October 6, 2022

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Polka in space.  Catching comets and searching for life at Ganymede - Business and Proust

Polka in space. Catching comets and searching for life at Ganymede – Business and Proust


What interesting can we find on Jupiter?

We are interested in JUICE’s mission, not Jupiter itself, but what is happening around it.


What happens there?

Jupiter has its own planetary system, although it is not a star. It has about 80 moons orbiting around it, of which Galileo discovered four. It is a planetary system within another planetary system. Learning about this environment will be very interesting for us and will allow us to learn more about our solar system.


What exactly does JUICE’s mission want to know?

The purpose of the mission will be to study Jupiter itself and its surroundings, along with its three moons: Europa, Callisto and Ganymede. The latter will be the subject of a very detailed study to see if it can be used in the future as a transport base for deep space exploration.

The mission will also investigate whether the icy moons of the gas giants can create conditions to support life. We know that there are liquid oceans under the icy shells of these moons. It is possible that organic compounds may have formed there. There are also particles that are not found on Earth.

It will not be an easy task. There is ten times more radiation than in low Earth orbit, which makes designing the device very challenging. They must be properly protected so that the electronics are not damaged by ultrafast particles. These are huge financial costs. The price for a space-qualified processor is over $20,000.


What is the role of the Polish Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences in this?

We are co-author of an instrument that tests the high frequency electromagnetic field. We also play the role of a leader who manages the construction and setup of the hardware and software to collect, process, and disseminate the collected data.


Another mission in which the Central Bank of Kuwait and you personally are involved is the Comet Interceptor. What can we learn from catching comets?

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The Comet Interceptor missions are one of the most interesting missions the world can take part in. They’re about discovering something we haven’t been able to notice until now. It’s like discovering a lost golden city in the Amazon jungle, where the comet plays the role of the city and the universe plays the role of the jungle. What will we learn from this? How comets form and how the solar system evolved.


How can the study of a comet answer the question about the evolution of the solar system?

Comet Interceptor will search for a comet entering the Solar System for the first time. Such a comet would not have a variable structure, and by comparing its physical and chemical properties with other comets that we have already studied and that have spent a long time in our system, we will be able to find out about the processes that occurred in the past.


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So, it is not yet known which comet a comet interceptor will catch?

no. The probe with two small satellites on board will be located at the L2 point of space, where the gravitational stabilization is located, where the Webb telescope is currently located, and will wait for a suitable comet to appear. Only when we find one will we start picking it up. At L2, we will wait a maximum of 3 years, and we have another 3 years to reach our destination. The mission consists of three satellites: a large one built by the European Space Agency and two small ones, one also designed by the European Space Agency and the other by the Japanese space agency JAXA. After reaching the comet’s vicinity, the (mother) ship will observe the comet from a distance of about 1,000 kilometers, and the two young daughters (the two daughters), which are able to fly very close, are about a kilometer away. Thanks to this, we will obtain a three-dimensional measurement that allows to diagnose the evolution of electromagnetic fields and plasma structures.

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What is the role of the Central Bank of Kuwait in this task?

I’m personally in charge of the DFP measuring instrument, or Dust Field Plasma, which will examine what happens when a comet meets the center of the solar wind plasma and what physical processes are occurring on its surface. We also have seven sensors that will be able to fully describe the structure and evolution of this process. As CBK PAN, we coordinate 10 centers from Europe, which manufacture the individual components of the instrument, which are then combined into one large gauge system. This is the first time Poland has found itself as instrument coordinator at ESA, so it’s a huge event.


Where does this distinction come from?

It certainly didn’t come unexpectedly. At the European Space Agency, member states and institutions gain experience to participate in missions, design devices and send them into space. When appropriate expertise is gathered, an institution or group of researchers and constructors receives a “mark” that can engage in more advanced missions and can take responsibility for others. Only then can you be accepted to lead missions like Comet Interceptor F-FAST.


quickly?

FAST is a program that runs faster than usual. Standard space missions take decades. From planning, to building and testing devices, to launching devices. FAST is supposed to speed up the process, so there’s no place for beginners out there. Only professionals are invited.


How many people are in the group that the lady runs?

We run a group of more than a hundred scientists from several countries. It is also worth noting that it was the European Space Agency that came to us with a proposal to take over the presidency, because it knew that we could be trusted. The whole Comet Interceptor, apart from our machines, includes 5 other instruments created by the European side and 3 more instruments created by the Japanese side.

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Comet Interceptor is supposed to be a quick job, but it still lasts 10 years. Elon Musk and SpaceX send rockets into space several times a month.

What Elon Musk is doing is very interesting and an important step in commercial space exploration, but it’s totally incomparable to our work. In commercial activities, we are involved in research and learning activities in as yet undiscovered areas and processes. Musk simplifies and shortens the building processes that someone has developed before. We develop tools and research software that have never been worked on before. We should be at 200 percent. Make sure that everything will work out the first time, because failure in the smallest element can mean the failure of the mission.


Politicians say Poland’s space industry has a great future. Is that correct?

partial. At this point, it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to build our own series of large satellites or rockets to launch into orbit, but we have some specialties in which we excel.


What are these specialties?

It’s, say, researching and forecasting the state of space weather, something we’ve been dealing with for years. And activity is important to our daily lives, from communications, satellite navigation and cell phones, but also to power grids and gas pipelines. Unfortunately, we are not using our 100% capacity. We have great young scientists and engineers who cannot do their best in Poland, because there are no conditions for that. Science funding in Poland has always been poor and has never been taken seriously. You have to choose a few areas in which we have the greatest achievements, support them greatly and constantly develop them. We will not be a competitor to the United States or China, but we can be an important player in the areas we have chosen in this field.