Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Science

Goodbye, Galileo 341

Posted by timothy
from the and-columbus dept.
deglr6328 writes "On the 21st of this month the Galileo Space Probe, which has been orbiting Jupiter for nearly eight years, will plummet fatefully into the crushing pressures and searing heat of that planet's interior. The spacecraft's 14 year journey has brought the discovery of, among other things, the first moon orbiting an asteroid, the first remote detection of life on earth when Carl Sagan used data from an onboard infrared spectrometer to observe the spectral signature of Oxygen in our atmosphere, it has caught snowflakes of Sulfur Dioxide as it flew through the plume of an erupting volcano on Io, snapped pictures of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 as it smashed into Jupiter's atmosphere and most importantly, provided proof a >60 Km deep ocean on Europa with hints of oceans on Callisto and Ganymede(listen to Ganymede's eerie sounding plasma wind). And all this with scarcely more computing power than a late '70s video game and a maximum data transfer rate of ~120 bits/s over a distance of more than 600 million Km. In a mission spanning three decades, the Galileo space probe has answered many of humanity's questions about space and presented us with the knowledge to ask many more which will be answered by the next generation of Jovian explorer. Goodnight Galileo."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Goodbye, Galileo

Comments Filter:
  • by epicstruggle (311178) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:02PM (#6888193)
    but I would rather have a replica of this space probe in schools/colleges than any number of sports trophies. The amount of hard work and dedication required to do things like this should inspire our youths, instead of their current role models (kobe bryant, et al.)

    later,
    epic
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:10PM (#6888253)
      Sports make money for schools, science doesn't.

      Very sad, but true.
      • Most sports don't make money. Basketball almost always does (at least in the Midwest). Football usually does, but it costs a lot to equip a big football team. My high school was a tennis and soccer powerhouse, but barely broke even on those programs. We probably had a dozen other men's sports that lost money and every women's sport did. I read an article in the paper today that some high schools are now charging between 10 and 100 bucks to participate in any extracurricular activity because there's no
        • I read an article in the paper today that some high schools are now charging between 10 and 100 bucks to participate in any extracurricular activity because there's no budget for them. In related news, the reconstruction of Iraq will cost between 70 and 150 billion dollars.

          Care to explain how they are related? Education is not a federal mandate under the constitution and though it's been a while I know for a fact that the funding of sports programs at schools definately isn't a federal mandate, Title X or

      • Not exactly. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Bowling Moses (591924) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @03:47PM (#6889187) Journal
        Science does make money for schools. When we get a grant for doing science, the department and/or the university gets a cut. So if a lab gets a $600,000 grant, they'll probably actually get to see only $200,000-$300,000 of it or so, depending (greatly) on the university. For instance, in the grant administration booklet for my university it looks like 49% of a grant goes directly to the university for "Facilities and Administration." Then there are another 70 pages of crud I'm not going to look at which nibbles away the grant further. Given an article in the student paper last year saying with pride that the football team was now one of the few in the country to be so profitable as to hit the break-even point and my university's perverse overspending on athletics and consistent underfunding of maintenence and faculty pay (2nd lowest in the country, baby!), I imagine "Facilities and Administration" is simply a euphanism for "Athletics Department."

        If you just look at a university's budget and see X income from grants and Y from ticket sales and etc., and expenditures X/2 for research and 2Y for athletics (after all, only men's football and basketball programs ever have a hope in hell of ever reaching the break even point--sad but true for now) then athletics are just a drain on the university. But I'm not so blinded by my intense hatred of the Athletics Department to say that it doesn't bring in money--it just does so in a very roundabout way. Private donations are very important to the survival of the university. People might donate becuase of a sense of pride in the university or out of nostalgia, but while academic research doesn't rank high on most people's minds for either of these two things, the old football and basketball teams often do. Similarly, a good sports program may grease the wheels a bit for what little funding we get through the state. How much income from private donations and the state can be indirectly attributed to athletics is very hard to say. Does it surpass research grants? Probably at some universities. But it is worth noting that there are schools that do just fine without athletics and still get piles from grants, the state, and private donations.
      • Sports don't make money for schools. Sports makes money for athletic departments. Very little of that money every sees it's way into the academic departments.

