Bombarding computers with radiation.
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Three new astronauts currently rocketing up to space in the Soyuz spacecraft will be conducting new experiments, including sequencing DNA and blasting computers with radiation. Anatoly Ivanishin from the Russian space agency Roscosmos is commander of the Soyuz, and is joined by two space newbies: Takuyi Onishi from Japan's …
Right there at the beginning of the article is this:
"The space station, roughly the size of a football pitch, will be home to the astronauts for four months."
I figured out that a football pitch is a third larger by area than a football field, yet both are the same size now, since both (roughly) match the ISS. I'm confused.
At the altitude of the space station (~400km) gravity is not that different from the earth's surface (about 89% I think), things just appear weightless because it is moving so incredibly fast sideways and falling due to gravity but with the same curvature as the earth's surface. Surely this means that the space station does have weight and it isn't vastly different to the weight it would have if sat on earth's surface ?
Indeed, the idea that there's no "gravity" there is fatuous. What else is providing the centripetal force to cause the ISS to orbit the Earth? (Newton's answer).
Einstein would say that the Earth's mass distorts space-time resulting in the curved nature of the ISS's orbit, but even he would say that locally (and not too fast) this effect is the same as "gravity".
However, if I tried to place the ISS on my bathroom scales while it's in orbit...
Surely bombarding devices with radiation is something more sensibly and cheaply done on the ground. I mean, sure, measure the radiation a square inch in space receives, but then surely you can just replicate that - without other external factors - on the ground much more cheaply that putting even 100g of kit onto a rocket?
And what answers will you get? Yes it works, or no it doesn't. Either way, you haven't proved much as we have radiation-hardened kit on Earth already, and commodity hardware in space already (don't the ISS all use off-the-shelf laptops?), and we know when normal kit starts to fail and when extra protection is not necessary, don't we? Don't we have an awful lot of satellites and other equipment a LOT further from Earth's protection running around out there?
And I thought the point of ISS was that it's inside an orbit that's relatively safe for astronauts from the radiation. Otherwise it would be much further out where it could do more useful science, and maybe even be geostationary.
>don't the ISS all use off-the-shelf laptops?
They do use off the shelf laptops running Linux, around seven of them, but they only act as terminals for the ISS's Command and Control computers.
Less critical work, stock control, email, note taking etc, is also done on standard laptops, but they are not connected to the critical C&C systems.
Judging by the photographs, the laptops are, at least in the American sections, ThinkPads.
Yeah, and what about the bone tests? The article doesn't explain it well. I gather that they invented a device to make bones on the ground waste away just like they do in space, and now they're going up to compare actual microgravity wasting with their simulated kind. I guess.
Okay, great. So they can make your bones go soft right here on Terra Firma. What good is that? Does the machine have a handy 'reverse' switch which would then miraculously cure osteoporosis? Could it be that easy?
"Okay, great. So they can make your bones go soft right here on Terra Firma. What good is that?"
To make a cure, you need to have something you can test on. Of course there can test on the astro/cosmo-nauts themselves, but if they can come up with a good analogue on the ground, it becomes much easier and cheaper than testing on the handful of people in space each year.
So, now that they've created something they can test, they want to check that it does accurately lose bone density in the same way as in space.
"Surely bombarding devices with radiation is something more sensibly and cheaply done on the ground"
Up to a point.
The radiation environment in space (even at LEO, well inside the magnetosphere) contains far higher energy protons (aka cosmic rays) than anything we're able to produce on the ground. These seldom make it to ground level thanks to our protective atmosphere.
Refer to the "oh my god" particle event.
Simulated microgravity is *almost* the same but there are slight variations due to some tissues having more water content (water being the slightly diamagnetic substance the magnets act on).
Incidentally this is being looked into as a way to generate artificial gravity without the added hassle of spinning a craft at high speed and the resultant Coriolis effects messing with the astronauts equilibrium.
The steady state field you need to generate a 0.35G field is around 18T, or the alternative is to simply have chambers where the crew sleep so they have "gravity" some of the time.
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