Science is not only interested in the galaxies, stars, planets and other objects that are in the universe, it is interested in space itself. NASA, for example, launched the Voyager I and II spacecraft in 1977 as part of its Heliophysics System Observatory to study space. Those spacecraft have reached the "edge" of our solar system and are still transmitting data!
Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are each equipped with six sets, or pairs, of thrusters to control their movement. These include three pairs of primary thrusters and three backup, or redundant, pairs. Voyager 2 is currently using the two pairs of backup thrusters that control the pitch and yaw motion of the spacecraft. Switching to the backup thruster pair that controls roll motion will allow engineers to turn off the heater that keeps the fuel line to the primary thruster warm. This will save about 12 watts of power. The spacecraft's power supply now provides about 270 watts of electricity. By reducing its power usage, the spacecraft can continue to operate for another decade even as its available power continues to decline.
For the last seven years, Voyager 1 has been exploring the outer layer of the bubble of charged particles the sun blows around itself. In one day, on July 28, data from Voyager 1's cosmic ray instrument showed the level of high-energy cosmic rays originating from outside our solar system jumped by five percent. During the last half of that same day, the level of lower-energy particles originating from inside our solar system dropped by half. However, in three days, the levels had recovered to near their previous levels.How big is space? Scroll through a gigantic graphic to get a feeling for the size of space.
Here are links to scientific reports on space.
Curiosity's Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) is the first instrument to measure the radiation environment during a Mars cruise mission from inside a spacecraft that is similar to potential human exploration spacecraft. The findings reduce uncertainty about the effectiveness of radiation shielding and provide vital information to space mission designers who will need to build in protection for spacecraft occupants in the future.
Thirty-five years after its launch, Voyager 1 appears to have travelled beyond the influence of the Sun and exited the heliosphere, according to a new study appearing online today.
Space is a violent place. If a star explodes or black holes collide anywhere in our part of the Milky Way, they'd give off colossal blasts of lethal gamma-rays, X-rays and cosmic rays and it's perfectly reasonable to expect Earth to be bathed in them. A new study of such events has yielded some new information about the potential effects of what are called "short-hard" interstellar radiation events.