back to article Russia’s space telescope in orbit

Russia is celebrating its return to heavy-hitter status in space, with the successful launch of the Spektr-R radio telescope from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday. The radio telescope, which has now successfully reached orbit, is Russia’s answer to the Hubble Space Telescope, but with an added twist: its ability …

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Good for them!

Science is kind of like breathing. If you stop doing it, you die. If a society today stops doing science, research into fundamental processes and expansion of basic knowledge, the society will die. IE, the conservatives in our government are killing us...

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Its an interesting sentiment...

.....but nonsense of course.

How do you explain the hundreds (thousands?) of societies on our planet that are doing just fine without science. As much as I hate to, you could even use the amish to counter your point.

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Quite trivially.

Societies take quite a while to die - it's taken quite a lot longer than one generation in almost every instance of a society disintegrating.

Amish is a really terrible example by the way, as there is no single Amish society.

You'd need to pick a particular example of an Amish society - they are all necessarily very small, perhaps up to 500 or maybe 1000 members at most. A large village, for example.

One could argue that they're not a society in and of themselves, but are a sect within the wider community - they pay taxes, use public roads etc.

That said, most societies actually disintegrate due to invasion or natural disaster.

This is where Science comes in - if the Aztecs or Mayans had done much science, then the Spaniards would not have been able to conquer them, and would have fallen to the superior numbers of locals.

Societies tend to perish when they interact with another society that has superior technology, or when a natural disaster that they can't cope with occurs.

The more science and technology you've got, the higher that bar is raised.

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Seems scientific rot's set in except for the Russians.

"Science is kind of like breathing. If you stop doing it, you die."

Correct! However, unfortunately, much of what passes for scientific research today is little more than alchemy aimed to fool the public and funding bodies.

Science is on a precipice, especially in the English-speaking world. Unless there's better general funding of science--more science for science's sake, knowledge for knowledge sake (as was once the case 40+ years ago) instead of monies being dished out for hyped-up, trumped-up projects etc., then we're likely to descend into a scientific dark age. Science must have continued rigour or interest in it will die.

Some recent examples of the rot setting in in science are the lies, exaggerated claims and bullshit coming from both sides of the climate debate and the closure/lack of funding for NASA's space shuttle. We wouldn't see such instances in a more scientifically enlightened world.

The public is becoming bored with hyped-up scientific pronouncements about science especially when there's little real result. For instance the cure for cancer, where for more than 60+ years, seemingly never a week goes by without a 'promising cure' announcement coming from the scientific establishment, yet in practice bugger-all real cures being delivered within this time. It doesn't bode well for science that promotional exaggeration by scientists is all too commonplace.

To give scientific research a new breath of life we should begin with school science. Turning the dumbed-down mumbo-jumbo that passes for today's classroom science into the rigorous exacting subject that it once was and making it compulsory for every schoolkid to study at least some basic science would be a good place to start--having a scientifically literate public will ensure science is kept on course not to mention better scientific outcomes for society.

BTW, when I was a kid the thought of having to train NASA astronauts Russian because NASA could no longer deliver them into space would have been absolutely unimaginable. Alone, this ought to be an excellent rot-level indicator.

Give thanks the Russians still have some interest in the subject.

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Boffin

A lot of good science is happening right now, despite cuts

Perhaps you should follow real scientific literature now and then and not rely on newspaper articles (which I know can be seriously disjoint from what the scientist actually said). The very science you deride has brought you all the improvements in computing power, and many real cures as well. The work I do as a scientist (computer vision) has ranged from determining whether a drug attacks a specific cancer before administering it, through detection of malformations in blood vessels, and automatically scanning through terapixels of astronomical images for peculiar objects, to supporting post-disaster rescue efforts by automatically analyzing remote-sensing images for collapsed buildings. In the latest case we brought down the compute time from 104 days (=useless) to 8 hours (=useful). I also know cancer deaths have been reduced for certain types, in particular in the case of certain early cancers (no work of mine).

There is a lot of excellent science being done, though I agree more could and should be done. Funding cuts are not just undermining scientific progress, but also the status it has in society (or more particularly bureaucrats). I also agree school science can and should be improved.

I would invite every capable worker in science/technology to get involved in doing just that, by spending time at schools getting children involved in science. I taught some basic science/engineering lessons at my boy's school (they are 7 and 9) and it is great fun. We also organize outreach programs to secondary schools close to our uni, and that too is really nice. Too bad that that funding cuts are threatening even that.

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Amish... quite interesting science

try and breed a population of a few hundred thousand from a few hundred individuals (where inbreeding was already a problem start with) and just watch the genetic mutations proliferate.

Of course this is all due to genetics, which is a practical implementation of evolution, in which they don't believe.

Which kinda makes the other guy's point akshuly

I remember coming across a bunch of amish folk at a market in Madison Wi - felt very sad for them, which surprised me a bit, I dont usually do compassion.

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Alien

Spektr-R?

Bring on the Maxwell Smart jokes... :-)

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And the inevitable march of science moves on, despite the stupidity of Humanity as a whole ...

Well done, folks. May your mission life-span be several decades longer than expected.

