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NASA engineers build Stopwatch to measure accurately Fraction of a billionth of Second

The timer is to be used for the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) scheduled for launch in 2018

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Washington, March 28, 2017: NASA engineers have built a stopwatch that can measure accurately fraction of a billionth of a second.

The timer is to be used for the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) scheduled for launch in 2018, NASA said.

ICESat-2 will use six green laser beams to measure height. With its incredibly precise time measurements, scientists can calculate the distance between the satellite and the Earth below, and from there record precise height measurements of sea ice, glaciers, ice sheets, forests and the rest of the planet’s surfaces.

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“Light moves really, really fast, and if you’re going to use it to measure something to a couple of centimetres, you’d better have a really, really good clock,” said Tom Neumann, ICESat-2’s Deputy Project Scientist.

If its stopwatch kept time even to a highly accurate millionth of a second, ICESat-2 could only measure elevation to within about 500 feet.

Scientists would not be able to tell the top of a five-storey building from the bottom. That does not cut it when the goal is to record even subtle changes as ice sheets melt or sea ice thins.

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To reach the needed precision of a fraction of a billionth of a second, engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, had to develop and build their own series of clocks on the satellite’s instrument — the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System, or ATLAS.

This timing accuracy will allow researchers to measure heights to within about two inches, NASA said in a statement on Monday.

ATLAS pulses beams of laser light to the ground and then records how long it takes each photon to return.

This time, when combined with the speed of light, tells researchers how far the laser light travelled.

This flight distance, combined with the knowledge of exactly where the satellite is in space, tells researchers the height of the Earth’s surface below.

The stopwatch that measures flight time starts with each pulse of ATLAS’s laser. As billions of photons stream down to Earth, a few are directed to a start pulse detector that triggers the timer, said Phil Luers, Deputy Instrument System Engineer with the ATLAS instrument. (IANS)

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US Senators Want NASA To Extend The ISS Life Until At Least 2028

The aim was to save mony so that more resources could invested into deep space exploration of the Moon and eventually Mars.

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NASA ISS
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NASA should extend the life of the International Space Station (ISS) until at least 2028, two US Senators said in a hearing to examine the future of the orbiting laboratory.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness convened the hearing on Wednesday, which was the first in a series of two hearings to examine the role of the space station.

In its 2019 budget request, the Donald Trump administration proposed ending direct government funding for the ISS by 2025, Florida Today, part of the USA Today network, reported on Wednesday.

“We’ve got this platform up there (worth) north of $100 billion, and it’s there,” Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, ranking member on the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, was quoted as saying.

“Abandoning this incredible orbiting laboratory where they are doing research, when we are on the cusp of a new era of space exploration, would be irresponsible at best and probably disastrous,” Nelson added.

NASA should extend the life of the International Space Station (ISS) until at least 2028, two US Senators said in a hearing to examine the future of the orbiting laboratory.
ISS is a permanent base for astronauts stationed in the outer sky. Wikimedia Commons

The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 directed NASA to develop a plan to transition ISS from the current regime that relies heavily on NASA sponsorship to a regime where NASA could be one of many customers of a low-Earth orbit (LEO) non-governmental human space flight enterprise.

The aim was to save mony so that more resources could invested into deep space exploration of the Moon and eventually Mars.

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The space agency’s internal watchdog on Wednesday, however, said that private companies are unlikely to take on the more than $1 billion annual cost to run the International Space Station by 2025 as NASA hopes.

The report from NASA Inspector General provided a closing argument against the Trump administration’s proposal to privatise or abandon the orbiting laboratory so soon, the US senators said, according to the Florida Today report.

“The defence rests,” quipped Senator Cruz of Texas. (IANS)