They are humanity’s eyes and ears in deep space exploring the plains of Mars the geysers of Saturn’s moon and the blazing surfaces of distant stars they are space probes robotic explorers that are now humanity’s interstellar avatars they can go places and see things that we could never do from here on earth space probes fan out across the solar.
System returning data that change everything we thought we knew if we could find indigenous life elsewhere in our galaxy it would be one of the greatest discoveries in the history of humans probes collide head-on into icy comets photograph.
The edge of the universe itself even see planets in other solar systems or at a golden age in the search and discovery of earth-like planets a new generation of robotic explorers is redefining the galaxy itself by unlocking secrets secrets of the space probes at this very moment millions of miles from the earth human beings are sampling measuring photographing and even sniffing the dust and gases of other worlds but not in person the environment of space is.
Very hostile to people it’s got extremes of temperature extremes of vacuum.
High radiation fields all kinds of things that are really inhospitable to human life our eyes and ears are robotic proxies sent on missions to discover the secrets of our solar system and beyond they are space probes and they were built to survive the hostile atmospheres and perilous worlds that mankind cannot our space missions are able to survive these difficult environments and they can go places and do things that we could never dream out without them some probes like the Hubble Space Telescope float.
Comfortably in Earth’s orbit while others by deep impact in 2005 are ordered on kamikaze missions to smash satellite probes into comets others are sent to uncover the secrets of planets like Mars Jupiter Saturn or their moons imaging and analyzing them from orbit and landing on their surfaces to explore or dig for samples our probes are used to answer fundamental questions about planetary composition.
Atmospheric composition geologic atmospheric processes how our planets well similar to in different than earth and the big picture question is there life the hunt for life on other worlds began over two.
Thousand years ago when Greek astronomers began gazing at planets in the 21st century Humanity is finally poised to find it sending out probes into the solar system.
And even beyond that is part of a long-standing mission we’ve had to understand not just ourselves here on earth but the rest of the solar system and in some ways that quest helps us learn more about ourselves in terms of where we may have come from and whether there are any other examples of the environment we see here on earth the latest quest begins with an ultra high-resolution digital infrared roadmap.
On December 14 2009 a delta 2 rocket delivered a small package into orbit 300 miles above the earth it’s called wise and it’s creating the most detailed infrared photograph of the.
Universe to date wise is the wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer and it’s a small sized telescope about 40 centimeters in diameter so that would sort of fit under my arm here and it’s surveying the entire sky for infrared wavelengths everything from there its closest neighbors the asteroids and comets to the most distant parts of the universe unlike the Hubble telescope the generally images wavelengths visible to ultraviolet light wise probes the universe using infrared.
Light human beings perceive infrared as heat when we feel the sun’s warmth on our skin what we’re really sensing are the.
Infrared rays coming from the Sun I’m pouring out infrared light as I sit here and we can use infrared to look for things that are sort of similar temperature like for example asteroids.
We can also use infrared to look for the most distant galaxies in the entire universe many of these distant galaxies can’t be perceived in the visible light spectrum the wise infrared telescope becomes like a magic set of glasses so just like a firefighter uses infrared goggles to look through smoke in a burning building to find people astronomers can use infrared to see through dust clouds to look for forming stars in their cores.
But revealing these hidden heat signatures first requires an extreme deep freeze Wise’s four million pixel telescope can only photograph infrared images if the telescope is colder than.
The objects it searches for so we need to make sure that we’re not blinded by the heat of our own telescope on wise we use a tank of solid hydrogen that’s frozen near absolute zero and this keeps our telescope and our instrument cold just like a cooler full of ice the bosun hydrogen on board wise is eventually going to sublimate away when we.
The hydrogen Isis the telescope and the instrument will warm up to the point that will no longer be able to see frozen to minus 447 degrees Fahrenheit the hydrogen can only last for about 10 months by that time some 1.5 million photographs will create a giant composite picture of the heavens a cosmic road atlas.
That can reveal new worlds for.
Future space probes to target potentially worlds with alien life-forms but if we are to find alien life many.
Light-years from Earth we’ll need a critical clue to lead us there on earth that clue covers 71% of our planet water one.
Of the main reasons we’re interested in finding liquid water is that we really would like to know is there life elsewhere in the solar system life on Earth as we know it needs water to.
Survive it needs water to form we hope to find life elsewhere.
For life might be first finding a place where there’s water liquid water throughout human history there was no proof that liquid water existed anywhere else in the universe besides earth until a.
Sophisticated space probe arrived on a mission of discovery to the planet Saturn in 1997 Cassini traveled 400 million miles and took four years to begin a multi-year.
The secrets of Saturday when the Cassini probe got to Saturn not only did it study.
All the moons and the planet in particular but then.
It went out of the plane changed his door a bit and could look down on the Rings one ring in particular attracted.
Cassini scientists we knew that Saturn’s outermost ring the e ring was made of very small micron-sized ice particles micron-sized ice particles don’t last long in space we knew there was a source of stuff in the Saturn system that was creating the e ring.
