What type of technology is being used on space missions today?

Computer technology has come a long way since the Apollo astronauts took pocket calculators and slide rules into space but we still don’t have the all-knowing talking computers predicted in films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Sunshine. So what technology do future space missions have in store?

NASA’s replacement for the Space Shuttle, Orion, is due to start round trip missions to the International Space Station in 2014 before heading for the Moon around 2020 and then ultimately Mars. Almost all aspects of Orion’s missions will be computer driven, relieving the astronauts of mundane checklists, navigational tweaks and button pressing. And all this only needs three briefcase sized computers.

The trouble of touch screens

A lot of thought has gone into improving the way information is displayed as well. Orion’s computers will be linked to four flat screen panels, but NASA haven’t missed a trick in not using touch screens. Imagine what might happen if a floating pen accidentally bumped into a screen…

So with these advances in computer technology, what are the possibilities for completely unmanned craft making its way to the Moon? Well, if you are up for challenge then you can enter the recently opened Google Lunar X Prize. The prize offers $30 million to anyone who can send an unmanned rover to the Moon. The rover not only needs to land on the Moon, but also to rove 500 metres across the Moon’s surface and send video, images and data back to Earth.

Find related websites for the Orion space mission with physics.org

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