|Solar System Exploration: Still Happening, Is Going To Happen More
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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\
- 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 .0 pKa.