Thursday, May 19, 2011

Exoplanet, Game Changing Satellite Launched, The Hunt for Alien Life Just Got Easier

One of the most important things that has ever happened to space exploration and the search for alien life was just announced and it hardly gets a headline! This really is a game changer, satellites used to cost hundreds of millions of dollars and take years to build and were outrageously expensive to launch. Not any more, getting a loaf of bread into space will be a piece of cake! 

The world's first satellite the size of a loaf of bread is to explore the final frontier with one task: to hunt down extra terrestrial life.

The nano-satellite will launch next year with a sole purpose of finding 'Exoplanets' beyond our solar system which could support life like Earth.

Séamus Tuohy, director of space systems at Draper Laboratory, which has developed the ExoPlanetSat with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the mission was ground breaking.
Best thing since sliced bread: The loaf-sized nano-satellite will study stars and orbiting planets to search for planets with life like Earth

“While there have been many small satellites, these are typically used to perform simple communication or observation missions,”  Tuohy explains.

“We are doing something that has not been done before,” he added.
At just 10 cm wide and 30 cm long, the 3-million-pounds device works by surveying the brightness of a star as an orbiting planet passes in front of it. By working out how much a star dims, scientists can work out the planet's size.
Calculations to work out how long the planet takes to orbit mean they can then work out how far that planet is from its star.
Measuring a star's brightness however means the spacecraft must be kept stable as any disturbances will blur the image making it unusable. Special technology has been developed to make sure movement is kept to a minimum.
Experts say the tiny satellite is designed to work in conjunction with larger satellites, like NASA's Kepler satellite, which launched two years ago.
Each nano-satellite costs 613,000 dollars once it is in production but only has a shelf life of one to two years. 

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