Gene Roddenberry had it right when he said that space is the final frontier.
What he may have neglected to mention, however, is how rough and tumble that frontier really is, or how difficult it is for us to ride through that star-speckled range.
I think it goes without saying that if we ever want to traverse the stars with the grace and ease afforded galaxy-class starships, we first need to start with strolling our own solar system. And by “strolling” I mean taking very well-planned and orchestrated steps in the right direction. Yes, the NASA space program is still reaching out into the universe, and every day they’re working to making space travel a practical and realistic future.
One environmentally inhospitable step at a time.
Let’s face it, unless you’re already a spaceship-flying alien or some kind of robot, space travel is not really smoothing sailing for us biped, oxygen-breathing, land-dwelling human types. But that’s not to say we’re letting a few challenging variables like food, air, water, and environment stop us.
Researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center are collaborating efforts to bring human beings out of low-Earth orbit. However, before we hop into the nearest rocket and strap MARS OR BUST on the back there is a lot of planning that goes into making that happen.
So how are the brilliant minds at NASA helping to make our footprints in the celestial sand? One of the ways is by using R.A.T.S. And not the white, furry types that frequent mazes. I’m talking about one of these:
Casual desert wear, good for any occasion.
Solar - B Spacecraft goes into orbit to begin looking at the sun. It is specifically looking at solar magnetic fields and the origins of the solar wind. (Photo concept from NASA)
The Air Force is constantly monitoring the skies, but that isn’t limited to our atmosphere. Keeping our military satellites up and running is tantamount to mission success, and working to improve that equipment and technology is a part of the ever-growing advancement of our military mission in space.
The Space Control Center in Cheyenne Mountain Air Station (NORAD) is the terminus for the SSN’s abundant and steady flow of information. The SCC houses large, powerful computers to process SSN information and accomplish the space surveillance and space control missions.
The NAVSPACECOM provides the site and personnel for the Alternate SCC (ASCC). The ASCC would take over all operations in the event the SCC could not function. This capability is exercised frequently.
The Orbital Space Debris
STRATCOM tracks over 20,000 man-made space objects, baseball-size and larger, orbiting Earth. The space objects consist of active/inactive satellites, spent rocket bodies, or fragmentation. About seven percent are operational satellites, 15 percent are rocket bodies, and about 78 percent are fragmentation and inactive satellites.
Most debris (about 84 percent) is out approximately 800 kilometers – roughly twice the normal altitude of the space shuttle which orbits at about 300 kilometers.
Only a small amount of debris exists where the shuttle orbits.
The likelihood of a significant collision between a piece of debris (10 centimeters or larger) and the shuttle is extremely remote. The statistical estimate is one chance in 10,000 years, in the worst case. The probability is higher for objects smaller-than-baseball size which currently cannot be tracked with available sensors.