We guess was Enceladus when Cassini approached the moon Enceladus it witnessed a cosmic.
Phenomenon and confirmed that water was indeed a key ingredient on another world the Cassini spacecraft has detected water under the surface of Enceladus and the way it was detected was that these geysers are coming out from fissures in the cracked surface of Enceladus and the water freezes as it comes out into the cold space surrounding Enceladus the constant stream of water ice particles feed Saturn’s ring an icy reminder that if.
Liquid water exists on remote planets in our own solar.
System it might be found elsewhere in the universe but Cassini’s hunt for liquids wasn’t over it would have to use its sensitive instruments to penetrate.
Other atmospheres of the Saturnian system the Cassini spacecraft has 12 science instruments four of them are what we call optical remote sensing instruments they see in the wavelength of band the human sea or just outside of it the spacecraft has filters that.
Are designed to peer food that haze and see through to the surface below Cassini’s instruments are designed to gather intelligence with different tools.
Much the same way that humans use our different senses Cassini’s direct and remote sensors first began studying Saturn’s moon Titan a place that some believed could contain liquid water Titan is bigger than the planet Mercury with a dense atmosphere thicker than even the Earth’s atmosphere in 1980 when the Voyager space probe flew by on its way to.
The outer solar system its photographs.
Hinted at another liquid phenomenon with the Voyager spacecraft told us is that that atmosphere is filled with hydrocarbons methane ethane that create a thick photochemical haze the Voyager spacecraft couldn’t see through that haze when Cassini began studying Titan twenty-five years later it also launched a satellite spy probe called Huygens the.
Probe penetrated the thick hydrocarbon atmosphere and landed on Titan’s surface when Cassini and its lander found was shocking very early on Cassini and Huygens had seen.
Hints of the evidence of fluids on the surface of Titan eventually they found hydrocarbons they found hydrocarbon lakes some larger than the Great Lakes these are the first open bodies of fluids found in the solar system outside of Earth.
The lakes are filled by classic.
Earth-like rainstorms but on Titan the raindrops are not h2o but slow falling liquid methane a lot of the methane on earth is in the gaseous state it’s called natural gas in fact.
And it comes from decaying organisms and they’re still decomposing and they form this natural gas which we can use as a fuel here on earth Titans liquid methane world could even Harbor simple life-forms much like the single-celled life found in the depths of Earth’s.
Oceans so there’s a lot of excitement about the possibilities that could be out there planetary systems out there active interesting and very varied and we know that life can take many different forms life might be found on distant planets orbiting other stars the problem is getting there but a new.
Super engine with a propulsion system similar to microwave oven technology is preparing to turbocharge deep space travel space probes can boldly go where no human has gone before but.
For decades scientists have wrestled with a harsh reality space probes can fail everyone that succeeds.
Is built upon a half-century of failed missions and shattered dreams the history begins in the 1960s with NASA’s first attempts to reach Earth’s nearest neighbors our first Ranger probes were designed.
To take images of the moon in route to smash into the moon on our first six Rangers missed the moon entirely but we learn quickly and a few months after the Ranger probes we set a successful spacecraft to fly past Venus in 1962 the American probe Mariner 2 is the first spacecraft to fly past Venus it reports that our nearest neighbor is no place like home we used to think that Venus might.
Be like a twin sister of Earth with hot steamy jungles well the space probes taught us that sorry venus isn’t like that the NASA probe proves that Venus is too hot and it’s pressure is too great to support any life but in.
1970 the first probe to land on the planet is an American but Soviet the Venera probes had an inner shell inner hull of titanium that was tough it could withstand at least for a while the crushing pressure.
And the intense heat of the Venus surface so the early probes to Venus got destroyed in just half an hour under an hour they were able to take data for only a short amount of time before they got.
Crushed but the data sent back before vanaras destruction is precise and surprising conditions on the surface.
Of Venus are hellish the temperature is about 860 degrees Fahrenheit that’s really really high I mean the boiling point of water is 212 degrees and led now at set temperature slightly lower than 860 see you’d have molten lead on the surface of Venus if you had led there it’s really bad place to be Venus is an extreme training ground for probe scientists but there is a more distant and difficult goal one whose extremes are even more destructive than Venus the outer planets and getting there requires more than just.
One of the biggest problems with space probes is having enough fuel to get where you’re going you do a rocket burn you burn a lot of fuel and if you keep doing a bunch of rocket burns you’re gonna run out a few and then your probe is dead but there is a solution built into the fabric of the cosmos gravity in the early.
60s it was discovered that we can use the gravity of the planets to assist a spacecraft to speed it up to play it further out in the solar.
System that opened up the outer solar system to exploration the technique is called gravity assist a virtual engine that harnesses the immense gravity of planetary bodies to assist a spacecraft on a planned trajectory heating a baseball there’s a lot like a gravitational assist space probe comes in to a planet it gets caught by the gravity and redirecting in another direction just like hitting a baseball with the bat and it directs the baseball in.