Exploring the Solar System: mankind or machine?
University of Leicester; University of Aberystwyth; Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London
The United Kingdom is contributing its unique research expertise to the next generation of missions to other planets in our Solar System. The ExoMars rover due for launch to Mars in 2013, and on show at the exhibition, is being built by Astrium Ltd, a UK company.
Up in Aberystwyth, new computer software is being developed to pre-program the complex series of movements of ExoMars. Meanwhile at the Space Research Centre, Leicester, new detectors are being built for the BepiColombo Mission that should enter its orbit around Mercury in 2019. Right now, plans are being made for the next wave of exciting European space science missions in 2015-2025.
‘We have a unique expertise in robotic exploration in the UK’, says John Bridges of the Space Research Centre, Leicester. ‘ExoMars has a panoramic stereo camera – developed at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory – that is much like a human eye and can gather depth and distance information’.
The BepiColombo mission will enter the best orbit yet of any mission to Mercury. The mission’s X-ray spectrometer, being developed at Leicester, can identify what elements are present in the planet’s surface through the unique patterns of x-rays emitted.
‘The next step in planetary exploration could be flying robots, however our Solar System might also be explored by humans,’ says John. ‘The UK has to decide whether we wish to join in human exploration programs’.
You decide how the UK should explore space, go to our survey and vote on whether we should do it with astronauts, machines or both.
Mullard Space Science Laboratory: