Monday, April 8, 2013

Groundbreaking Deep-Space Navigation Technology ?

NASA Taps the Power of Zombie Stars in Two-In-One Instrument

Apr. 8, 2013 — Neutron stars have been called the zombies of the cosmos. They shine even though they're technically dead, occasionally feeding on neighboring stars if they venture too close. Interestingly, these unusual objects, born when a massive star extinguishes its fuel and collapses under its own gravity, also may help future space travelers navigate to Mars and other distant destinations.

This artist’s rendition shows the NICER/SEXTANT payload that NASA recently selected as its next Explorer Mission of Opportunity. The 56-telescope payload will fly on the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
NASA recently selected a new mission called the Neutron-star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) to not only reveal the physics that make neutron stars the densest objects in nature, but also to demonstrate a groundbreaking navigation technology that could revolutionize the agency's ability to travel to the far reaches of the solar system and beyond.

The multi-purpose mission, also known as NICER/SEXTANT (Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology), consists of 56 X-ray telescopes in a compact bundle, their associated silicon detectors, and a number of other advanced technologies. Both NASA's Science Mission Directorate's Explorers Program and the Space Technology Mission Directorate's Game Changing Program are contributing to the mission's development.

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