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EXOMARS, Trace Gas Orbiter & Schiaparelli

The objectives of ExoMars mission is to look for life beyond earth (exo-biology) and it is performed by sending an orbiter (Trace Gas Orbiter, TGO) and Lander (Schiaparelli) which is already on its way to the Red planet and preparing for a rover in the next available celestial window in 2018. It is a joint venture between ESA and Russian space agency Roscosmos. Instead of giving a routine information on this mission, I try to bring out the niche technologies utilized by the participating European countries in TGO, which are at the forefront of Planetary Exploration. Special emphasis is made to bring out those attractive aspects of the "suite of instruments" which are employed to hunt down the elusive secrets (methane) on Mars.

Trace Gas Orbiter, as the name suggests is geared to look for trace gases, these are defined as the species which fall in "less than 1% composition" of a planet. Since the signature of life could be buried with methane, a trace gas, concentra…

India need Nano satellites; Future of Space Sciences

Sputnik 1 was the first human endeavour to leave mother earth (October, 1957) to be able to wander into Space. Though it was a small satellite ( ~ 83 kg), the later attempts by humans to explore space (Low Earth Orbit, LEO) were becoming increasingly bulky. The exploitation of geo-synchronous orbit (36,000 km) for beaming telecommunication and other signals could only add more burden on building huge work horses (Envisat ~ 8,000 kg). The present discussion is limited to Nano-Satellites, which fall in the 1-10 kg weight category; while Micro- satellites are in 100-10 kg and Pico satellites under 1-kg.

As the miniaturisation in electronic components (MEMS) started, so was the aerospace industry turning to COTS (Commercial, Off-the-Shelf) based small satellites. The idea was to try out newer technology riding on tiny satellites (Micro / Nano) even if the sub-components are not of very expensive MIL (military) grade, meaning radiation hardened class.  In came a "golden standard"…

ASTROSAT vs The Giant Hubble

A TV program on the legendary Hubble Space Telescope, HST (Hubble's Cosmic Journey, National Geographic), prompted me to write this piece on the recently launched Indian space telescope called ASTROSAT.  The purpose of Hubble Space Telescope is to break the barrier of 1-arc second seeing limit (full moon is about 1,800 arc-seconds across) from the ground which arises due to the atmospheric disturbances. NASA had achieved this by a mammoth effort of grinding a 2.4-meter glass to the curvature accuracy of 1/800,000 th of an inch and placing the school bus size object weighing 11,110-kg in 550-km orbit. ASTROSAT is India's  multi-wavelength telescope geared to look at the stellar objects primarily in UV, X-ray regions of the EM spectrum. In that TV program, the sweet voice of John Grunsfeld conveying his strong bond he had created in repairing the Hubble more than one time. Hubble is the most sophisticated optical experiment of humans in the space which has been working for 25-y…

Water on Mars

After the discovery of bone dry moon to be holding traces of water molecules... Water on Mars means a lot to the human race. It is not a meagre scientific result where a 9-year old space craft revolving around Mars and 4-years old results have shown liquid water to be flowing during the summer on Mars; rather, these results have re-kindled new hopes of finding life on Mars, as per Michael Meyer, NASA's Mars Exploration Program. Of course, the intelligent, eager and inquisitive human's quest of leaving earth has found astronomical levels of adrenaline pumping into their blood streams.

This is the picture released by NASA which speaks tonnes of words on how the newly appearing streaks, called the recurring slope lineae (RSL)... held the secrets under their belly for so long that it took a smart under graduate student, Lujendra Ojha from Georgia Tech to figure out that these are actually hydrated salts which appear only when the ambiance reaches -23 C and above. In a way, the sa…

Breakthrough Listen - Search for Aliens

"Is there an intelligent life beyond Earth? " this question has been bothering the human race as far as 19th century. The Serbian-American Scientist Nikola Tesla proposed to send signals to Martians (1890); he claimed to have received unusual signals, calling them to be from "another world". The project, Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, SETI, 1960 by Frank Drake, USA was to look for radio signals sent out by intelligent life in the universe.

The declaration of 100-million dollars fund by the Russian investor Yuri Milner with a surprise addition of Stephen Hawking in his team, the project "Breakthrough Initiatives" would certainly change the fate of SETI search. Milner, a physics graduate turned investor is known for turning coal into gold,with his investments bringing a new tide into the businesses (e.g. facebook, twitter, alibaba, xiomi, flipkart....); lets hope the same for SETI.

How is it done??
First strategy: Search for the radio signals in …


Key words: New Horizons, Alan Stern

The NASA page of New Horizons says.... 10-Years..,5- Billion kms; truly the human aspirations are racing towards the edge of solar system with an astounding speeds of 80,000 km/hour. To be able to reach Pluto, the New Horizons space craft has to take a slingshot from the giant planet Jupiter. The scientists are going to peek into the new frozen world of Pluto on 14th July 2015 at a distance of just around 12,500 kms having to view football size images with 48-meter resolution. Where as, after its discovery in 1930, Pluto has just been a dot to the best possible astronomical observations from earth, except for few (10-12) pixel across image appearing in the Hubble Space Telescope in 90s. Why are the scientists so excited???  they say.... they have no idea.. may be it is the thickest atmosphere or gaseous jets streaming out.... anything.... so little is known.

New Horizons (NH).. an unique attempt?
Voyager-1 (Sept-1977) which has crossed the solar syst…