        Also, science does make money for schools. Competition for Darpa and NSF grants is fierce. Of course some people see this as a down side, as it tkaes attention of professors away from actually teaching.
    • by RALE007 (445837) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @02:29PM (#6888717)
      Why not offer to fund the project for a local school? You could more than likely afford a trophy case alone, besides the possibility of getting donations. Build the replicas yourself or again, I think volunteers would be forthcoming if you looked hard enough. Model hobbyists tend to be the geeky type and would love to get in on that action. I wouldn't be surprised if you put a couple of fliers at hobby shops, and did a little drive for the resources to build the thing that you could easily have it done.

      I think it's a wonderful idea, but instead of just saying, how about doing?

  • by N7DR (536428) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:02PM (#6888199) Homepage
    listen to Ganymede's eerie sounding plasma wind

    The reason that it sounds so "eerie" is because it is recorded with a receiver whose channels are harmonically related. A true wideband recording would sound quite different. This is true of the similar Voyager plasma recordings as well.

    • Even with that explanation, it STILL sounds like it was ripped from a bad 60's B-movie where aliens take over the world with lasers that sound like the aforementioned .wav file.

    • by deglr6328 (150198) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:54PM (#6888500)
      I don't....think they used harmonically related channels...? They did have to downsample the original [uiowa.edu] antenna recording to make it audible to us humans but it's still just a direct full spectrum recording from the plasma wave antenna [uiowa.edu]...I think anyway, correct me if I'm wrong of course. I'm pretty sure the reason it sounds eerie is just due to the natural "noises" (actually EM radiation) given off by electrons spiraling around the magnetic field lines of Ganymede, which is thought to be produced by a salty ocean under it's surface. In a sense you're listening to the ocean on Ganymede. :)
      • Now that the audio is no longer slashdotted, I can hear this particular example and agree that this is the wideband audio downconverted. Almost all the audio recordings from Voyager were generated from the instrument operating in channelized mode, although they did do a few in this same wideband mode.

        A similar technique used at Earth would produce very similar results, and would not need to be downconverted, because of the weaker field here.

        At one time there was a very cool audio of ring-plane cross

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:02PM (#6888200)
    all this with scarcely more computing power than a late '70s video game

    When it comes to real engineering, the fewer resources you need to meet your goals, the better of a job you did. Throwing in larger processors just to you can brag about the power of a Beowulf cluster of those is just a poor job.

    Less is more.
  • by ixt (463433) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:04PM (#6888212)
    This month's issue of popular science has an article also. Click. [popsci.com]
  • Plop! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FrostedWheat (172733) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:05PM (#6888217)
    Dropping the spacecraft into the planet just seems wrong! It's like flushing a dead goldfish down the toilet!

    So long Galileo! We salute you!

    *flush*
    • Re:Plop! (Score:5, Informative)

      by niko9 (315647) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:31PM (#6888380)
      If the orbiter were left to circle Jupiter after running out of propellant (barring an intervention, this would likely happen within a year), it might eventually crash into Europa, one of Jupiter's large moons. In 1996, Galileo conducted the first of eight close flybys of Europa, producing breathtaking pictures of its surface, which suggested that the moon has an immense ocean hidden beneath its frozen crust. These images have led to vociferous scientific debate about the prospects for life there; as a result, nasa officials decided that it was necessary to avoid the possibility of seeding Europa with alien life-forms. And so the craft has been programmed to commit suicide, guaranteeing a fiery, spectacular end to one of the most ambitious, tortured, and revelatory missions in the history of space exploration.

      That's why they are ditching it in said manner.
  • Bitterly disapointed, Carl Sagan was never able to detect intelligent life on our planet!
  • by M1FCJ (586251) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:05PM (#6888226) Homepage
    I find it strange that such a man made equipment was both underrated and overrated at the same time.

    It promised a lot, then with the failure of the high-gain antenna, it delivered a lot less than expected.

    Both Voyagers sent us a lot less data but the data was publicised much more energetically.

    Since the probe has been plauged by malfunctions for some time I agree it is time to let it go. Bye bye...

    • Both Voyagers sent us a lot less data but the data was publicised much more energetically.

      Agreed, but the Pioneers and Voyagers were out there early and were sending back spectacular photographs, which is what the public gets enthused about. By the time Galileo was there, that'd been done several times, so the public was less interested. And they probably don't care at all about the geology of the moons or the make-up of the atmosphere.

      I don't know that we should expect anything else.

  • by TWX (665546) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:06PM (#6888234)
    Galileo was not cheap. Neither were the Pioneers or the Voyagers. Look at the return on the investment, though.