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Alien

The Russians are coming

back to space.

I only found out about this from the Russian Television channel - RT.

The Americans have been silent about it, but that is to be expected.

Nothing worth anything ever happens outside of America.

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Sounds like a machine from a Bond movie

but great instrument once it gets operational. Very Long Base Line Interferometry (VLBI) is about to become ULBI (Ultra Long Base Line Interferometry), fitting, given ULTRA was a British (counter)-espionage unit involved in radio snooping and code breaking: Ultra meets Spektr-R.

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Anonymous Coward

Lost In Space

I think in the millenia that follows the UK will gradually slip to becoming a third world nation (yes, I know we are already well on the way). After the war we were well placed to become a dominant player in the space race, but we've allowed that leadership position to be given away to other nations, but today we play no significant part.

Scott me up beamy.

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Re: Lost in Space

The UK maybe but the Isle of Man has gone from zero to fifth in the international space leagues inside a decade and is currently looking good for a major role in the future. All it takes is some imagination and forward thinking. Dr Brian Cox was over here a couple of weeks ago to see what the Island is doing right and reporting back to Cameron with recommendations as to how the UK can leverage its relationshio with the IOM to get back in the game.

And I tell you something, there is NOTHING like a sucessful (ish) space industry to get the kids excited about Science. The kids over here are getting massively excited about the space industry. Just since June we have had three major events for the kids. First an open day at a hanger storing some old Russian space stations and a re-usable module (being renovated to be used as a space hotel). You could barely move around the hanger at 10am it was so busy. Then the visit from Prof Cox with an audience of nearly a thousand kids. Finally four of the astronauts on February's shuttle mission (Nicole Stott married a Manx Man) did a tour of several of the Schools. And all of those things have been hugely busy and the number of kids choosing A Level Sciences is up and rising.

The stagnation in the US (and beyond) is putting space out of the news meaning fewer kids will get excited about it so there will be fewer well-qualified scientists to get things going again in 10-20 years time.

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WTF?

Erm

No significant part eh?! We may have cancelled Black Arrow before it had a chance, and we might not be involved in manned exploration, but we are a top notch satellite builders and is one of our few growth industries contributing about £7bn to the economy,and if SKYLON gets anywhere we're easily poised to take a leading role.

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Wrong

After the War we were bust, plain and simple.

Geez more uninformed comment on here. Why do I bother?

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US(A|SR)

----

After the War we were bust, plain and simple.

----

Yup, whilst America actually made a healthy profit - we only finished paying them back on the loan around the turn of the millennium IIRC. Hardly surprising they (and the Russians), with liberated German scientists, lead the world in all the big, flashy, expensive/explosive science for the next few decades.

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stagnation nation

"The stagnation in the US (and beyond) is putting space out of the news meaning fewer kids will get excited about it so there will be fewer well-qualified scientists to get things going again in 10-20 years time..."

That, and all these school systems in the US knuckling under to religious freaks and teaching Creationism and "Intelligent Design" alongside evolution to provide "balance"; add to that the infamous "Texas Textbooks" plus the notorious "Race To The Top' program based on drilling the living shit out of kids so that they pass meaningless mandatory tests, and the near-total lack of any teaching of critical thinking skills, and you've got a perfect recipe for a serious shortage of scientists and engineers in the US.

All the budget we could want for new orbital telescopes and a renewal of manned flight beyond LEO isn't going to help us if we don't have enough trained scientists and engineers, because our universities can't find enough qualified science/engineering students -- owing to their all having come from public schools where they're teaching kids that the Universe is five thousand years old.

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Radio telescope

Well, a space radio telescope is not the Russian answer to the Hubble Space Telescope. It's something quite different in the technology and also in the scientific targets

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It will produce much better picture though!

It might be a radio telescope but when operational it will produce images 100,000 times sharper than Hubble.

So its not the answer to Hubble - but it will answer things Hubble can barely form questions about.

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Boffin

Not necessarily better, but differnt

In astronomy, things get really exciting when you can line up different instruments on the same target, to see what it is doing at different wavelengths. Another important difference is that by itself, Spektr-R's images will be much poorer than any radio telescope on the surface of the globe. However, by combining its signals with ground-based scopes we synthetically make large dish, much in the way the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope, or the Very Large Array, or more recently LOFAR build up an image using multiple antennae to simulate a very large one.

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Pint

Not surprisingly, underreported -

here in Sweden, for example nary a word in any of the major newspapers, which, however, did do their journalistic duty by informing us yesterday that a US flag had been laid over the docking platform between the «space shuttle» (which they never became) «Atlantis» and the so-called «International Space Station» (which the US will not allow it to be) to commemorate the former's return to Earth and the end of the programme. Kudos, in any event, to Richard Chirgwin and the Reg for reporting this ; those who want more detail - including that of the international participation in the Spekt-R project, can find it in this PDF : http://www.asc.rssi.ru/radioastron/documents/rauh/en/rauh.pdf ....

Henri

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Of course not, it's Russian...

