NASA Exploring Earth-Sun Relationship

By: Virginia Riddle

NASA has announced that the missions Multi-slit Solar Explorer (MUSE) and HelioSwarm will be further developed as an attempt to better understand the relationship between the Sun and the Earth. The mission should also provide insight into the Sun’s dynamics and the ever-changing environment of space.

The MUSE mission will lend insight into aspects such as eruptions of the outermost areas of the sun. A lot of this will be accomplished with a specific instrument called a multi-slit spectrometer. Other ground-based observatories will also be involved in the program, making it expansive enough that there will be several angles of research on the same discoveries.

Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters, says, “MUSE will help us fill crucial gaps in knowledge pertaining to the sun-Earth connection. It will provide more insight into space weather and complement a host of other missions within the heliophysics mission fleet.”

Bart DePontieu will be in charge of investigating the mission, from the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center of Palo Alto, California. They will provide project management with a $192 million budget.

HelioSwarm plans to use a small group of nine related spacecrafts to explore the complexities of solar wind disturbances. HelioSwarm aims to perform a series of experiments to better understand this turbulence, a project that is budgeted to cost $250 million. The swarm of spacecrafts will be able to communicate back to Earth via communication antennas.

“The technical innovation of HelioSwarm’s small satellites operating together as a constellation provides the unique ability to investigate turbulence and its evolution in the solar wind,” said Peg Luce, deputy director of the Heliophysics Division.

HelioSwarm’s project management will be up to NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California. The appointed mission investigator is Harlan Spence from the University of New Hampshire.

It is between these two projects, that many predict applicable uses for the discoveries, such as GPS and satellite communications advancements, will be uncovered.

According to NASA, “Funding and management oversight for these missions is provided by the Heliophysics Explorers Program, managed by the Explorers Program Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.”

Image Credit: NASA

Categories: Featured, STEM

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