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野心勃勃的提议:在轨道上建太空“博物馆”

更新时间:2018-4-26 21:21:00 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The ambitious proposal to create a space 'museum' in orbit
野心勃勃的提议:在轨道上建太空“博物馆”

On 18 May 2009, 570km (350 miles) above the Earth, astronaut John Grunsfeld became the last human to touch the Hubble Space Telescope. Before re-entering Space Shuttle Atlantis’ airlock at the end of the final and gruelling servicing mission, he recalled a quote from science fiction legend, Arthur C Clarke.

2009年5月18日,距离地表570公里(350英里)的高空,宇航员格伦斯菲尔德(John Grunsfeld)成为最后一个触摸哈勃太空望远镜的人。 这是对哈勃进行的最后一次维护任务,难度极大,在结束任务返回阿特兰蒂斯号(Atlantis)航天飞机(港台称太空穿梭机)气闸舱前,格伦斯菲尔德引用了科幻小说大师阿瑟•克拉克(Arthur C Clarke)的话。

“The only way of finding the limits of the possible, is by going beyond them into the impossible,” he said over the intercom to the VIPs gathered in mission control. “On this mission, we tried some things that many people said were impossible… we wish Hubble the very best.”

"探索可能性极限的唯一方法,是超越极限进入不可能",他通过对讲机向聚集在控制中心的贵宾们说:"本次任务中,我们尝试了许多大家认为不可能的事…祝哈勃一切顺利。"

The crew released the telescope back into orbit and, as Atlantis backed away, the glistening cylinder gradually disappeared into the void.

宇航员将哈勃放回轨道,随着阿特兰蒂斯号离开,哈勃的亮光逐渐消失在茫茫宇宙中。

Today, with the Space Shuttle fleet grounded, there is no way to mount another Hubble repair mission. All being well, the space telescope will stay operational for another few years, continuing to reveal the splendour of the Universe. But over the next decade, the satellite’s components will inevitably deteriorate and its orbit decay.

如今,航天飞机已经返回地球,新的维修任务也不可能了。一切顺利的话,哈勃还可以再工作几年,继续为我们揭示宇宙的灿烂,但未来十几年,它的零件势必损耗,运行轨道也将被废弃。

One of the most significant scientific endeavours of all time, Hubble is destined to burn apart as it re-enters the atmosphere in the early 2030s. It will go the same way as many other historic space objects – from the first satellite and Laika the space dog, to Skylab and the Mir space station.

哈勃太空望远镜是史上最重要的科学成就之一,预计在2030年代初返回大气层时烧毁,与第一颗卫星、第一只太空犬莱卡(Laika)、太空实验室以及和平号太空站等等许多历史性太空物体的宿命一样。

But there may be an “impossible” alternative.

但可能还有个"不可能"的选择。

“It seems an ignominious end for such a celebrated object,” says Stuart Eves, chair of the Space Information Exchange – a UK government and industry forum for space security and infrastructure – who is a satellite engineer and expert on space debris. “Instead, in the same way we preserve historic ships, aircraft, cars and trains in museums,” he says, “we ought to look after Hubble and preserve it for posterity.”

斯图尔特•埃夫斯(Stuart Eves)是太空信息交换(一个英国政府及业内关于太空安全及基础设施的论坛)的主席,也是卫星工程师和太空碎片专家,他说:"这个结局对哈勃这么著名的东西来说难以令人接受,我们在博物馆里保存历史性船舶、飞机、汽车还有火车,我们也应该为后代好好保存哈勃。"

Rather than bring it back to Earth – a costly and challenging mission (successfully attempted by the Space Shuttle in 1984 with two communications satellites) – Eves is urging the US to preserve the telescope in space. Before the final Hubble servicing mission, Nasa investigated the possibility of using a robotic spacecraft to rendezvous and repair the satellite instead of astronauts. Eves would like to see the same technology adapted to keep the telescope in orbit.

将哈勃带回地球成本高昂挑战重重,虽然航天飞机曾在1984年成功带回两颗通讯卫星。埃夫斯则敦促美国政府将哈勃留在太空。在对哈勃执行最后一次维护任务之前,Nasa(美国太空总署)研究了使用机器人航天器而非宇航员与哈勃对接来进行维护的可能性,埃夫斯希望利用这种技术将哈勃保留在轨道上。

“A satellite could grapple the telescope, point it in the right direction and boost it to a higher orbit, so it stays up there for a while,” he says. “Then you have the problem – as all museum curators do – of preserving your valuable asset against the ravages of time, such as radiation and the danger of it being hit by debris.”

埃夫斯说:"可以用卫星捕获哈勃,把它对准正确的方向之后推到高一些的轨道,这样可将哈勃在太空维持一段时间。接下来就是每个博物馆馆长都会遇到的问题:与时间对抗保存珍贵的展品,譬如防止哈勃受辐射,可能被太空碎片撞击等问题。"

His solution is to launch a small satellite – such as a shoebox-sized cubesat – into the same orbit as Hubble, to act as a sentinel or virtual curator. “You’d fly a small robotic camera around the object and make the video available to museum visitors on, for example, a VR headset,” he says. “At least then we’d have a documentary record of Hubble.”

