Space Missions; Insights from the past
Many wondered how these space agencies design a space mission. Well, for the starters, they PLANET (pun intended). Designing and execution of a space mission require vast financial resources, years of planning, hard work, and collaboration of different teams comprising world-class professionals. But before going into these details, we will enlighten you about the history and space missions of NASA and ESA.
NASA was established on October 01, 1958, and has a unique history of space exploration and technological achievements of aeronautics and astronomy since its inception. Decades after its foundation, NASA has successfully landed a human on the moon with Apollo 11 mission in July 1969, explored the atmospheres of planets like Mercury and Jupiter with Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Cassini Huygens, a joint NASA/ESA spacecraft, launched in 1997, has been orbiting this ringed plant since its landing in 2004 and taking stunning imagery of planet’s rings, moons and planets.
Spirit and Opportunity, the twin Mars Exploration Rovers, landed on opposite sides of the planet in January 2004 and provided evidence of liquid water on the surface of Mars. With the Hubble telescope, astronomers can peer deep into the universe to see the cosmos more clearly. Throughout history, however, there have been several failures along with the many successes. The Challenger and Columbia accidents, being the most tragic of accidents.
The European Space Agency (ESA), an international intergovernmental organization of 20 Member States, was founded on May 30, 1975. The “raison d’être” of ESA is cooperation among the European States in space research and technology and their space applications. ESA started working on the launch of Ariane in 1974 and launched Ariane 1 successfully in 1979, followed by successive launches of Ariane 2, 3, and 4. The Ariane heavy-lift launch vehicle scheduled to launch James Webb Space Telescope in 2018. In 1986, ESA launched the Giotto Space probe to examine the core of Halley’s Comet, and in 1990 Ulysses spacecraft explored the Sun’s Polar Regions.
Joint ESA-NASA Solar observation mission SOHO, launched in December 1995, provides real-time data for space weather forecasting. At the beginning of the 21st century, ESA launched the Mars Express orbiter and its lander, Beagle 2. With the launching of the Columbus laboratory on the International Space Station in 2008, ESA became a full partner in the operation of the station. Huygens probe landed on Titan in 2005 was the first-ever human-made object to land in the outer Solar System. Rosetta, orbiter mission studying comets and their evolution, was launched in March 2004.
In May 2009, Herschel was launched, the Infrared space observatory missions for general astronomy. NASA and ESA are collaborating to detect and accurately measure gravitational waves (tiny ripples in the fabric of space-time) using Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), which is planned for launch in 2034. For years to come, ESA has many robotic and human spaceflight missions already in the pipeline, such as Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (JUICE) is planned for launch in 2022 to study Jupiter and its three moons and ExoMars rover launching July 2020 to explore Mars in collaboration with Roscosmos.
Also, read; NASA space App Challenge
Pawan Akhani is a student at the Institute of Space sciences, Islamabad. He is a passionate writer and leading Astrobiology Network of Pakistan, Islamabad chapter.
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