later, the craft reached Jupiter and got what’s called a gravity assist. That’s where it flies close enough to the gas giant to receive a gravitational slingshot effect. New Horizons was then flying at around 50,000 kilometers per hour, as it would for the next eight years to cross the remaining gulf to Pluto. Going at such an astonishing speed meant that slowing down to get into orbit or land would’ve been impossible. That’s why New Horizons was on a flyby mission, where it would get just one chance to scream by Pluto and make its observations. The flyby would have to be fully automated since, at that distance, any signals to guide it from Earth would take 4.5 hours to reach it. So the team loaded the ship’s computer with a series of thousands of commands, called the core load, that would begin to execute when the craft was 6.5 days from Pluto.

But when New Horizons was just ten days out, disaster almost struck. Ground control lost contact with the spacecraft. After two nerve-wracking hours, New Horizons came back online, but mission control discovered that its main computer had rebooted, losing the entire core load and other critical data. Without that, it would soon whizz by Pluto with virtually nothing to show for the mission. Alice Bowman, the mission’s Operations Manager, led a team for 72 sleepless hours to get the instructions loaded back into New Horizons in time. Without room for a single error, she and her team pulled it off, and New Horizons began taking and broadcasting breathtaking images.

Pluto's Color image by New Horizon

Pluto’s Color image by New Horizon

Those observations have revealed a delightfully varied world, with ground fogs, high altitude hazes, possible clouds, canyons, towering mountains, faults, craters, polar caps, glaciers, apparent dune fields, suspected ice volcanoes, evidence for past flowing liquids, and more. One of the most exciting discoveries is the 1000-kilometer-wide Sputnik Planitia glacier.

Sputnik Planitia Glaciers

Sputnik Planitia is mainly composed of slowly churning frozen nitrogen, and we’ve never seen anything like it in our solar system. It is around 1050 by 800 kilometers of patch full of ice. It is assumed that it was created by an impact basin which helped in collet all the ice and makes those glacials.

Sputnik Planitia by New Horizon

Sputnik Planitia by New Horizon

The exploration of Pluto was a great success, but New Horizons isn’t done yet. On January 1, 2019, it’ll break its own record for the furthest explored object when it visits a Kuiper Belt Object called 2014 MU69, which is orbiting the sun another billion kilometers farther away than Pluto. The world is holding its breath to see what it’ll find there.

Hope you liked the journey to Pluto. Do share your views on what you think about Pluto. Also, subscribe to our newsletter and the notification.

Science

An Asteroid might destroy everything , Scientists said Apocalypse might Come

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Asteroid hits Sea NASA

Conspiracy theorists have long been claiming that a civilization-threatening asteroid could be on a collision course with the planet. Now, a team of famed scientists is progressing to raise issues concerning these doubtless dangerous space rocks at a global conference in Vienna.

 

NASA scientists discovered last week that a meteor explosion over the Bering Sea in December 2018 unleashed 10 times the energy as the Hiroshima atom bomb.

 

The space rock, many meters in size, exploded concerning sixteen miles on top of the earth’s surface. NASA on Friday conjointly revealed satellite photos of the meteor that appeared on December eighteen however went neglected till months later.

 

satellight image

 

This meteor strike at the Bering Sea may be a reminder that, despite efforts to spot and track space rocks that might create a threat to Earth, sizeable meteors will still arrive all of sudden.

 

These asteroids, known as Near Earth Objects or NEOs will cause the extinction of whole species. it absolutely was an asteroid that hit the planet a lot of years past that has been goddam for the dinosaurs being drained, together with seventy-five percent of all life forms on the world, at that time.

 

To counter this threat, scientists need to handle the problem – wanting space agencies like NASA and therefore the ESA to accentuate efforts to discover and track NEOs and devise ways that to deflect them. These considerations are set to be raised at the primary meeting of the govt of Asgardia.

 

Asgardia may be a ‘space nation,’ conjointly called the space Kingdom of Asgardia and “Asgardia the space Nation”, maybe a micronation fashioned by a gaggle of individuals who have launched a satellite into Earth orbit. They consult with themselves as “Asgardians” and that they have given their satellite the name “Asgardia-1.” The space nation conjointly has 20,000 voters and 1,000,000 followers worldwide.

 

Jay Tate, a number one Asgardian scientist from Knighton, UK and director of the privately-funded Space-guard Centre in Wales, to The categorical, said: “NEOs create a heavy, even cataclysmal, threat to human civilization and action should be taken currently to spot levels of risk and develop the technology to safeguard this and future generations.”

