Baseball in another direction when the bat collides with the baseball it changes the baseballs direction of motion and it can propel that baseball with a much greater speed than what it originally had by harnessing the gravitational pull of planets nASA has been able to hit probes out of the park to the outer planets Cassini’s homerun journey covered a hundred seventy million miles to the.
Methane lakes of Saturn’s moon Titan without those gravity assists this spacecraft which weighs.
12 tons and Earth’s gravity never would have made it to the outer solar system we don’t have a booster big enough to send it to Saturn directly we would not have explored Saturn were it not for the gravity of the inner planets now 21st.
Is poised to send probes beyond the outer planets to distant stars.
But gravity assists doesn’t have the power to get us there traveling into deep space requires propulsion that seems to come straight out of science fiction the ion drives ion engines are like a mini linear accelerator you accelerate ions out the back spacecraft go the opposite direction that ion engine has very very low thrust but it operates for.
Months at a time and eventually gets the spacecraft to faster and faster speeds the ion engine replaces the chemical fuel with an inert gas like xenon the xenon is given an electrical charge or ionized an electrical field then accelerates the ions out the back of the spacecraft propelling it forward ion propulsion is not like most.
Rocket engines a standard chemical rocket engine propels itself like a double-barreled 12-gauge shotgun the shotgun is actually a chemical rocket engine just like the Space.
Shuttle main engines I’m sitting on earth on a dolly track so the question is is there enough thrust from the shotgun to overcome the friction between the wheels in the track a single blast moves the dolly about 6 inches a second blast keeps the momentum going.
But now replace the big double-barrel shotgun with a smaller weapon now I have a 22 rifle it’s a little different than the shotgun the shotgun shot mini pellets out at a fairly moderate velocity the rifle shoots a small pellet out at very high velocity now the difference is that this is more like an ion engine the 22 recoil moves the dolly less than an inch multiple shots move it slightly more but.
In space the 22 would be just like the ion engine it would start pushing us slowly and eventually build up till we reached a really high velocity by compounding tiny thrusts to the vast frictionless depths of.
Space the ion engine can propel a probe for years the technology could mean the end for massive rocket boosters in space probe travel chemical fuels are a problem because they’re pretty inefficient they weigh a lot they.
Have a lot of mass and you have to transport all that stuff out there and that means the Rockets that launch.
The spacecraft have to be even more powerful even more expensive lightweight ion engines have already passed the test in outer space they powered the deep-space one.
Probe in the late 1990s and recently propelled the probe Hayabusa of the Japanese aerospace exploration agency and helped it land on an asteroid ion.
Engines both completely changed deep-space exploration because we can go a lot more places without having to carry a lot of fuel and we can get there in the end faster depending on where it is we’re going one of the places we may be going is our planetary neighbor currently the European Space Agency’s Mars Express probe holds the Earth to Mars speed title at six months but one advanced ion.
Engine is expected to shatter that record an ion engine could cut the travel time to Mars down to just a mere few weeks five weeks -.
Mars is only the beginning the next step in ion drives will amp up its speed as much as 100 times faster it’s called VASIMR an acronym for variable specific impulse magneto plasma rocket VASIMR Zion engine gets an added radio frequency generator and a.
Second stage one of the key things is it.
Works kind of like a microwave oven just like a microwave beams electromagnetic energy into the food to superheat it as the plasma gets superheated then it’s got way more energy it’s got these really.
Strong magnetic fields it takes that superheated plasma.
And shoots it out the back end it really high velocities the ions can be superheated to about 1 million degrees that’s enough to send a probe far beyond our solar system as rocket technology advances the gates of deep space.
Are swinging open to exploration all we need is a destination one space probe is right now scanning the heavens for that destination a new earth and possibly a new form of life.
Space probes are on the cutting edge of one of astronomy’s oldest quests.
The search for another earth now a new generation of robotic explorers seeks evidence of extrasolar planets and we’re.
Finding them an extrasolar planet is simply a planet that orbits another star we have eight major planets orbiting our Sun and our Sun is a typical star and so a question that has loomed for centuries is whether there are planets that orbit the stars that we see at.
Night since the days of Galileo scientists have believed there must be other planets among the billions of stars in the sky but the quest for extrasolar or exoplanets wasn’t successful until 400 years after Galileo in 1995 in the Pegasus constellation just 50 light-years from Earth scientists discovered the first true extrasolar planet 51 pegasi B it was found only through indirect clues we were only being able to find.
These extrasolar planets using a technique called star wobble if you have a big plant like a Jupiter out there it would cause the stars motion for wobble but we couldn’t really sort of directly.
Tell it was there also called the Doppler effect the wobble is observed through a telescope if the star’s light.
Regularly shifts toward red or blue wavelengths and then back again then an orbiting planet must be causing the light to shift in the last decade or so astronomers have been extremely lucky to find hundreds of planets around other stars but the planets we’ve been finding are the large.
Ones the Jupiter’s the Saturn’s some Neptune’s we have not been able.