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How an atomic clock will bring humans to Mars at the hour

NASA Browsers
help build a future where spaceship could fly themselves safely and autonomously
to destinations like the Moon and Mars.

Browsers today
tell a spaceship where to go by calculating its position from the Earth and sending
location data in the space in a bidirectional relay system that can be used anywhere
minutes to hours to give directions. This method of navigation means that
no matter how far a mission travels through the solar system, our spaceship
are still tied to the ground, waiting for orders from our planet.

This limitation
poses obvious problems for a future crewed mission on another planet. How can
astronauts navigate far from the Earth if they do not control immediately
or they will? And how can they land accurately on another planet when
there is a communication delay that affects the speed with which they can adjust their
trajectory in the atmosphere?

NASA's Deep
Space Atomic Clock is a device the size of a toaster that aims to answer these questions.
It is the first GPS-type instrument, small enough and stable enough to fly on a
spatialship. The technological demonstration allows the spaceship to know where
it's without needing to rely on these data from the Earth. At the end of June, the clock
will launch on the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket into Earth's orbit for a year,
where he will test if he can help spaceships to locate themselves in space.

If the deep
The test year of Space Atomic Clock in space is going well, it could pave the way for a
the future of one-way navigation in which astronauts are guided by a GPS
system on the surface of the moon or can safely fly their own missions to
Mars and beyond.

Spaceships exploring the depths are piloted by navigators on Earth. Deep
Space Atomic Clock will change this by allowing autonomous navigation on board,
or an autonomous spacecraft, "said Jill Seubert, Deputy Director

There is no GPS in deep space

Atomic clocks
in the space are not new. Each GPS device and smartphone determines its location via
atomic clocks on satellites orbiting the Earth. Satellites send signals from
space, and the receiver triangulates your position by measuring how long the
the signals take to reach your GPS.

Spacecraft flying beyond the orbit of the Earth does not have a GPS to find its way
through the space. The atomic clocks of GPS satellites are not precise enough to be sent
direction of the spacecraft, when extinguished by less than a second may mean
miss a planet by miles.

Instead, browsers
use giant antennas on Earth to send a signal to the spacecraft, which bounces
he returns to Earth. Exactly accurate clocks measure how much time on the ground
take the signal to make this trip back and forth. The amount of time tells them
how far is the spacecraft and how fast it is going. Only then can
the sailors send directions to the spaceship, telling them where to go.

"That's the
same exact concept as an echo, "said Seubert. If I'm standing in front of a
and I scream, the longer it takes for the echo to come back to me, the
further the mountain is. "

Bidirectional navigation
This means that no matter how deep the mission is, she still has to wait
for a signal carrying commands to cross the vast distances between the planets. His
a process made famous by landings on Mars, like Curiosity, when the world was waiting 14
long minutes with the mission control for the mobile to send the message that it
landed safely. This delay is an average waiting time: depending on where the Earth and
Mars are in their orbit, it can take 4 to 20 minutes for a
one-way signal for traveling between planets.

It's slow,
laborious way of navigating the depths of space, the one that links the giant antennas of
From NASA Deep
Space network
like a busy phone line. During this exchange, a spaceship
flying at tens of thousands of miles per hour could be in a completely different
place when he "knows" where he is.

A better way to navigate

An atomic clock
Small enough to fly on a mission but precise enough to give precise directions
could eliminate the need for this two-way system. Future browsers would send
a signal from the Earth to a spaceship. Like his Earth cousins, the Deep Space Atomic
The on-board clock measured the time it took for this signal to reach it.
The spacecraft could then calculate its own position and trajectory,
to give oneself essentially directions.

a clock on board would allow radio navigation on board and, when combined with
optical navigation, provide a more accurate and secure way for astronauts
able to navigate themselves, "said Deep Space Atomic Clock Principal
Todd Ely, investigator.

This one-way navigation
has applications for Mars and beyond. Antennas DSN would be able to communicate
with multiple missions at once by broadcasting a single signal in the space. New
The technology could improve the accuracy of GPS on Earth. And several spaceships
with Deep Space Atomic Clocks could gravitate around Mars, creating a GPS-like network
that would give instructions to robots and humans on the surface.

"L & # 39; abyss
The atomic clock will have the ability to help navigation, not just locally
but in other planets too. One way of thinking is as if we had a GPS to another
planets, "said Eric Burt, responsible for the development of the ion clock.

Burt and his compatriot
JPL clock physicists Robert Tjoelker and John Prestage created a mercury ion
clock, which maintains its stability in space in the same way as
Atomic clocks the size of a refrigerator on Earth. In the laboratory, the Deep Space Atomic
The clock proved to be 50 times more accurate than GPS clocks. This is an error of 1
second every 10 million years.

The clock demonstration
in the space will determine whether he can remain stable in orbit. If that is the case, a
The atomic clock of deep space could fly on mission as early as the 2030s. The first
not to an autonomous spacecraft that could someday transport humans to others

The deep space
Atomic Clock is hosted on a spaceship provided by General Atomics
Electromagnetic Systems of Englewood, Colorado. It is sponsored by the Technology
Program of demonstration missions
within NASA's space technology
Mission Direction and Space
Communications and Navigation Program
in the man of NASA
Direction of the mission of exploration and operations. JPL manages the project.

Here are five
Things to know about the atomic clock of NASA's deep space:


Learn more about
of other NASA missions on SpaceX launch Falcon Heavy that carries the Deep
Space atomic clock:


Media contact

Arielle Samuelson
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California


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