    NASA has not made a good argument for cheaper = better. The Hubble Space Telescope was flawed when it went up and spent the first three years of its lifespan doing very little compared to its design. We have lost several probes headed Mars. Quality has not been top priority at NASA, and until it is, we're going to continue to see failure after failure, I'm afraid. Galileo wasn't perfect, with deployment problems of its high-gain antenna, but it did not fail entirely, and it did not require humans in suits to go play with it for it to work right. We need that kind of engineering again.

    We need to build them like we used to.
    • NASA has not made a good argument for cheaper = better. The Hubble Space Telescope was flawed when it went up and spent the first three years of its lifespan doing very little compared to its design.

      Surely you are not claiming that Hubble was cheap? It was the most expensive piece of mass sent to space. More than 3 billion was spent just to build the thing, not to mention three shuttle missions and millions spent in the operations.

      The science it produced is worth the price but it wasn't cheap.

    • Hubble was not built under the cheaper=better flag. Hubble was built in the same time frame as Cassini and Calileo.
    • by Rura Penthe (154319) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:28PM (#6888370)
      What are you talking about. Hubble was not built cheaply. And since its repair it has been one of the best things NASA has ever done. By the time they plan to retire it (~2010 I believe?), it will have been in use for just under 20 years and the Jack Webb telescope should be ready.
    • by iabervon (1971) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @02:01PM (#6888543) Homepage Journal
      Cheaper or more expensive comes down to the funding NASA gets. NASA spends the money it gets allocated. Half of "cheaper = better" is making the most of the stuff that's been built; Galileo is a prime example of this. What makes it such a great achievement is that NASA kept getting more information out of it, rather than building another expensive probe to send out there. As for reliability of new stuff, NASA recently debugged a system deadlock on Mars from Earth.

      Of course, recent NASA projects haven't been particularly ambitious, because of a lack of sufficient funding for that. However, with a replacement for the shuttle fleet on Congress's minds, and shows of interest in space from Russia and especially China, NASA will hopefully get more funding to do interesting stuff (and to develop the necessary technologies, which are the really interesting results).
  • This article almost made me cry.
  • by falsification (644190) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:10PM (#6888252) Journal
    If Galileo is the spark that lights up the gas giant Jupiter, turning it into a second sun, that will be the last straw. We will then have no choice but to make safety the number one priority at NASA.
    • If Galileo is the spark that lights up the gas giant Jupiter, turning it into a second sun, that will be the last straw. We will then have no choice but to make safety the number one priority at NASA.

      We'd also have to put aside all thoughts of a mission to Europa.

  • by kuroth (11147) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:10PM (#6888255)
    Sounds to me like the whole moon is infested with Paradroids.

    (For the youngin's, here [rr.com], here [compuserve.com], and here [tesco.net].)
  • Data Rate (Score:5, Funny)

    by t_allardyce (48447) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:13PM (#6888273) Journal
    "maximum data transfer rate of ~120 bits/s"

    About the same as all those links will have in 5 minutes ;)
    • I would hope ground-based web servers at least have better latency than Galileo...
      • [root@localhost root]# ping galileo.nasa.gov
        PING galileo.nasa.gov (127.0.0.1) 56(84) bytes of data.
        64 bytes from galileo.nasa.gov (127.0.0.1): icmp_seq=1 ttl=50 time=0.030 ms
        64 bytes from galileo.nasa.gov (127.0.0.1): icmp_seq=2 ttl=50 time=0.018 ms
        64 bytes from galileo.nasa.gov (127.0.0.1): icmp_seq=3 ttl=50 time=0.022 ms
        64 bytes from galileo.nasa.gov (127.0.0.1): icmp_seq=4 ttl=50 time=0.025 ms

        --- galileo.nasa.gov ping statistics ---
        4 packets transmitted, 4 received, 0% packet loss, time 2997ms
        rtt min/av
  • by Glasswire (302197) <glasswire@ g m ail.com> on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:16PM (#6888286) Homepage
    ...does anyone know the URL for the Ganymede Dep't of Intellectual Property?
  • by bshroyer (21524)
    There's also a bit of dissention [washingtonfreepress.org] currently about the decision to crash the probe. Apparently, there's enough plutonium on board (34 pounds!) that we'll be donating to the Jovian depths.

