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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA launched four identical spacecraft Thursday on a billion-dollar mission to study the explosive give-and-take of the Earth and sun's magnetic fields.
The quartet of observatories will be placed into an oblong orbit stretching tens of thousands of miles into the magnetosphere — nearly halfway to the moon at one point. They will fly in pyramid formation, between 6 miles and 250 miles apart, to provide 3-D views of magnetic reconnection on the smallest of scales.
Once the long, sensor-laden booms are extended in a few days, each spacecraft could span a baseball field.
"We're not setting out here to solve space weather," Burch said. "We're setting out to learn the fundamental features of magnetic reconnection because that's what drives space weather."
originally posted by: FamCore
a reply to: ATF1886
Very cool operation - I hope it is a success.
But I thought NASA had run out of funding, so how do these billion dollar projects pop up out of the blue? State governments and certain agencies (cough* cough* HOMELAND SECURITY *cough *cough) are running out of funding as we speak so where is this money coming from?
I also wonder if this mission has anything to do with how scientists are noticing a quickly-weakening magnetic field around earth. I'd be curious to find out if that had any relation to this new mission.
"After a decade of planning and engineering, the science team is ready to go to work,"
originally posted by: Aleister
Were the spacecraft all launched near each other, or separated by space and time of launch?
And if one of them had blown up or otherwise gone off course, would that have scuttled the entire project (in other words, do all of them have to work as a unit for this project's success?). Thanks.