Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bad Reaction (wheel)

If you look back through my posts you will find I am one of NASAs greatest supporters! I wake up at 3 and 4 am to watch SpaceX do something neat or Curiosity land on Mars. I am thrilled for all the excitement surrounding Curiosity at the moment or the Voyager with its big plans, or the communications laser, or wait, oops! (Spoiler alert, I haven’t written about that yet!) I greet my friends with yelp about ‘dija see’ and ‘check it out!’ But of late, that’s not just the reaction I’m having!

All right, here’s the story; I am getting a tad upset - there’s the reaction wheel in the Odyssey which thankfully NASA was able to find a workaround and get it into position for the Mars Rover Curiosity’s landing, then there was Kepler’s glitch with its reaction wheel-NASA found workaround, and finally now Dawn’s lost its second reaction wheel – NASA may get it back or may have to operate without it which they can do (it has two more). So are you seeing my point? Reaction wheels are going every other minute!

I am guessing that it was the same supplier, or maybe the rigors of space travel. I mean the Odyssey has been out there since 2001 and Kepler has been tooling around space since March of 2009, and Dawn in September of 2007. Hmmm. Okay I don’t think the supply thing is the issue since they range across a decade, must be space. The Hubble has reaction wheels, to my knowledge they haven’t had a problem. (Reaction wheels are Hubble's "steering" system. When the reaction wheels spin one way, Hubble spins the other. Flight software provides the command for the reaction wheels to spin, accelerate or decelerate.) But they are flying through space using varying methods - sometimes using the gravity to slingshot them across the galaxy.

The more I think about it, this may not have been predictable. And NASA always manages to pull a rabbit from the hat at the last minute and find a work around. It may be something cool like Dark Matter is to blame.

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