but is does appear to just be a smooth ball of rock.
Not even anything interesting to conspire about...
With everyone going ape over the dazzling new crisp pictures from NASA's New Horizons probe of the dwarf freezeworld Pluto, there are few voices asking if it was worth sending out a space probe to the far end of the Solar System – but it wasn't always that way. Pluto The eighth dwarf ... Very latest snap of Pluto from New …
I'm as giddy as a schoolboy over this mission (too young for Apollo, Viking and Voyager so this is the first mission and likely only mission I've seen to a virgin planet - spatia incognita), but I don't think it's value should be proclaimed through "New components had to be developed, materials that will be very useful for future space missions." If somebody thinks this mission is a waste of money then you won't change their mind by telling them that the real benefit is piloting for other such missions.
Not only 3 billion miles, but against moving targets so far away that any observations we can make will be of the planet where it was roughly 5 hours ago (made even more difficult by its wonky orbit).. In which time, it will have moved over 50,000 miles.. By the time we get a signal back to the probe, the planet would be well over 100,000 miles from where we saw it!
Casualties do not come from inaccurate wepons - at least not any more.
Today casualties are almost always from incorrect information - firing on the wedding party because you've assumed that only terrorists would group together at that place and time.
Incidentally, that's not supposed to happen according to the Geneva conventions, which makes each mistake a war crime...
Having watched episodes of QI, the panel show which has covered the subject several times, I now have no idea how many moons we have. One? More than one? None? :-)
I await the "P" series in a few years time, which will no doubt leave us all more confused about Pluto than ever (although suitably entertained, I hope).
New Horizons and Philae/Rosetta are both pointing at problems with the "deep space network", and I think Dawn is where part of the answer lies.
A long time ago, UHouston had a robot which could roll across simulated lunar regolith and turn the surface into solar cells. Not very good ones, but there is so much "dry" real estate on the Moon compared to Earth it wouldn't matter. I believe a small amount of iron was recovered (removed) from the regolith, and that could be used for electrical interconnects (with 0 toughness during lunar night).
Ceres is quite a bit further from the Sun than Mars is, but it is still a whole pile of dry real estate.
Land at either pole, and have some robot set up solar cells on the surface to provide power. Probably a person needs to set up microwave and visible dishes in space close to Ceres, to receive signals from the amplitude challenged sources it needs to relay for. Have high amplitude laser and microwave antenna on Ceres, to send data to remote locations. Have a high intensity UV laser on Ceres that is tightly collimated. Lose a lander again, illuminate the target with UV and design parts of the lander to be fluorescent. Maybe just a big mirror (in space) is all that is needed?
I think you need to then setup receiving stations near both poles of the Moon, who can pass data back to Earth.
It may be convenient to place communications satellites in other places. But relays at the Moon and Ceres potentially allow for large power budgets, as there is so much area available to put solar cells on.
How long does a solar cell last on Ceres or the Moon? I haven't a clue.
I still think Philae's last hop found one of those sinkholes, either not yet ready to cave in or just starting to.
$700m is not pocket change.
Well, unless you are the US military, in which case you could launch 21 New Horizons missions* each year and STILL be spending more on defence than the next NINE countries PUT TOGETHER.
I'm not saying that defence is not a worthy area of spending, but when you are out-spending the next nearest nation by a factor of 3-4 then you can probably slice off a little and still be an effective force.
And not that NASA doesn't get a good amount of money either, but when they have to pull out of or delay well-researched, well-planned, scientifically-sound operations due to lack of funds, while money gets poured down the F-35 black hole, well, you can't help but feel that priorities and accountability are messed up.
* - Though the work done would mean subsequent missions would be cheaper, of course, we'll use 21 x $700m.
Well, large team of clever and dedicated individuals across several decades have achieved these feats.
But remember that, while everyone working at NASA is required to be a US citizen, not all of them were born in the US. In addition, NASA doesn't build - or even operate - all the vehicles and probes by themselves and make use of numerous contract organisations, where there will indeed be foreign nationals working.
Also, they are of course building on scientific work from numerous people of many different nationalities.
Not that this isn't very impressive indeed and not that we shouldn't be thankful for the US ponying up the cash to make this happen.
It is exceptional indeed, but it certainly wasn't achieved in some kind of isolation from the rest of the world.
NH is a million km plus past the Pluto system already. It's now on to the Kuiper belt and beyond, No reason why the data won't get back, now that the potential debris field has been cleared. There is more to see with working instruments and a big fat RTG on board.
From my early boyhood to my (now) late,late late boyhood, space discovery events like these have been an undiminished source of anticipation and fascination. Long may it continue into my old boyhood.
Congratulations to everyone involve.
P.S there is a Sky at Night special on Monday apparently
"Consider the distances involved. NASA threw a probe over three billion miles through the Solar System, using the gravity from our largest planet to get it up to speed, and has now slung it past Pluto so close that it's less than an Earth-width distance away. Its relatively puny thrusters have given fine tuning abilities, but the mechanics of such a feat are immensely complex."
Yeah yeah, we get it. It /is/ rocket science.
Also... "Pluto could harbor extraterrestrial surprises". Whereas a terrestrial surprise, well.. that really /would/ be a surprise!
"because it's there and humans are endlessly inquisitive. If we weren't, we'd still be roaming the plains of Earth as just another primate."
No actually, some humans are endlessly inquisitive, and most boffins are, especially if others are paying. I'm not denying that I'm only able to be typing this because previous apes were inquisitive and I'm reaping the assumed benefits, and therefore I support science spending unreservedly. But my neighbor down the river lives for the pleasure of fishing, only works for that Friday pay envelope to fund his latest gear, and would rather see all that science research money going into stocking the river, and maybe cleaning it up a bit. And I understand and slightly respect that point of view. Just don't tell me that humans are endlessly inquisitive. Some are but most aren't. I gag every time I hear those hollow words.
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