Infrastructure in Space
Posted by Peter Rasmussen on March 27, 2007
The thing that’s been missing from space exploration is infrastructure. Everything so far has been one off missions.
They use the term “infrastructure” when they talk about new bits they are going to stick on the International Space station but these bits will only serve the space station which is going to be trashed pretty much as soon as it’s finished.
There have been some stunning missions over the last few years but they are persistently one off. They regularly accumulate valuable data but they are single purpose missions. Only the data is passed on.
In the next couple of years all manner of hardware will be hurled around and onto Mars. Exciting probes like the Mars Science Laboratory will be landed to gather samples and test them on site.
One mission that does not get so much attention is Mars Telesat, which will be put into high orbit around Mars in 2009. This would seem to be the very first step in actual “away from Earth” dedicated infrastructure. It’s not taking pictures; it’s not digging in the dirt. It’s only there to take messages. So that’s what it does really well. It’s like a local telephone exchange. But not any telephone exchange, the first one around another planet. So far all communications have had to be handled by a probe whose main mission was something else; pictures, air, dirt.
These transmissions have been received directly by Earth bound dishes. So far we’ve been communicating with these expensive missions with the equivalent of dial up. With Mars Telesat suddenly we’ve got broad band with real grunt. It’s at Mars for ALL the Mars missions that are able to use it. So each of those missions is suddenly more effective and faster.
This is a whole new tilt on space exploration.
Conceivably Mars Telesat or something like it could also aid the missions at Jupiter and Saturn and beyond.
My point is that if infrastructure were given more emphasis we would have a stronger foundation to get more bang per buck from many future missions.
The picture at the top of this post is of the Mars Global Surveyor. There are all sorts of pictures of it all over the place. I could not find one of Mars Telesat.