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The night sky fascinates everyone who raises their head and looks at the stars. Behind every microscopic point seen lies a world with secrets and exciting features. To study it, engineers around the globe design various spacecraft and create very complex and expensive equipment. The latter often uses thermal imaging and night vision technologies. Both contribute to the development of science and enable mankind to study the unknown secrets of space. How exactly are these technologies applied, and how they help modern scientists will learn from our guide?
NV technologies are actively developing and becoming indispensable in various human activities. On their basis, multiple types of devices are created that provide visibility in the dark and open up new horizons for their owners. Different kinds of such optics form an image by amplifying the light they collect. This process consists of many stages but allows you almost instantly to get the final result.
Night vision and devices created on its basis are in demand among people representing various professions. Military personnel, rescuers, security guards, pilots of aircraft, and helicopters cannot do without such optics. In addition, NV technologies become good helpers for night hunters, environmentalists, drivers of various vehicles, employees of industrial enterprises, and builders. Such popularity of NV devices lies in their ease of use and high probability of obtaining a genuinely sharp image. Another critical factor that makes NVDs popular optics is their relatively low cost. Against the backdrop of many advantages, various disadvantages typical for all devices that support NV technologies become almost invisible. Chief among them is zero efficiency when working in complete darkness.
Night vision is indispensable when it comes to exploring space. To experience all the benefits of using this technology, take the simplest NVDs and look at the night sky. A new view of it will open before you, where there will be many more stars than when observed with the naked eye. The results will become even more impressive if all this is transferred to professional equipment. That is why NV technologies are actively used by scientists studying space.
Thermal imaging can be safely called a relative of night vision. These technologies have developed in parallel and become essential to our daily lives. Based on TI also create a large number of devices. They all make a high-quality image by converting infrared radiation collected from the examined area.
TI optics are prevalent in most industries. It helps to cope with the work of military personnel, builders, power engineers, metallurgists, rescuers, and people working in many other sectors. In addition, thermal imaging equipment is in demand among scientists, hunters, and fans of various military tactical games. Such popularity is due to the many advantages of the technology and devices based on it. Among the most significant are versatility, efficiency in zero visibility, and the ability to detect various objects through many obstacles. Of the negative points, one can only name the high cost of such optics compared to classic NVDs.
The high price of TI equipment does not repel people involved in space exploration. It is used everywhere, from ground-based observatories to spacecraft sent to explore the distant planets of the solar system. With the help of such devices, it is possible to improve the safety of space flights, improve the quality of research work and simplify the implementation of many complex tasks.
Thermal imaging and night vision are essential parts of the equipment regularly used to study a variety of space objects. It often helps to learn much about our planet, a crucial link in the solar system. No less frequently, both technologies study the Moon, the Sun, and the celestial bodies closest to us. TI and NV can be helpful in many areas of the space industry, from working with vehicles designed for extraterrestrial flights to complex equipment on board.
The third planet from the Sun is home to each of us. It is a unique space object on which life originated and acquired various forms. There are many analogs of our Earth in space, but to this day, there is no official proof of the existence of living beings on other planets. That is why many space agencies pay great attention to studying the Earth. It is the densest planet in the solar system, but in size, it occupies only 5th place among its neighbors. The approximate age of the Earth is 4.45 billion years, most of which are different forms of life. The latter is made possible by a suitable atmosphere, which is more than 99% a mixture of nitrogen and oxygen. The Earth has only one natural satellite, a strange phenomenon, given similar examples in other planetary clusters. However, its presence allows you to maintain a certain balance, making it possible for living beings to exist.
NV and TI technologies play an essential role in the study of the Earth and the natural processes occurring on it. They give people much helpful information that helps them better understand the features of our planet and adapt people's daily lives to them.
Application of NV and TI in the study of the Earth:
The only satellite of our planet is a vital link that provides various processes on the earth and helps to maintain optimal conditions for the existence of people on it. The Moon is the closest satellite to the Sun. According to this indicator, it has a relatively small size and occupies only 5th place in the solar system. Our satellite is located at a distance of only 380 thousand kilometers from the center of the Earth, which makes it the second largest and brightest object in the sky (after the Sun). The birth date of the moon was 4.5 billion years ago. From this, we can conclude that our satellite was formed a little later than the Earth. Scientists suggest that the reason for this was the collision of our planet with its neighbor Theia. During contact with this hypothetical planet, many fragments were formed, which fell into the orbit of the Earth and gradually merged into a single whole. The formed celestial body became the Moon. To date, our satellite is the only space object that a person could visit.
