World Space Week is a celebration of curiosity and determination. It’s about what can happen when we dream big, and use cutting-edge science and technology to realise those dreams.
Currently NASA has over 20 spacecraft exploring our Solar System and beyond. Here are just three of my favourites.
Voyager 1 : What is there not to love about this spacecraft? Like me, you may have grown up with the Voyager missions - I was a young child when they launched, watched them show us new views of the outer planets during my school years, and now, 36 years on, Voyager 1 is exploring unknown territory as it journeys through interstellar space. Its twin, Voyager 2, is set to do the same in the next few years.
What’s remarkable is that this goal has been reached while the spacecraft still has the capacity to tell us about it. The faint signals from Voyager 1 have about the same power as the light bulb in your refrigerator and that’s before they travel the 19 billion km across space to provide a daily briefing of what conditions are like out there. The two Voyagers are expected to last until at least 2020, so there’s a good few years of space exploration ahead of them.
Earlier this year it was announced that Voyager 1 had officially crossed into interstellar space on 25 August 2012.
New Horizons : This will be the first spacecraft to visit Pluto. What the Voyagers did for our understanding of the gas giants, New Horizons is set to do for Pluto and the other worlds of the Kuiper Belt. The spacecraft was launched back in 2006 and has been in hibernation for most of the journey. It has almost two years to go before reaching its destination and is expected to deliver fantastic photographs and insights on its Pluto flyby.
New Horizons will provide the first close-up views of Pluto. It will take one year to beam all the data back to Earth, 7.5 billion km away.
International Space Station : Every day for the last 13 years visiting astronauts have woken up to a day in the office, floating 400km above Earth, on board the International Space Station. The space station is a floating laboratory built to progress science. Certainly seeing how things behave on the space station, gives a great insight into how things work. Like this demo on youtube of trying to wring out a towel in weightlessness. But if you’re like me, you’ll end up following all of Chris Hadfield’s videos and they’ll draw you into the human side of working in space. Be sure to finish up with his rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity.
The space station is not only a science lab, it’s a home. Astronaut and crafter Karen Nyberg made this dinosaur for her son, crafted from material salvaged onboard the space station.
Image: Karen Nyberg