...and of course, Russia is unable to produce anything at all of note in the popular imagination. The article is guilty of the same cultural bias as everything else. A 10m scope is "tiny" according to the article. What a load of crap. Hershel was the previous largest space telescope at a puny 3.6m, or a little over one-eighth the light grab. Hubble is, which is of course the bees knees because it is mostly American and cost so much, is 2.4m, or one-seventeenth the light grab. But these numbers don't matter - they're western projects and therefore better, even if they are overpriced crap in comparison.

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Coat

Wonder if.....

it has an octopus logo on it?

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Paris Hilton

Science exists ...

... only if there is a perceived need for it.

Ancient societies probably had no need for science (possibly because they were in tune with life, death, disease, ... in a way that science or technology based societies might not even imagine?)

Maybe even: they had better things to do?

(other than science I mean)

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Load of tosh

There's always been science and technology - the only difference now is the rate of progress and coordination of information combined with formal education

We'd never have become a more 'advanced' society without it.

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FAIL

Two types of "ancient societies"

- The ones that used science and became modern societies

- The ones that "had no need for science" and either died out from stagnation or were absorbed into science-using societies.

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Doesn't being in tune to disease mean

dying horribly of causes we can now not only cure but often prevent?

Science and engineering are the main reason human beings have FAR more heartbeats during their lives than other mammals.

Astronomy actually came into being because we needed to predict when to sow and harvest.

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Boffin

10,000 times Hubble’s resolution

Surely some mistake. I think you're out by an order of magnitude there; sure, it has a massive baseline but it is resolving signals with significantly longer wavelengths.

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Not a typo

Fear the power of maths.

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Actually, back-of-the-envelope this looks plausible

My rough and ready guess came out at 6.000 times better, so that's well within a factor of 2 from their number. Barring detailed calculations showing otherwise, I'd believe them.

Basically, yes, the wavelengths are much longer, but the factor on the baseline easily outstrips that -- you're moving from the diameter of a piece of tubing that could fit inside the shuttle's cargo bay to something almost the size of the Earth-moon system.

What I'd love to see is an analysis of sensitivity.

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units!!

what is the unit of sharpness?

I think the reg units boffins need to take a look at that??

may i suggest the mensch as a base unit - that is sharp enough to split logs :D

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Anonymous Coward

What? when did this happen?

Nothing about this on our glorious BBC. Just the usual thousands of hrs of the history of

UK coast/landscape/rivers/mountains/weather/water/top gear etc etc

Makes you ignorant of the wider world but then again maybe the head of rocket science in moscow wears a timex watch. There may be a BBC series on the history of the watch he was wearing.

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FAIL

Yes there is

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14200971

Read about it there this morning from the front page, its lower down now but still on the front page.

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Trollface

"as America says farewell to its Space Shuttle programme."

Bah Russians got there first...

(they retired the Buran many moons ago)

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Re: Russians got there first...

Unlike the Americans they still had other manned spacecraft, though.

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Russians got there first?

Sorry, dude, wrong.

The Buran program started way later, and was pretty much a total aerodynamic knock-off of the US Shuttle orbiter:

xUSSR's Buran side-by-side comparison with US STS vehicle:

http://www.buran.ru/images/gif/mtkkman.gif

http://www.starshipmodeler.com/real/tg_iss_FullStackDiscovery&Buran.JPG

.

Buran landing after first and only flight:

http://astro.zeto.czest.pl/sat/buran.jpg

.

Buran orbiter ferried piggyback aboard AN225:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/68/Buran_on_An-225_(Le_Bourget_1989)_1.JPEG

More on Buran via Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buran_(spacecraft)

One of the few differences was that instead of strap-on solids -- iirc, the USSR didn't have enough experience developing solid boosters of that size -- the Buran was boosted by four clustered strap-on liquid-fueled engines fed by the main external tank. Other than that, it was pretty much a copy of the US Shuttle, including aerodynamic form factor, launch configuration, and it being ferried piggyback on a large multi-engine jet (a purpose-built Antonov AN225).

Buran made its first and only flight in November 1988, unmanned, making its approach and landing entirely on automatic; Buran was designed to function both human-piloted and entirely automatically.

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Retired first ...

I think he meant "The Russians retired their shuttle before America retired theirs!". Maybe a bit tongue-in-cheek, but sadly true ... if Buran had kept going, maybe the US would have pushed forward with a shuttle successor.

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lol

irony

swoosh

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Coat

Spekt-R

Is the guy at the controls stroking a white persian pussyt??

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Big Brother

Heavy Hitter?

You have to wonder about the credentials of some so called technology reporters at the BBC like Katia Moskvitch for instance who says with pride that the new Russian radio telescope at 10 meteres in diameter is the biggest in orbit..

Ummm No Katia, it's not. It's actually quite small compared to the others up there.

The 'ryolite and 'Aquacade' series sats are generally aknowleged to be 20m across and launched back in 1970. Now replaced by the MENTOR series, at 100m across these can be seen by amateur stargazers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mentor_%28satellite%29

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They may have meant

the biggest space telescope, not the biggest satellite

Many satellites other than the Mentors can be seen by stargazers (even with the naked eye). With my 15x70 binoculars, I start to resolve structure in the ISS and similar sized satellites, but many others are readily visible.

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