    I'm not sure I like that idea.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's an interesting question, and an interesting responsibility (is it ok to end a plutonium-powered probe into orbit around another planet? Even if the answer is "yes", the question needs asking each time). Robert Forward's book

      • The Flight of the Dragonfly

      describes an evolved culture of intelligent gaseous creatures living in a gas giant planet. It is awfully big, though, so perhaps they'll forgive us. And of course if it accidentally crashed into Europa we'd be really screwed, so it's the lesser of two e

    • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:42PM (#6888435) Homepage
      Holy crap. That is the dumbest thing I've ever read. First, Jupiter is HUGE. I mean *really* huge. Bigger than you can conceive! To be more specific, Jupiter is around 4.18591697 x 10^27 pounds (thank you Google Calculator). Yes, that's 4185916970000000000000000000 pounds for you folks that don't understand scientific notation.

      Now, Nasa is planning on plunging 34 pounds of Plutonium into the planet. That's 3.4 * 10^1 pounds. Hmm... 10^1 versus 10^27. Do I need to say more? I mean... honestly, this is friggin' ridiculous!
      • Well, I think the grandparent poster is more concerned about the loss of 34 perfectly good pounds of plutonium, which could have been put to better use.

        Or maybe he's just worried about the native Jupiterians getting WMD :)
    • by ramk13 (570633) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @04:17PM (#6889354)
      Also, engineers are trained to downplay risks. They consider a risk of one in a million insignificant. But to a layperson who has seen the results of thousands of environmental accidents where the risk was supposedly very low, one in a million seems quite possible.

      That is the one the stupidest views on 'risk' I've heard. Risk is risk. One in a million IS low! 'results of thousands of environmental accidents' What the hell is he talking about it? It doesn't matter how many accidents you've seen, it matters how many accidents you seen compared to the number of things you've tried. *That* is an esitmation of risk. I don't understand the point this guy is trying to make.

      Even worse:

      Of course, how can we get anyone to be concerned about the possible harmful effects of dumping our radioactive waste on other worlds when modern science condones illness, cancer, and even deaths if they advance a technology or turn a profit. Our culture has made it OK to release a drug if the side effects "only" kill two percent of the users under certain circumstances.
      (idealist alarm rings) There is no such thing as a world without risk. If your risk of dying in a car accident is WAY more than one in a million, but does that mean we should outlaw driving?? Does this person not get in their car? You trade some level of risk to _actually_ do something.

      On top of this, what does the guy advocate we do? The plutonium has to go somewhere. Do you store enough fuel to launch it out of the solar system? Isn't that still 'pollution?' I'm sorry but the basis for the argument is a *little* weak.

      Cool link from an insurance company that shows different levels of risk. [cplusc.co.uk]
    • Isn't that how life was started on earth? :)

  • colonization (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gregeth (688579) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:17PM (#6888299)
    From the article: "Obliteration is precisely what nasa intends for the spacecraft. The reason is that Galileo may still harbor some signs of life on Earth: microorganisms that have survived since its launch from the Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, in 1989. If the orbiter were left to circle Jupiter after running out of propellant (barring an intervention, this would likely happen within a year), it might eventually crash into Europa, one of Jupiter's large moons. In 1996, Galileo conducted the first of eight close flybys of Europa, producing breathtaking pictures of its surface, which suggested that the moon has an immense ocean hidden beneath its frozen crust. These images have led to vociferous scientific debate about the prospects for life there; as a result, nasa officials decided that it was necessary to avoid the possibility of seeding Europa with alien life-forms." But I always thought it would be great to colonize another planet with earth's bacteria. :) But really, wouldn't doing something like that possibly help to set the stage (a ways off) in the future, when we can send a manned crew out towards Jupiter. Just think if we sent hundreds of probes containing simple life like bacteria, maybe we could help to create a more hospitable place. Of course, then you have to worry about the pesky part about it being mostly ocean(frozen nonetheless).
    • If you contaminate Europa with Earth organisms, and later send a probe to Europa to attempt to detect signs of life, you might detect the contaminants and mistake them for alien life. And then of course you have the whole "Prime Directive" debate: do we want to alter the course of development of whatever alien life there may be?
  • THANK GOD! (Score:5, Funny)

    by happyhippy (526970) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:19PM (#6888314)
    One less satellite to gain intelligence and come back looking for its creator.
  • by andy666 (666062) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:19PM (#6888317)
    Here is the transcript of the last Galileo probe to "land on" Jupiter:

