Starlight has been used for navigation by humans for a long time, and now NASA has come up with a new idea for these twinkling bodies. Scientists are in the process of developing a Galactic Positioning System by using the perfectly timed flashes of X-rays emitted from pulsars and will work in the same manner as of the one on Earth.
An unmanned spacecraft is sent to space to take photographs of moon or distant planets as it travels. It’s similar to firing a bullet at the sky from a rifle. As it travels through space, the projectile will zoom and capture photos of its target from a safe distance. It can be steered only by a small degree, but that won’t do much good as scientists have not been able to make necessary calculations to maneuver the ship at a closer distance. This is because the exact position of an object in space can’t be determined accurately in relative to other space bodies.
The new method of Galactic Positioning System is being developed by NASA aboard the International Space Station using the Interior Composition Explorer telescope of a Neutron star. This telescope is used to view the blurred radiation similar to the fog that permeates space. The radiation which surrounds pulsars with small blips can be measured by observing the amount of time between them, which will be around 4 milliseconds. The relative location can be determined by the vehicle by observing and comparing the difference in the measurements of 3 dissimilar pulsars blips. A fourth pulsars blip is used to calibrate other three timing.
The success of such systems can make the dream of manned spaceflights to Mars come true. It can also make way for further advanced missions to explore a large part of the galaxy and boldly venture out to distant places. Even though semi-autonomous craft has been a success, the capability of positioning system fully independent of Earth has never been feasible.
Researchers could devote their time and efforts to create a craft that will not need to contact humans until its mission is complete and hence can eliminate the need to rely on bulky equipment for communication. There may be a risk of creating a robot spacecraft as it may determine humans to be their enemy and attack us, but the potential of such smart crafts outweighs its risks.