The study of the moon is essential not only from a scientific point of view. The dependence of many earthly processes on the actions of the satellite forces scientists to pay much attention to it. To obtain essential data, equipment based on the capabilities of thermal imaging and night vision is often used. It helps better to understand the features of our closest space neighbor and discover many of its secrets.
Application of NV and TI in the study of the Moon:
The closest star to us is the only such object in the solar system. It is a gaseous cosmic body of 73% hydrogen and 25% helium. In combination with other gases in relatively small concentrations, they ensure the continuity of thermonuclear processes, due to which the temperature of the Sun becomes exceptionally high. Our star is not a giant compared to other objects known to man. Nevertheless, it creates a powerful gravitational field that allows you to keep planets, satellites, asteroids, comets, and smaller space bodies in different orbits. Among them is the Earth. The distance from it to the Sun is about 150 million kilometers. This circumstance makes it possible to obtain on the planet's surface the temperature necessary for photosynthesis and other vital processes. At the same time, the Sun is a natural dwarf compared to the size of our entire Milky Way galaxy. It is located more than 26 thousand light years from its center and made one revolution around it in 250 million years.
Devices using thermal imaging and night vision technology are ideal for studying such a hot space object as the Sun. They all make it possible to obtain important information about surface temperature, ongoing thermonuclear reactions, solar plasma emissions, and many other processes affecting our planet.
Application of NV and TI in the study of the Sun:
The solar system is a standard cosmic formation, similar to which there are billions of pieces in the Universe. However, it is the most interesting for us since the processes occurring in it in one way or another affect life on our native Earth. The solar system is both a well-studied and poorly-studied object. Today, scientists can tell many interesting things about the planets nearby Earth, but objects located in the outer region of the system and beyond the Kuiper belt remain poorly understood. This happens because of their remoteness and various obstacles that arise in the observer's path (for example, the increased density of the interplanetary medium). The composition of the solar system has changed many times. It includes eight planets, ranging from nearby Mercury to the Sun and ending with the distant gas giant Neptune. The belonging of other objects to one of the groups of cosmic bodies is constantly discussed. In our time, there are five dwarf planets (Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, Eris) and formations such as the asteroid belt, Kuiper belt, scattered disk, heliosphere, and Oort cloud. Beyond the latter, scientists have not yet been able to look. However, with the development of technology, discoveries will also become possible that will make our solar system even more proud.
Far from the last role in studying the solar system is played by thermal imaging and night vision. These technologies operate various equipment used in observatories, research centers, and space agencies. With the help of such devices, scientists collect significant information bit by bit, put it together, and present their amazing discoveries to the public.
Application of NV and TI in the study of the planets of the solar system:
For many ordinary people, all knowledge about space is limited to information about our solar system. However, outside of it, there is a lot of interesting, surprising, and incomprehensible. Even in our Milky Way galaxy, you can find thousands of planetary systems, and in each of them, something unusual will attract people's attention. If you plunge into the more distant places of the Universe, you can find many places like the solar system and planets like the Earth. To date, the most distant galaxy known to man is HD1. This cosmic formation is located in the constellation of the Cultist. It is 33.4 billion light-years away from Earth, which is admirable. Many other galaxies are so far away from us that even light, with its enormous speed, gets from them to the Earth within tens of billions of years.
Scientists use sophisticated equipment that uses thermal imaging and night vision to study some of the secrets of deep space. These technologies make it possible to maximize people's possibilities and allow them to explore the most remote objects in the Universe. In addition, TI and NV help discover new worlds that may have life.
Application of NV and TI in deep space exploration:
Modern developments are changing our understanding of science. They are everywhere integrated into various areas, increasing the efficiency of scientists and allowing them to receive much helpful information that was previously inaccessible. In the case of the space industry, thermal imaging and night vision are gradually becoming indispensable. The equipment created on their basis is used during the implementation of many space programs. We will focus on the most famous of them and tell you more about the impact of NV/TI technologies on space exploration.
