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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Solar System Exploration: Still Happening, Is Going To Happen More [20141128|20:56]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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[the weather today is |excited, ungrammatical]

The last of the press releases I was waiting for to make Announcements About Space came out yesterday so I can now write my Post of Great Happiness.

  1. The European Space Agency's Cluster mission, studying the Earth's plasma environment and interaction with the heliosphere, has been extended from 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2016. This is the mission's seventh extension - the original mission began at the start of 2001 and was scheduled to last for two years. It is both astonishing and wonderful that all four spacecraft have lasted this long and continue to return such a rich seam of results. The quartet of spacecraft, flying in a tetrahedral formation, have gradually been approaching closer and closer to Earth, exploring different regions of the magnetosphere. It will be years, probably decades, before the potential of the data can be said to have been mined exhaustively.

    The instrument I work on (the magnetometer) is fully operational on all four spacecraft. A couple of years ago, I calculated that I'd personally inspected tens of millions of magnetic field vectors. I suspect that number may have since entered the hundreds of millions.

  2. Support for the European instruments aboard the joint NASA-ESA Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn has been approved by ESA's Science Programme Committee. Cassini is scheduled to take its final plunge into Saturn's atmosphere in late 2017. The magnetometer (our instrument) is still going strong.

  3. Other missions that I don't work on personally, but know people who do, also had two-year extensions approved: INTEGRAL, Mars Express, PROBA-2, SOHO, XMM-Newton, Hinode and HST. So many different types of exciting science!

    Also, holy long-lasting spacecraft, Batman. Cluster is far from the most venerable. SOHO was launched in 1995 and went into operation, observing the Sun, in 1996. The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990. 1990. I hadn't the faintest inkling that I would end up becoming a scientist in 1990. /o\

  4. Finally, the really big one. The JUICE mission to the Jupiter system, which will be the first spacecraft to orbit one of the Galilean moons (Ganymede), has been formally adopted by the agency. This means we are now allowed to leave the design phase, wherein our spacecraft and instruments exist only on paper (lots and LOTS of paper), and enter the implementation phase, wherein we begin to Build Things. I am both proud and excited to be a part of one of the instrument teams.



And now, I must go and rescue my pumpkin and pecan pies from beneath the noses of bloke and cat, for we are celebrating American Thanksgiving tomorrow.

This entry was originally posted at http://nanila.dreamwidth.org/953500.html. The titration count is at comment count unavailable.0 pKa.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: purplecthulhu
2014-11-29 09:47 (UTC)
Happy Thanksgiving!

I suspect some of those long lived spacecraft will eventually end up being killed with prejudice, like IUE, if they keep on running for so long. After all this space agency stuff is about paying aerospace companies to build and launch hardware, not about doing science,dammit!

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[User Picture]From: nanila
2014-12-02 09:34 (UTC)
Thank you!

It's the fun dance of "who is going to pay for what and how long will the delay be before anyone receives money" that keeps me entertained...
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[User Picture]From: purplecthulhu
2014-12-02 10:22 (UTC)
It gets to be 'if' not 'when' anyone gets money with STFC and UKSA before long. Even ESA can't bail out national agencies for ever :-(
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[User Picture]From: thefounder
2014-11-30 00:41 (UTC)
fabulous stuff. :) also, well done for being behind instrumentation that is built to last. too few things seem to be nowadays. :)
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2014-12-02 09:13 (UTC)
One of the questions I'm asked a lot at outreach events is, "Don't you wish you could go out there and upgrade all your equipment to the latest technology?" Audiences are usually surprised by a negative response, until I explain that there are other and often more significant drivers for spacecraft design, such as survival of micrometeorite impact, redundancy, radiation tolerance, electromagnetic cleanliness, etc. We have to select parts and build instruments, particularly for outer solar system missions, that will last not just for the duration of their journey "out there", which often takes years, but for the duration of the mission.
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[User Picture]From: mysterysquid
2014-11-30 09:34 (UTC)
Aaah, so cool! :D
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2014-12-02 09:07 (UTC)
It is rather good, isn't it? :)
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