Interstellar, NASA mission that will go "where humanity has never gone"

 

Artist's rendering of the Pioneer 10 probe, the first to pass through the asteroid belt, in front of the solar system. Photo: referential / NASA / Don Davis

Also, for the first time, a photograph will be taken from outer space to capture what the solar system looks like. More than 400 scientists are involved in the project.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA ) is already advancing the efforts of its new project called Interstellar Probe or Interstellar Probe to travel outside the limits of the heliosphere, beyond the solar system, a region under the effects of solar winds and its magnetic field.

The study of the mission concept, as described in a statement from the General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union (EGU), held from April 19 to 30, 2021, was also funded by the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) from Johns Hopkins University (United States).In addition, in order to discuss the objectives, a community of more than 400 expert scientists in various disciplines met.

The project could be implemented in 2030 and would have a 50-year useful life. This will allow, for the first time, to take the image of the global heliosphere looking back and explore the unknown local interstellar medium (LISM) in situ, 1,000 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun.

Each AU covers 150 million kilometers, the approximate distance between the Earth and the star king.

The twin ships Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 had already entered interstellar space in the years 2012 and 2018, respectively, but have only explored about 120 AU, considering their own limitations of the time of 1977, when the launches were executed.

Elena Provornikova, heliophysics leader at the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), was encouraged to comment that this mission "will go to unknown local interstellar space , where humanity has never arrived before." "There are really exceptional scientific opportunities that span heliophysics, planetary science and astrophysics," he added.

Later, Provornikova assured that the taking of images of the heliosphere will allow to observe extragalactic background light and, with it, the first moments of the formation of the Milky Way, “something that cannot be seen from Earth”.

Later this year, the scientific community will provide a detailed report to NASA on the techniques that will be used, as well as the loading of instruments, spacecraft designs and proposed trajectories.

"Our approach is to design the menu of what can be done in a space mission of this type," explained Provornikova, the first signatory of the statement.

The ships sent into space by the mission would take 15 years to reach the heliosphere, 20 years less compared to Voyagers.



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