NASA/RFSA Use Technology To Make Humans Feel Insignificant
In what can only be described as a cruel attack on our collective ego, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Russian Federal Space Administration (RFSA) both decided to release brand new photographs this week, which put the insignificance of human life into perspective.
Firstly, NASA, and a groundbreaking moment in history – the first ever picture (above) obtained of Mercury by a craft in orbit. Taken March 29th at 9:20am GMT, the photograph gives a detailed view of the surface of our Solar System’s hottest and most barren planet. With surface temperatures maxing out at 426ºC, Mercury’s close proximity to the sun has made it difficult to send a satellite to orbit it – the intense heat from the sun makes it difficult for hardware to function normally. However, NASA’s new Messenger spaceship has been specifically designed to withstand the scorching temperatures, and will not only take detailed images of Mercury’s surface, but also analyse it’s geological history, it’s magnetic field and the planet’s composition. Made of graphite fibre and cyanate ester (renown for it’s long-term ability to withstand heat), Messenger also features two radiation-resistant IBM processors, a 25MHz main processor and a 10MHz backup, and two solar panels capable of generating 450 watts of power while in orbit.
Not to be outdone, the Russian space agency, RFSA, released images the same day from it’s new weather satellite Elektro-L. Currently orbiting Earth at a geostationary 36,000 kilometers, the satellite is the first major spacecraft fully developed in Russia after the fall of Communism. The satellite is designed to monitor weather, and sends sends images back to central command every 30 minutes (although this can be adjusted to as frequently as every 10 minutes in an emergency-monitoring situation). What really matters here, though, is not the satellite, but the images it has taken. In stark contrast to NASA’s own true-colour Blue Marble, the Russian images are low-saturation, but no less mesmerising. The beautiful images, one of the moon rising over the Red Sea (below) and anther of Africa, Arabia and India (above), show our planet in incredible detail, utilising the satellite’s combination of visible and near-infrared wavelength sensors to create the images.
Both images are a stark and honest reminder of just how small we humans really are in the grand scheme of things. From the incredible beauty of our home planet to the barren, scorched wilderness of Mercury, these pictures display the vastness and complexity of our Solar System. They are truly humbling.
(Click on images for full resolution.)