The Chandrayaan-2 mission is one of the most famous programs organized by ISRO. Its goal was to reach the orbit of the Moon and study our only satellite in detail. A special Vikram lander and the Pragyan lunar rover were used in this process. The Satish Dhawan Cosmodrome, located on Sriharikota (India) island, was chosen as the launch pad. From here, the carrier rocket was launched, which delivered the Chandrayaan-2 apparatus into Earth's orbit. This happened on July 22, 2019. After 29 days, he was already in lunar orbit. The start of the delivery of the lunar rover to the surface of the Moon was given on September 2, and after five days, this task was completed. However, a hard landing was made instead of the planned soft landing. This created specific difficulties and shifted the deadlines for completing the tasks.
Thermal imaging technologies were actively used during the Chandrayaan-2 mission. They were integrated into the operation of the IR detector, which was part of a unique imaging spectrometer. With the help of such a detector, scientists could speed up and increase the efficiency of studying the soil, minerals found on the moon, molecules of various substances, and much more. In addition, this element made it possible to obtain information on the composition of different chemical compounds found under the lunar surface. They have become an essential addition to the general database, which collects the information necessary for the implementation of plans for space travel to our satellite.
The spectrometer, which used TI technology, also performed another critical task. With its help, it was possible to find the lander, the connection with which was lost. This was an essential milestone in the mission and allowed the engineers to assess the extent of damage to the orbital station that had occurred due to the hard landing.
This unique program was conceived as an ambitious project of ESA and Roscosmos. It was partially implemented but never completed. The reason was the Russian attack on Ukraine in February 2022, because of which the ESA refused to cooperate further with the space agency of the terrorist state. ESA wants to restart the program on its no earlier than 2028.
Despite some incompleteness, ExoMars provided much important information about the red planet. The project was started in March 2016, when the launch vehicle was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome (Kazakhstan). It found the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and its Schiaparelli lander into orbit. After four months, the first photographs of Mars were obtained, and soon the landing module was separated from the orbital station. Specific problems accompanied this process. Their result was the Schiaparelli accident. However, TGO made a safe landing and continued its work.
Various equipment was used during this mission, some of which worked based on thermal imaging. In particular, one of the key instruments on board was COMARS+. It was intended for many purposes, including the measurement of heat fluxes. In the ExoMars mission, scientists also used a spectrometer, approximately similar in design and principle of operation to a similar device from Chandrayaan-2. An essential element of such a spectrograph was the same IR detector based on TI technologies. It was intended to search the Martian soil for traces of water, methane, and various organic compounds that could prove the presence of biological activity on the planet.
This space program, designed for several decades, has become a real pride of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Its main goal is to collect soil from the Ryugu asteroid and bring it back to Earth. This celestial body is relatively small and does not harm our planet. However, it is of interest to science since, until that time, scientists had yet to obtain soil samples from asteroids of this type (carbon ones).
The whole process started in December 2014. The Tanegashima Cosmodrome, located on the Japanese island of the same name, was chosen as the site for launching the spacecraft. After successfully launching into Earth's orbit, the Hayabusa-2 probe orbited our planet for a year, waiting for the optimal moment for further advancement. Exactly 365 days after launch, Hayabusa-2 managed to perform a complex gravity maneuver, thanks to which the probe approached the Earth as close as possible and received the additional acceleration necessary to fly to the selected asteroid. Only in June 2018 did the spacecraft approach the target, and almost three months later, it made a soft landing.
With the help of a module called MASCOT, he could take soil samples in less than one day and study their composition in detail. The results were redirected to Earth and processed by the best scientists collaborating with JAXA. Hayabusa-2 left the asteroid's surface early next year and moved into its orbit. Further, specific manipulations were carried out, which made it possible to obtain soil samples from the depths of Ryugu. To do this, Hayabusa-2 once again descended to the asteroid's surface. At the end of 2019, the device finally left the space object and headed toward our planet. The probe dropped a unique capsule to Earth containing soil samples a year later. After completing all the tasks, Hayabusa-2 continued its flight in near-Earth orbit. This was done after agreeing on all the details for expanding the mission. Now the probe will circle our planet for several years until it goes in search of asteroid 2001 CC21. The flight near it is scheduled for mid-2026. JAXA also plans to send a probe to asteroid 1998 KY26. This mission is expected in mid-2031.
During all the adventures of Hayabusa-2, there was a lot of different thermal imaging equipment on board. Chief among them is the special TI camera. It is built into the probe itself and is designed to perform various tasks (estimating the degree of heating of the asteroid horn, monitoring the temperature of different elements of the apparatus's structure, etc.). In addition to such a camera, the probe has a spectrometer, one of the structural elements that uses TI technology. This device makes it possible to find traces of various chemical compounds in the soil. The research equipment on the Hayabusa-2 uses a unique IR microscope with a thermal imaging camera. With its help, it was possible to find out the composition of the soil, and the received data was sent to Earth.
