Thinking on Mars: the End of 2016 in space

С мыслью о Марсе: Итоги 2016 г. в космосе

Elon Musk

The original on the website of Der Spiegel

“It’s not rocket science”. Usually people use this idiomatic expression to emphasize the lightness of a particular work. If you paraphrase, all that is connected with missiles, difficult and dangerous. If someone suddenly forgotten, and in 2016 he had plenty of opportunities to think about it.

In early December accident of the Russian ship “Progress” with 2.5 tons of cargo for the crew of the International space station (ISS). Reason: there is a yet unexplained problem with the third stage of the carrier rocket “Soyuz”. This crash has added to the already long list of accidents of Russian space technology and was a clear indication of how bad things are in the space industry, once a former world leader in this industry, and at the same time and how actually complex this seemingly routine work in space.

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With the disaster faced in 2016 and the European space Agency ESA. In October, the lander was supposed to land on the surface of the red planet in the framework of the joint ExoMars mission. But because of a communication error between the navigation system and altimeter device with a speed of 300 km/h collapsed on the sand plateau of Meridian.

С мыслью о Марсе: Итоги 2016 г. в космосе

Landing a probe on Mars Schiaparelli in the representation of the artist

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In the end, on the surface of Mars there is another small crater, a pile of twisted metal and still have hope that the next time it went rather well: the Europeans and the Russians are already planning another landing on the red planet in 2020 In early December, the member countries of ESA has approved this plan.

For a private company SpaceX, engaged in space transportation, and its head Elon musk (Elon Musk) the past year was also not the best. Although Musk and enjoys all kinds of dreams like colonizing Mars (in September, he presented the plan), first he has to deal with earthly problems. So, in September, occurred the explosion of the Falcon 9 rocket in preparation for launch from the spaceport at Cape Canaveral.

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The result: one destroyed by a rocket, burnt a single satellite at a cost of 195 million. one broken launch pad. The next SpaceX launch is slated for next year. Now the company needs to demonstrate that it really is trustworthy as a space carrier. Though it already has orders with a total value of 10 billion dollars, its stated goal is a real revolution in the space industry by offering services at extremely low prices to launch satellites. But this goal is achievable only under the condition that the satellites will have good chances to reach the desired orbit.

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Was held this year and planned to crash at the end of September, the European probe “Rosetta” met with the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, who was at that time somewhere between Mars and Jupiter. Thus, at a distance of about 720 million km from Earth successfully completed a space mission in recent years — 12 years after launch and two years after reaching the lost in the Universe purpose.

According to ESA, “Rosetta” at a walking pace — about one meter per second landed on the surface of the comet. Then automatically shutting down all transmitters. Thus, the future of the probe on the Earth reliably is not known. One thing is clear: decode the received data will we for several decades,” said a participant in this project, Matt Taylor (Matt Taylor).

С мыслью о Марсе: Итоги 2016 г. в космосе

Landing the Rosetta probe on a comet in the representation of the artist

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Important news the past year has brought astronaut Alexander Gerst (Alexander Gerst). In may it became known that from may to November 2018, the geophysicist went to his second space flight. There he will even become commander of the ISS. In practical terms, this means that ESA member States have agreed to participate in the ISS project until 2024, the Commander of the ISS — even if it only a formal title, but it sounds good. By the way, still no one of the commanders of the ISS was not a German.

Gerst is the eleventh German delegate in space. Also no German woman ever to go there. This should change with the flight Claudia Kessler (Claudia Kessler) — best case scenario before the end of this decade. No shortage of potential kosmonavtah, ready for a lengthy preparation for flight beyond the earth’s atmosphere to postpone for a time their career the case in other areas, no. The question is whether Kessler to find sponsors willing to pay for her space flight.

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The first Chinese woman named Liu Yang (Yang Liu), by the way, went into space in 2012, a Year later after it went to her other compatriot. Soon, their ranks are replenished, because the true ambitions of China this year became obvious as never before. In September, China has delivered into orbit the main element of its new space station, Tiangong 2, which in October was populated in the first manned mission. All this space “Outpost” of China should be commissioned in 2022, the Year before supposed landing of a robot on Mars, and in 2024 — the landing of manned spacecraft on the moon.

In addition, China in the past year has commissioned the world’s largest radio telescope Fast, as well as a new launch site in Hainan.

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News of the year, of course, became gravitational waves, the existence of which in February announced an international team of scientists. If it does exactly what this success they have achieved on 14 September 2015 with the help of measuring instruments of Advanced laser-interferometric gravitational-wave Observatory (aLIGO), located in the United States. However, the subsequent months they spent on the verification information, whether they had a chance to observe the collision of two black holes. In the end, they stated that they had seen it, and it became the scoop of the century.

Gravitational waves, whose existence was said even albert Einstein, in fact, are not such a rarity. They arise every time somewhere in the Universe there is an acceleration of the masses. But usually they are so weak that until recently was not possible to obtain conclusive evidence of their existence. Until recently. However, in June the researchers reported the second such confirmation. Now after a break, the sensor was reopened, and scientists hope for new positive results. Nobel prize for gravitational waves this year was not awarded, but it is possible that this will happen in 2017.

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Another sensational space opening media reported in mid-August (long before the official announcement of participating research scientists): at a distance of 4.2 light years from Earth they managed to find nearest planet outside our Solar system, but only indirectly due to changes in the color spectrum of the star Proxima Centauri.

С мыслью о Марсе: Итоги 2016 г. в космосе

The figure of probe Juno in orbit around Jupiter

It is possible even that on this planet there are conditions under which it is possible life. However, this assumption is a lot of questions. However, astrophysicists from the French research Institute CNRS already arguing about whether this exoplanet oceans similar to earth.

And another planet has engaged researchers in the past year (even if it is completely hidden from their views and if exists at all). We are talking about a celestial body whose mass is ten times the mass of the Earth, and which, perhaps rotating somewhere in the outskirts of the Solar system.

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In any case, the existence of this planet involve Konstantin Batygin and Michael brown (Michael Brown) from the California Institute of technology in Pasadena. The corresponding theory they presented in January of this year. Their “planet nine” makes a complete revolution around the Sun over a period of time between 10 and 20 thousand years. Its existence scientists suggest, based on the data about the orbits of the other celestial bodies so-called “Kuiper belt”, located beyond the orbit of Neptune. If, I repeat, this planet exists at all.

Christoph Seidler

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