Archive for June, 2009

How Hubble Trouble Was Solved

June 30, 2009

Currently Hubble Space Telescope is known as one of the most successful space projects ever. Everyone is familiar with the best pictures it brought to us. But not everyone remembers that Hubble mission started as a disaster, because main telescope mirror appeared to be defective, first images were fuzzy, way worse than expected. That’s when “Hubble trouble” expression was born (thank you, media guys, we love you! :-)

Shortly after the launch scientists dicovered, that the main mirror could not focus light properly, it had so called spherical aberration. Good thing they didn’t give up on it (of course they didn’t, it was too expensive to give up ;-) and created a funny workaround — they replaced original camera with a new one. New camera was constructed on purpose with a special defect. It was a precisely engineered defect to exactly compensate Hubble’s mirror problem. Two combined defects appeared to give an extremely sharp image — the quality which was expected from Hubble in the beginning. About 15 years already Hubble is taking pictures with a defective mirror and camera :-)

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Mars Mission Research in Antarctica

June 30, 2009

Future Mars expedition is not easy, that’s for sure. We have to be very well prepared for it. Currently ESA is running an experiment in Antarctica to study how long isolation, cold and artificial light affect man’s phycology, immune system and stress level. What kind of bacteria grows in confined environment of space ship Antarctica station? What happens to the mood and productivity of crewmembers without fresh air and sunlight? Those are all very important questions we need to know answers for if we want to visit Mars.

Map of Antarctica showing Dome-C (red square) and location of Concordia Station (star). Click to view bigger version.   Credits: Mark Drinkwater, ESA

Map of Antarctica showing Dome-C (red square) and location of Concordia Station (star). Click to view bigger version. Credits: Mark Drinkwater, ESA

As you see, humanity is not staying, it’s moving forward, unfortunately not as fast as some science fiction writers foresaw, slowly but surely. We study Moon — the playground before Mars, building Moon base on Earth and now doing medical experiments in Antarctica too, moving forward shortly speaking! By the way, if you are a doctor and interested in doing research for the future space mission, they have an open vacancy for the next season. Here is a backyard view to get you inspired:

A stunning view from the Concordia research station. Click on picture to know more about job opportunity.  Credits: A.P.Salam

A stunning view from the Concordia research station. Click on picture to know more about job opportunity. Credits: A.P.Salam

How to Cut Trees in Space Age

June 29, 2009

I think you’ve heard of GPS. It is a technology which helps you to get back home after camping trip. It also has some military applications and because of this space nations prefer to have their own “GPS” systems. Russia for example has GLONASS system and Europe — Galileo system. What space technologies like navigtion system can do for our everyday’s life? Many people wonder why do we spend so much money on satellites and stuff.

Artists impression of the final Galileo satellite constellation of 30 satellites. Sorry, no bigger version :-) Credit: ESA-J. Huart

Artist's impression of the final Galileo satellite constellation of 30 satellites. Sorry, no bigger version :-) Credit: ESA-J. Huart

Germans developed a system which allows with a help of Galileo system to map all the single trees in a forest and optimize forest harvesting. It is able to say exactly what trees are better to be cut now and which ones should be left for later. It allows to use forest more wisely and save costs. They are currently running a prototype experiment, but it is going well and most likely in the next 6–12 months this system will be implemented.

The Precision Forestry Positioning System developed at RWTH Aachen University guides the harvester to the next tree to cut. Click to view bigger version. Credit: RWTH Aachen University

The Precision Forestry Positioning System developed at RWTH Aachen University guides the harvester to the next tree to cut. Click to view bigger version. Credit: RWTH Aachen University

I love stuff like this, it shows that space technologies actually helping us to save forests for example. It is always better to work on something you can see the real results of, isn’t it?