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What Astronauts did to Survive First Moon Landing

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Before our lunar landing, no one really knew what the physical and psychological effects of space would be or whether the astronauts would even survive. To prepare for the unknown, astronauts spent years training in some pretty unusual places. They were pushed to dangerous and, in some cases, deadly extremes. But without this training, the crew of Apollo 11 may never have made it to the moon.
In the late 1950s, this is where NASA found its first astronauts. The idea was that since military test pilots were accustomed to flying advanced and powerful aircraft, their skills would provide the most useful transition. But there was a big difference between flying in a sophisticated jet and being launched out of Earth’s atmosphere in a tiny metal container. Out of over 100 candidates plucked from the military, only seven were selected for NASA’s
first manned space program, Project Mercury, and they had less than two years to go from military pilots to astronauts.
Team of Apollo 11

Team of Apollo 11

The first several months of training were spent in the classroom, learning about the science of spaceflight. There were five other areas of focus during Mercury training: vehicle operations, physical fitness, ground activities, maintenance of flight skills and space flight conditions.
The team was given extreme G load of an emergency abort and landing. The astronauts referred to this particular part of their training as “sadistic” and “diabolical”. With the ability to accelerate from 0 to 280 kilometers per hour in under seven seconds, the Johnsville human centrifuge tested the ability to remain conscious under the extreme
G-forces that spaceflight would bring.
In May of 1961, the training paid off with the first manned mission of the Mercury Program, and a series of successful flights followed. NASA quickly announced Project Gemini, it’s next space program which would prepare astronauts for Apollo. The Gemini and Apollo missions would require astronauts to function in zero gravity for
up to two weeks and endure the harsh effects of space.
NASA’s biomedical staff conducted a series of experiments that tested exposure to acceleration, radiation, 100-percent oxygen and microgravity. The astronauts were put on unusual sleep and diet regimens to test their bodies’ limitations.
They had to learn how to do seemingly basic, but wildly inconvenient, tasks like going to the bathroom in a specially designed space bag. To prepare for spacewalks, the astronauts took part in weightlessness training inside
an aircraft dubbed “the vomit comet”.
Vomit Comet

Vomit Comet

NASA later added an elaborate underwater training, called neutral buoyancy, that required astronauts to master diving techniques as they worked on a spacecraft mockup. Outside of NASA’s facilities, the astronauts were sent to the Panamanian jungle and the Nevada desert for survival training. In the event their spacecraft landed in a remote part of the globe, the astronauts needed to be prepared to live off the land.
Training for Apollo required astronauts to broaden their scientific knowledge in order to conduct experiments on the lunar surface. So astronauts went to Iceland, Hawaii and the Grand Canyon to learn how to recognize and catalog geologic features on the moon. To simulate these experiments, NASA also recreated a lunar landscape using dynamite and fertilizer bombs in a Northern Arizona field.
One of the most difficult scenarios to prepare for was the lunar landing itself. These pure fly-by-wire aircraft were created to emulate the flight specs of the Lunar Module. But these vehicles were risky and dangerous. During a training flight, Neil Armstrong lost control, ejecting right before the vehicle crashed.
An unrattled Armstrong was spotted at his desk working about an hour after the crash as if it had never happened.
According to other astronauts, that’s just how he was. And that calm, collected nature is what made Neil Armstrong the perfect astronaut to pilot the Lunar Module during the first trip to the moon’s surface.
Apollo 11 was launched on July 16, 1969. The crew: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, followed the paths of the astronauts before them. When it came time to descend to the moon’s surface, Armstrong and Aldrin entered the Lunar Module, nicknamed Eagle, and separated from the Command-Service Module where Collins remained. The dangers the astronauts faced were no longer theoretical and all their training was about to be put into action.
Apollo 11 Launch

Apollo 11 Launch

The Lunar Module’s computer froze, reading an error code neither astronaut understood. Despite the software failure, they continued the descent. Aldrin called out navigation while Armstrong took over manual controls. But by this point, they had overshot the predicted landing zone and were now flying over crater fields. To make things more terrifying, the fuel supply was rapidly diminishing and they had just one minute until a mandatory abort.
Using the skills he developed flying the training vehicles and channeling his nerves of steel, Armstrong leveled off and touched down on a smooth patch of the moon. They actually did it. NASA made it to the moon with less than six months until the end of the decade.
While Apollo 11 got a lot of the glory for this goal, there were dozens of astronauts who helped get to this point. Hundreds of more people back on Earth, women included, were making the impossible happen. Throughout the Apollo missions, engineers and ground control were faced with split-second decisions that could either end in triumph or tragedy. And a lightning strike during Apollo 12 would take that pressure to extreme heights.  This was the training and success of Apollo 11.
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Beginning of Apollo Space Program

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In the shadow of the atomic bomb, science and politics became entwined. And as World War II progressed, countries began to capitalize on the power of technology. This shift in wartime strategy gave way to rapid advancements in weaponry like the development of the world’s first long-range, self-guided ballistic missile.

