Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Sending space probes to other planets

  1. Dec 5, 2004 #1
    How is a space probe planned to be fail-proof?
    And how is the trajectory calculated?Is it easy to do or requires huge calculations?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 5, 2004 #2
    A good time to launch can easily be calculated with Keplers laws, I recommend you to look them up. When it comes to space probes, I have no clue. I guess the size of solar panels, weight of the material and types of communication are major issues though.
  4. Dec 5, 2004 #3


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Fail-proof is not possible. Fail-tolerance is the goal. Engineers design for robustness, and try to include enough redundancy in critical systems to allow work-arounds in the event of failure. It is too costly to provide back-ups for every system on a probe, and some systems are too heavy and bulky to have back-ups, so these systems must be robust. Data pathways, chipsets, etc. are generally lighter and smaller and can be backed up. The design of any probe has to revolve around costs, payload weight, fuel requirements, etc, etc. If you design in too much redundancy, the weight of the probe increases, the amount fuel required to launch it increases, the amount fuel required to maneuver the probe increases. All these increase project costs and reduce the number of "nice to have" and "optional" sensors, experiments, etc that your friends and associates want to tack onto the probe.
  5. Dec 6, 2004 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    We can forget about any new probe-based programs in the US. NASA recently got $16.2G, thanks to Bush and DeLay and their cohorts. Unfortunately, their new "mandate" is to put men back in space, with projects on the Moon and trips to Mars. This idiocy comes from the same dopes who killed the Breakthrough Propulsion Program. The BPP might have given us a chance to make interplanetary travel possible, if not practical. Without a breakthrough in propulsion, manned probes to Mars are a pipe-dream, but these people either don't understand it (ignorance) or wish to ignore it (dishonesty, greed). BTW, the Johnson Space Center is in DeLay's district.
  6. Dec 6, 2004 #5


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Welcome new members, rhia & orange! :smile:

    Good response from turbo-1. Also note that NASA/JPL/etc. stay in contact with the space probe throughout the mission. They frequently need to send up instructions for course corrections, fixing glitches, etc. If you read about some of the past missions, you'll see many examples of this. Some of the fixes have been quite clever & dramatic.

    It's tough overall, but it starts with simple principles.

  7. Dec 6, 2004 #6


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Here is a link to a news story that touches on the fringes of the new NASA budget. The problem is that the budget is ripe low-hanging fruit for people who have "projects" fitting NASA's new "mandate". We should expect to see science gutted for the sake of pork and political payback. The reality will be much more depressing than the story implies, and some really deserving science projects will be deferred or lost altogether.

    http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1803&e=18&u=/washpost/a38092_2004dec5 [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook