Humans have navigated by starlight for thousands of years, but NASA has a new appreciation for the twinkling bodies in our night sky.
Using perfectly timed X-ray flashes from pulsars, scientists are building a Galactic Position System that will work quite similar to the global one here on earth.NASA sends an unmanned spacecraft to photograph a distant planet or moon in a process similar to pointing a rifle at the sky and firing a bullet.
That projectile travels through space and takes pictures as it zooms by its target from a safe distance. It can be steered, to a relatively small degree, but typically with nowhere near the accuracy it would take for most spacecraft to enter an orbit around a distant moon.Scientists are unable to perform the necessary calculations it would require to maneuver such a vessel any closer than a flyby because we’ve never been able to accurately determine the position of an object in space relative to other bodies – until now.
NASA developed its new method, the Galactic Positioning System, using the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer telescope aboard the International Space Station. It uses this special telescope to view the fog-like radiation that permeates space. The ‘fog’ surrounding pulsars ‘pulses’ with tiny ‘blips’ that can be measured based on the amount of time between them, around 4 milliseconds. By comparing the differences in measurements of three different pulsars blips, a vehicle can determine its relative location (it uses a fourth to calibrate the timing of the other three).
You could thread a needle to get into orbit around the moon of a distant planet instead of doing a flyby. A galactic positioning system could also provide a fallback, so that if a crewed mission loses contact with the Earth, they’d still have navigation systems on board that are
This technology could revolutionize space travel, by making it easier than ever!
Source: live science