Voyages in space
Hertfordshire is leading the way when it comes to space exploration with close involvement in a probe going closer to the Sun than ever before and a revolutionary satellite to improve weather forecasting.
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe mission has been spearheaded by Dr Nicky Fox of Hitchin. Now based at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, she said the goal of the project is ‘to touch the sun’.
The probe, launched on August 12, will make 24 orbits of the sun before entering its atmosphere to send back data that will help scientists unlock the mysteries of the corona. It will travel at 430,000 mph – that’s New York to Tokyo in under a minute – making the car-sized probe (pictured above with the project team) the fastest man-made object in history.
In a separate mission, a wind-sensing laser satellite built by Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage for the European Space Agency has been launched. Data collected by Aeolus, which will orbit Earth 15 times a day, will provide reliable worldwide wind-profile data in near real-time, improving the accuracy of weather forecasts and helping climatologists better understand the global dynamics of our atmosphere.
Finally, if you fancy playing a role in the mission to send the Stevenage-built Airbus rover to find life on Mars in 2020, the UK Space Agency is running a competition to name it. Enter online at the almost-as-hard-to-reach-as-Mars webpage: events.airbus.com/ereg/newreg.php?eventid=200179103&