    Time Event
    ________ _____
    11:04 a.m. Coast timer initiates probe operation
    12:46 p.m. Orbiter flyby of Io (~1000 km) (No imaging or spectral data collected)
    2:04 p.m. Energetic Particles Investigation (EPI) begins measuring trapped radiation in a region previously unexplored.
    5:04 p.m. Probe entry and data relay
    5:05:52 p.m. Pilot parachute deployed
    5:05:54 p.m. Main Parachute deployed
    5:06:02 p.m. Deceleration module jettisoned
    5:06:06 p.m. Direct scientific measurements begin
    5:06:15 p.m. Radio transmission to orbiter begins
    ~5:08 p.m. Visible cloud tops of Jupiter reached
    5:12 p.m. Atmospheric pressure the same as Earth's sea-level pressure
    5:17 p.m. Second major cloud deck is encountered (uncertain)
    5:28 p.m. Water clouds entered (uncertain)
    5:34 p.m. Atmospheric temperature equal to room temperature on Earth
    5:46 p.m. Probe enters twilight
    6:04 p.m. End of baseline mission. Probe may cease to operate due to lack of battery power, attenuation of signal due to atmosphere, or being crushed.
    6:19 p.m. Orbiter ceases to receive probe data (if still transmitting)
    7:27 p.m. Ignition of Galileo main engine (49 minute duration) to insert into Jovian orbit
  • by -tji (139690) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:27PM (#6888364) Journal
    In other similar stories, they always mention the small trickle of data that these crafts can return. I always wonder if this represents some physical limitations, or just the state of technology at the time of the probe. If they had more communications potential, they could return all kinds of data, images, even video. Anyone know of background info on space communications?

    How do the new probes compare to these old ones in terms of communications capabilties? What sort of xfer rates can new ones support?

    What are the limiting factors in space communications? Is it the power of the transmission, under the power limitations of the craft?
    • Galileo's terrible data rate is due to a failure to fully deploy its main (high-gain) antenna early in the mission (apparently a rib stuck on the umbrella-like unfolding dish). As a result, all probe communication has been done through the backup low-gain antenna. It's really astonishing that they've done as much with Galileo as they have; many people initially considered the loss of the HGA a mission-killer.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 06, 2003 @02:11PM (#6888596)
      Every form of communications, from talking to someone in the next cubical to receiving pictures from interplanetary space probes, is bound by Shannon's Theorem [ncl.ac.uk], which describes the relationship between a channel's bandwidth and signal-to-noise ratio and how much information you can communicate on that channel.

      Galileo was equipped with a high-bandwidth communications link capable of doing a much better job with image transmission, but its antenna failed to deploy. Because higher-bandwidth channels have a higher noise floor, a consequence of Shannon's Theorem is that higher-bandwidth wireless communications requires higher effective radiated power. Without the high-gain antenna, the normal image-transmission link was useless. As a result, the project engineers had to reconfigure a low-power, low-bandwidth auxiliary link to do the same job.

      It was actually really cool (and really lucky) that they could do that at all.
    • I would imagine that it is a combination of technology of the day, long wavelengths needed and low power to generate them.
    • As far as I understand, the main antenna of the probe simply jammed when opening. So, NASA had to use some secondary antenna that was never designed for communication with Earth. Hence 120 bits/second.
    • As I recall, Galileo had a failure of an antenna which severely limited its data rate. But, yes, the data rates are not advancing very fast. Probably a power budget issue. This talk [vanderbilt.edu] (beware, 20 MB) has a plot (page 3) showing the growth of bandwidth b/t Earth and Jupiter. In the 80's-90's there was a real plateu. Now it is rising again, but nowhere near as fast as terrestrial networking.

      Basically (also from this talk) what NASA is planning is to increase the CPU power of probes and to do more of the data

  • E, si muove!
  • Why is there a space shuttle when launching stuff by rocket arguably is cheaper and when we can have such ubercool projects such as galileio! More money to the scientists, less to the politicians!!
  • by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @02:31PM (#6888729) Homepage
    "(listen to Ganymede's eerie sounding plasma wind)"

    Anybody else listen to that and go "HEY! That sounds like seagulls!"

  • "maximum data transfer rate of ~120 bits/s"

    Let see. 120 bits/sec for 8 years... thats about 28 gigabytes of data. Not that bad.

  • I'm turning 40 on Sept 21st. Does anyone know a more exact time for the plunge that I can make out a toast in memory of this wonderful machine?
  • by ajs (35943)
    Ok, when a dead president's birthday rolls around we all take a day off work and cook hot dogs in the back yard with the kids.