埃夫斯的方案是发射一颗譬如鞋盒大小的微型卫星进入哈勃的运行轨道,充当哨兵或是虚拟博物馆馆长。"可以放置一个小型机器人相机围绕哈勃飞行,将影像传回给参观博物馆的人看,譬如用虚拟现实眼镜观看,这样我们起码有了哈勃的实景记录数据。"

The same cubesat technology might also be used to monitor other iconic space artefacts such as Telstar, the first TV communications satellite – launched in 1962 and still in an elliptical orbit of between around 1,000 and 5,600km (620 to 3,480 miles) above the planet – or Vanguard-1, the oldest object still in orbit.

微型卫星技术也可以用于监测其他重要的人造太空体,譬如首个电视通讯卫星电星(Telstar),1962年发射,现仍在距地表1,000至5,600公里(620至3,480英里)的椭圆轨道上运行,或是监测当前在轨时间最久的科学卫星先锋1号(Vanguard-1)。

“CubeSats have been considered for monitoring the International Space Station,” says Eves. “A high-resolution camera could fly around the station to carry out a survey of what state it’s in and whether there’s any damage to the outside you might be concerned about.”

埃夫斯表示:"我们考虑过用微型卫星来监测国际空间站,让高像素相机围绕空间站飞行,检查其状态,以及是否出现需要处理的外部破损。"

It’s not only satellites in orbit around the Earth that Eves is keen to see preserved. With Nasa planning a return to the Moon, there is increasing concern that objects left behind by robotic and human missions could be disturbed or damaged by visitors. A new international organisation, For All Moonkind, has recently been set up to raise awareness of the issue (which Future has written about previously here). It proposes, for instance, new United Nations regulations to protect the landers, flags and footsteps of the Apollo astronauts.

埃夫斯不止想保存地球周围轨道上的卫星。由于Nasa计划重返月球,人们担心之前机器人或人类执行任务遗留的物品会受影响甚至损坏。一个新的国际组织"为了全月球"(For All Moonkind)日前成立,倡导人们关注这个问题(我们也曾发表相关文章),譬如呼吁建立新的联合国规章来保护阿波罗号宇航员在月球留下的着陆器、旗帜以及脚印。

Although there could one day be a museum on the Moon, or at least some sort of protective shelter for significant artefacts, material left behind might be worth returning to Earth.

也许将来会在月球建个博物馆,至少把重要物品保护起来,但把它们运回地球还是值得的。

“I support the idea that there should be some curation and preservation of objects and trace fossils like the footprints,” says Eves. “But I don’t think they should be so tight that you wouldn’t be able to derive scientific benefit from them.”

"我同意应该对人类太空物体以及脚印这类遗迹化石加以收藏保护,但不该过度保护使之失去科学研究利益。"埃夫斯说到。

“One of the more bizarre proposals I’ve heard is to go back and retrieve the bags of astronaut poo left behind,” he says. “Space biologists will be very keen to know how well the bacteria in the faeces have stood up to the extreme space environment.” It would certainly make an unusual museum exhibit.

"我听过更离奇的一个提议是去月球把宇航员装粪便的袋子拿回来,太空生物学家们会很想知道粪便里面的细菌对极端太空环境应对如何。"这肯定会是个相当特别的展览。

This wouldn’t be the first time lunar artefacts are returned to Earth. In November 1969, the crew of Apollo 12 brought back the camera from the robotic probe Surveyor-3 for study. Preliminary findings even suggested that the camera hosted a colony of bacteria, which had survived on the Moon. Later it was shown that the bugs were more likely to have been sneezed onto the camera as a result of poor hygiene procedures during the examination itself.

这并非是将遗留月球的人类物品第一次带回地球。1969年11月,阿波罗12号的宇航员将机器人探测器勘测员3号(Surveyor-3)的相机带回用于研究。最初甚至发现相机上有大量在月球存活下来的细菌,但后来发现更有可能是研究过程中因为卫生程序不到位,细菌是人打喷嚏喷上去的。

Within the next decade, there’s a very good chance that people will once again set foot on the lunar surface and see Neil Armstrong’s first footsteps for themselves. But were the crew of Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2009 the last people to get a close-up view of Hubble? Not necessarily.

未来十几年内,人类很大可能再次登月,亲眼看到尼尔•阿姆斯特朗首次登月的脚印。但2009年阿特兰蒂斯号航天飞机的宇航员们会否是最后一批近距离看到哈勃的航天员吗?不一定。

Future generations should be able to zip around the Earth in personal spacecraft to do a bit of satellite spotting. But, in the shorter term, a privileged few may once again get a close-up view of some of these historic space objects.

未来,人类应该能够搭乘私人航空器绕着地球看卫星,而短期内,极少数人将有幸再次近距离看到部分历史性太空物体。

“Companies are talking seriously about building space hotels, what orbit might they choose?” asks Eves. “An orbit that matched with Hubble might provide something marvellous to see out of the window – as you’re looking down at the Earth it would be rather nice to see the Hubble Space Telescope Drifting by.”

"有公司在认真考虑建造太空旅馆,它们会选择哪个轨道?"埃夫斯说:"选择与哈勃合适的轨道能获得神奇的风景——透过窗户低头望向地球时看到哈勃太空望远镜飘过,岂不妙哉。"

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