And unlike those before it, this rocket had the potential to go to space and its creation would ultimately lead to a man on the moon. In the final years of the war, Nazi scientists successfully tested the V-2 rocket, the world’s most sophisticated missile and the first man-made object to cross the Karman line which is commonly represented as the start of space.

When the war ended in 1945, the new world powers were dead set on acquiring the Nazi’s V-2 technology. This man, Wernher von Braun, was known as the brains behind the rocket.

He, along with other Nazi scientists, surrendered to the Americans and were transported to the US under a top secret project known as “Operation Paperclip”. The Germans were put to work, helping American scientists design and build military missiles that would ultimately be used in the beginnings of the space program.

Meanwhile, Soviet scientists were repurposing the remains of Nazi rockets, and they were working much faster than the Americans. By the mid-1950s, the USSR developed an intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a multi-stage design and multi-engine propulsion system making it capable of reaching orbit.

On October 4th, 1957, the Soviet Union used its new missile to launch the first artificial satellite into space. The satellite known as Sputnik sent a wave of paranoia over the United States. Its Cold War enemy now had a vantage point from space, increasing the fear of a nuclear attack.

 The Space Race had officially begun. The US quickly tried to match the Soviet’s success by launching the Vanguard satellite. But the rocket only made it about a meter off the ground before its embarrassing explosion, earning the nickname, “flopnik”. Now in full Sputnik crisis mode, the government shifted its priority to the space race. President Dwight D. Eisenhower accelerated the 1958 launch of Explorer 1 – the first US satellite to reach space and established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Within eleven days, NASA launched its first spacecraft and within six months it announced the United States’ first man-in-space program.


Also Read: International Space Station: How was it built?

Project Mercury had three objectives:

1. orbit a manned spacecraft around Earth
2. Investigate man’s ability to function in space

3. recover both man and spacecraft safely.

In the late 1950s, these were seemingly improbable tasks considering this was all happening around the same time the first computer hard disk was used, the electric printer was invented. Needless to say, technology had a long way to go. On top of that, NASA’s first astronauts had never actually been to space. They did, however, meet all the other necessary qualifications for a job that hadn’t been done before. The candidates were all military pilots, were highly educated and physically fit and they were the right height and weight to squeeze into the one-man Mercury spacecraft. The seven astronauts chosen for Project Mercury were painted as American heroes. And for a country inundated with a fear of nuclear attack, they provided much-needed hope and distraction. After a series of errors, tests and a brave chimp named HAM, in May 1961 astronaut Alan Shepard became the second human in space. The US came up short… again. Less than one month earlier, Russian Astronaut, Yuri Gagarin became the first man to complete an orbital mission. But the trajectory of the Space Race was about to change.

NASA President said, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieve the goal before this decade is out of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” Under pressure to catch up to the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, President John F. Kennedy set an ambitious deadline. And from that moment forward, NASA’s human spaceflight efforts were guided by a single goal. NASA’s second man in space program acted as a bridge to the moon.


Project Gemini had four main objectives:

1. test an astronaut’s ability to fly long-duration missions

2. understand how spacecraft could rendezvous and dock in orbit

3. perfect re-entry and landing methods

4. further understand the effects of long space flight on astronauts.

 

All the while, Project Mercury was achieving major milestones. And on February 20, 1962, astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth. By 1965, the first crewed Gemini mission took flight. The missions to follow set a series of firsts not just for the United States but for the world.
A new race was on for the United States. But now it was a race against time. In under five years, NASA needed to land a man on the moon. The Apollo Program would become one of the country’s biggest challenges, costing billions of dollars and risking dozens of lives. But if the decades of war and innovation leading up to this moment proved anything, it was that some of the biggest breakthroughs unfold when pressure is at its highest. And, just like challenges before it, Apollo would redefine the boundaries of possibility, taking humanity on a ride to an entirely new world.

This was how the Apollo program started. Stay tuned to know about the Apollo 11. Turn on the notification to get reminded.

Source: Seeker
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