    Dammit, this is far more worthy! I say we all take a moment out of our lives on the 21st and declare it a one-time national engineering/geek/space/technologist holiday; get our our barbies; relax a bit and pour yourself a glass of bubbly and toast the good folks at NASA.
  • [...] it has caught snowflakes of Sulfur Dioxide as it flew through the plume of an erupting volcano on Io, snapped pictures of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 as it smashed into Jupiter's atmosphere

    Yes, but what about the attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion and the C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhauser gate?

    Time to die
  • If the probe had been a human instead of a lump of hardware, Hollywood would be fighting for the fim rights. Unwanted as a child, shuffled from unwilling carer to unwilling carer, finally sent onto its career by a distinctly second rate route. Suffered a dreadful injury as a result of it early-life neglect. But despite all this, triumphed against the odds and earned unimaginable scientific wealth. Now on its deathbead, surrounded by grieving friends and relatives.

    Which raise the question: where is its succ
  • by tstoneman (589372) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @03:53PM (#6889223)
    I have always wondered about NASA being able to create a set of intra-solar system repeaters that they would send out into space, and have them simply repeat signals back from our spacecrafts. That means we could still pick up signals from such spacecrafts as Voyager and Pioneer spacecrafts by having the repeaters send them back to Earth.

    As well, this would eliminate the need for high-gain antennas of the likes of what Galileo needed... they could do with a smaller antenna that would need to reach the repeater, and would decrease overall mission risk.
    • I have always wondered about NASA being able to create a set of intra-solar system repeaters that they would send out into space, and have them simply repeat signals back from our spacecrafts. That means we could still pick up signals from such spacecrafts as Voyager and Pioneer spacecrafts by having the repeaters send them back to Earth.

      I'm guessing it's cheaper and less risky to build super sensitive reciever dish antennas here on earth. Remeber, radio waves travel at the speed of light, and that's a f
  • by rune2 (547599) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @04:05PM (#6889298) Homepage
    It's interesting to note that Galileo's successor (the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter) will use Ion propulsion powered by a nuclear reactor. I believe that this is a first time a spacecraft has been nuclear powered. The Deep Space 1 mission proved that Ion thusters (which operated off of electricity provided by solar panels) were a faster and more efficient method of propulsion, especially over very long distances such as for exploration outside of our solar system.

    See the pdf on the fission technology [nasa.gov]
  • by Esion Modnar (632431) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @04:41PM (#6889490)
    "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die." --Roy Batty, Blade Runner
  • by EuropeanGuy (698760) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @05:39PM (#6889772)
    Galileo will be Europe's own global navigation satellite system, providing a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service under civilian control. It will be inter-operable with GPS and GLONASS, the two other global satellite navigation systems. A user will be able to take a position with the same receiver from any of the satellites in any combination. By offering dual frequencies as standard, however, Galileo will deliver real-time positioning accuracy down to the metre range, which is unprecedented for a publicly available system. It will guarantee availability of the service under all but the most extreme circumstances and will inform users within seconds of a failure of any satellite. This will make it suitable for applications where safety is crucial, such as running trains, guiding cars and landing aircraft. The first experimental satellite, part of the so-called Galileo System Test Bed (GSTB) will be launched in late 2004. The objective of this experimental satellite is to characterize the critical technologies, which are already under development under ESA contracts. Thereafter up to four operational satellites will be launched in the timeframe 2005-2006 to validate the basic Galileo space and related ground segment. Once this In-Orbit Validation (IOV) phase has been completed, the remaining satellites will be installed to reach the Full Operational Capability (FOC) in 2008. The fully deployed Galileo system consists of 30 satellites (27 operational + 3 active spares), positioned in three circular Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) planes in 23616 km altitude above the Earth, and at an inclination of the orbital planes of 56 degrees with reference to the equatorial plane. Once this is achieved, the Galileo navigation signals will provide a good coverage even at latitudes up to 75 degrees north, which corresponds to the North Cape, and beyond. The large number of satellites together with the optimisation of the constellation, and the availability of the three active spare satellites, will ensure that the loss of one satellite has no discernible effect on the user.
  • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@gm a i l.com> on Saturday September 06, 2003 @08:54PM (#6890671) Homepage Journal

    JIMO, or Jupiter Icy Moons Orbitor, is the planned successor to Galileo. It will carry with it a nuclear electric propulsion plant. With this much power on board, the spacecraft will not only be able to get to Jupiter much more quickly, it will be able to bounce powerful radar waves off of Europa and measure the thickness of Europa's icy crust.

    Nuclear power in space is important, and will allow us to get to other planets quickly.

Any given program, when running, is obsolete.

Working...