Astronauts Test Out Sextants to See if the Seafaring Tool Can Be Useful in Space

Astronauts Test Out Sextants to See if the Seafaring Tool Can Be Useful in Space

There’s lots of parallels between ocean voyages and house voyages, largely revolving round their shared trait of “trained professionals cramped inside a mobile vessel in the middle of nowhere”. 

So maybe it is no shock that NASA has been in a basic ship navigational device for a while, with astronauts bringing alongside sextants as far back as their Gemini missions in the early 1960s which predate the Apollo missions. As a device which might precisely measure distance between two objects (like stars), it looks like a no brainer to attempt them out in house.

Even so, since NASA typically has more scientific resources than the average seafaring vessel, and is usually straight monitoring their spacecrafts at any given time, the sextant has by no means appeared completely obligatory. So it is solely lately that a renewed interest in sextants has arisen at the house company, in the hopes that they will “upgrade” the old style device for extra environment friendly use in deep house.

The new Sextant Navigation for Exploration Missions investigation hopes to just do that. Below, you may see astronaut Alexander Gerst (who simply returned to the International Space Station earlier this month) making an attempt one out:

With the assist of present ISS astronauts like Gerst, the investigation is hoping to test out specific techniques that wouldn’t work on ground level, in the hopes souped-up sextant may function an emergency device on future spacecrafts like Orion in case NASA ever misplaced contact with it. The ISS crew is not doubtless to ever get misplaced (all they want to do is look down at Earth to see the place they’re), however they’re the solely ones who can run these assessments.

The investigation’s principal investigator, Greg Holt from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas, defined it this manner in an official statement from the space agency:

Opening quote

“The basic concepts are very similar to how it would be used on Earth. But particular challenges on a spacecraft are the logistics; you need to be able to take a stable sighting through a window. We’re asking the crew to evaluate some ideas we have on how to accomplish that and to give us feedback and perhaps new ideas for how to get a stable, clean sight. That’s something we just can’t test on the ground.”

Closing quote

Holt goes on to say that there is not any want to “reinvent the wheel when it comes to celestial navigation”, since explorers have identified how to navigate by way of the stars in the night time sky for practically so long as we have been exploring. But we have had few alternatives to refine deep house navigation, which we might quickly resume as the eventual first mission to Mars comes nearer to actuality.

After all, if the fancy know-how fails you in deep house, the least you are able to do is look by way of an old-timey telescope to get your self the place you want to be.



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