Ion drives: Science fiction or science fact?
- Ion drives: Science fiction or science fact?
Science fiction movie fans know that, if you want to travel short distances from your home planet, you would use a sublight 'ion drive'. However, is such an ion drive science fiction, or science fact?
The answer lies somewhere in between. Ion engines date back to at least 1959. Two ion engines were even tested in 1964 on the American SERT 1 satellite - one was successful, the other was not.
The principle is simply conventional physics - you take a gas and you ionise it, which means that you give it an electrical charge. This creates positively charged ions of gas, along with electrons. The ionised gas passes through an electric field or screen at the back of the engine and the ions leave the engine, producing a thrust in the opposite direction.
CryoSat takes significant step towards final completion
CryoSat, the first Earth Explorer mission within ESA's Living Planet Programme, is now entering the final phase of assembly prior to its scheduled launch next year.
CryoSat is designed to measure changes in the Earth's terrestrial and marine ice fields and aims to provide conclusive evidence as to whether there is a trend towards diminishing polar ice cover as a result of climate change.
The first part of the Critical Design Review (CDR), which was successfully completed on 13 June, confirmed that the flight configuration design is compliant with the key design requirements and can now be integrated and tested. This step marks the beginning of the final phase of assembly of the spacecraft.
For the Love of Saturn
Armed with odd-looking telescopes, fancy binoculars and contagious enthusiasm, they usually set up camp around dusk. Then, they talk about Saturn and its magnificent rings while waiting for the proper moment. Once their target is in sight, they point and fine-tune their instruments. Then they finally share their eyepieces, and the shows begin.
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