High-performing spacefarers

Part of the Springer Praxis Books book series (PRAXIS)


Human performance in space, it is worth repeating, continues to be accomplished in two ways. The first is unmanned by extending ourselves out in the universe through automated spacecraft [1]. The premier achievement to date is undoubtedly the grand planetary tour of the two Voyager spacecraft. Leaving our Solar System at over 50,000 kilometers per hour, these space vehicles have traveled more than 8 billion kilometers from our earthly home where no member of our species has yet gone. The odyssey began over 30 years ago, in 1977, when NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists launched the most sophisticated robot spacecraft ever built, each weighing nearly one ton at launch and made up of 65,000 parts. Of the two spacecraft in the $865 million joint mission, Voyager 1 flew past Jupiter and Saturn, making a close pass of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, and was allowed to end its planetary sojourn by zipping out to the stars. Voyager 2 continued outward using the gravitational field of Saturn to fling it on to an encounter with Uranus in 1986. As a result of thousands of images sent back by Voyagers 1/2 from throughout the Solar System, 20 new moons were discovered. The project scientists, under the leadership of chief scientist Edward Stone, vice president of Caltech, have been virtuosos of these complex computerised space probes, each with circuitry equivalent to 2,000 color television sets. Through this unique human-machine interface, their explorations expanded eventually to Neptune and Triton, in 1989, from which radio transmissions traveling at 300,000 kilometers per second reached JPL in Pasadena, California, four hours and six minutes later!


International Space Station Lunar Surface Human Resource Development Space Shuttle Challenger NASA Johnson Space 
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