One of the reasons why humanity can't travel boldly in space, is the absence of an appropriate navigation system. China may have provided the answer to this, one of the biggest challenges in deep space exploration, and NASA's impressed.
Currently, spacecrafts are able to travel and navigate away from Earth, with the help of series of antennas located in California, Australia, and Spain. It's called Deep Space Network. However, clearly this system limits outer space explorers to go farther from our planet.
This November, China has successfully launched
the world's first x-ray navigation system. Experts say this system is the key that would allow astronauts discover the vastness of the universe; as well as interstellar travelling in the deeper parts of the galaxy.
The navigation system is called, X-ray Pulsar Navigation 1 (XPNAV 1). It was launched this November from the Jiuquan Space Launch Center in the Gobi Desert.
XPNAV 1 is the navigation system that uses pulsars to navigate through-out space. Meaning, space explorers will no longer have to depend on Earth-based signals to know their location.
“X-ray pulsar navigation techniques will help reduce the reliance of spacecraft on ground-based navigation methods and are expected to achieve autonomous spacecraft navigation in the future,” China’s official Xinhua news agency reported before the launch.
Pulsars are compact stars that emit energy beams. These energy beams will be detected by the navigation system as pulses. In simpler explanation, pulsars will be the GPS of space explorers when travelling in space.
Though, pulsars produce regular energy pulses, there are still several complications with the use of x-ray navigation. One of those, and the most important, not all pulsars in the galaxy emit the necessary x-ray emissions that can be detected by the navigation system.
Despite of the challenges with the new space navigation system, experts say, it's still a great achievement for the planet. First, because it's cheaper. It doesn't involve building of expensive establishments on Earth. Second, it's a milestone for spacecraft innovation, a step closer to unveiling the undiscovered worlds.
NASA says they are planning to release a similar system to XPNAV 1 next year, they call, SEXTANT. Does that mean the space race has begun? Shots fired from NASA. Who's your bet that would first uncover the deeper space? Leave us your comment!