This mission has become the most fruitful in recent decades. Its implementation was carried out by the ESA, which, with its help, expected to obtain much useful information about the planet Venus closest to us. Among the goals was studying the space object itself, its atmosphere, and the effects of the solar wind on it.
The launch of Venus Express was scheduled for October 2005. However, due to defects in the thermal insulation of the apparatus, it was postponed to November. All shortcomings were promptly eliminated, and on November 9, 2005, the interplanetary station was launched from Baikonur (Kazakhstan). After entering the Earth's orbit, the upper stage was separated from the apparatus, and solar panels were deployed. Approximately 2 hours later, the station was directed towards Venus. The autonomous flight of the interplanetary station continued until April of the following year when the device successfully settled in the orbit of Venus. Then the engine started to work, and the machine moved to a near-polar orbit.
The next day, scientists received pictures of the south pole of the planet, which had not previously been possible to make. These photographs were only a test of the operation of the station equipment. Still, even they made it possible to create many essential discoveries (for example, about the same dark funnel was found at the south pole of Venus as at the north). In March 2012, a powerful flare was recorded on the Sun, due to which the station was subjected to solid X-ray radiation. Because of it, various failures in the equipment operation began, but after some time, the engineers managed to restart it successfully. With this, Venus Express was able to continue collecting data. Initially, this mission was designed for 500 days. However, it was repeatedly extended, due to which the spacecraft was operated until the end of November 2014. After that, he used up the entire fuel supply, lost altitude, and became invisible to ESA engineers. It was expected that in February next month, the station would fall into the atmosphere of Venus and burn up in it.
Thermal equipment was also used on this vital mission. It was it that helped to detect defects in the heat-insulating layer of the apparatus, because of which its launch was delayed. In addition, on board, the interplanetary station was the VIRTIS spectrometer, which used TI technology. The first pictures of the south pole were obtained thanks to its capabilities. Another thermal imaging device was the thermal imaging camera. It worked in a wide wavelength range to measure infrared radiation at each mission stage.
This program is an essential preparation for implementing the project, enabling people to make long-term space travel in the future. In particular, the development of a manned flight to Mars is already underway, which will become a new page in the history of space exploration. As a preparatory phase, NASA is implementing the SCIFLI program. Its purpose is to study not space objects but the process of flight of various vehicles. The results obtained make it possible to make certain adjustments to the flight or preparation for it to minimize the potential risks of equipment failure.
NASA is implementing the SCIFLI project in conjunction with SpaceX. The test site of the NASA research center in Langley (Virginia, USA) was chosen as the location for various tests. Here, test launches of a variety of spacecraft were conducted under the comprehensive supervision of a large number of TI equipment. It made it possible to monitor every second of the flight and identify various inconsistencies with established standards. Different types of TI devices were installed not on Earth, where they would be ineffective, but on US Navy aircraft. The latter followed the spacecraft during flight, and various long-range TI cameras captured every moment. As a result, the engineers obtained many high-quality thermal images, which they used to upgrade the spacecraft further.
Night vision and thermal imaging are indispensable technologies integrated into different industries. This also happens in the space industry, where NV and TI have been used for a long time. Nowadays, the popularity of these technologies is only increasing. With their help, they control the state of spacecraft, study various objects and phenomena, monitor the state of our planet, and perform many other work. Gradually, the influence of NV and TI only increases. Every year new equipment appears, which is installed on satellites, probes, telescopes, and interplanetary stations. It gives people much important information that is impossible to get in other ways. In this regard, both technologies will be in demand in the space industry for many decades.
Future use cases for NV and TI:
Night vision and thermal imaging are yet to be the key technologies that help in space exploration. However, their influence on various scientific processes gradually increases so that they may become indispensable shortly. NV and TI play an essential role in studying different space objects, ranging from comets, asteroids, and planets of the solar system and ending our native Earth. Equipment supporting these technologies is rapidly improving and more efficient in performing specific tasks. It is used when implementing various space programs well-funded by the governments of many countries and their space agencies. Thanks to this, thermal imaging and night vision have a future in the space industry, which will delight us with their amazing discoveries many more times.
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