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For the first quarter of 2014, we're going to make a new Topic of the Week thread - the old one was getting rather crowded. The plan is to make a new one every quarter or so.

From the old one:

Each Sunday, one of the mods will pick a highly voted answer to this question for which to select as the topic of the week. This will keep going as long as there is interest, both from the mods and the community as a whole. During that week, we encourage all of the active members to ask at least one question on that specific topic. Do research if you have to. In the end, we will be able to fill out this site, to include things which we don't have enough activity yet.

Please give a single tag per question which you feel is underrated, and give an explanation of that tag to the group, so everyone can understand enough to start asking questions. Linking relevant Wikipedia articles can be of help, or other useful starting points for research. Finally, if you have a request for a specific week, then please include it in your answer. For instance, if there is a significant anniversary, a new launch, flyby, etc, then it seems logical we should have a topic of the week built around that subject.

Topics of the Week


Update: Please add your suggestion into new, second quarter 2014 ToTW thread!

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    $\begingroup$ Tangentially, Astronomy.SE needs help coming up with more TOTW suggestions as well! Our meta site doesn't get a lot of visits so if any of you are interested in helping out, we would appreciate it. Click here for our TOTW thread. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 3 '13 at 17:48

17 Answers 17

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(Used Feb. 16 - Feb. 22, 2014)

Past and future space missions that will or have required multiple launches for a single campaign. Management of multi-launch campaigns, advantages, disadvantages, objectives achieved, failed, and yet to reach. Not to be confused with a launch campaign that is the set of activities which prepare a launch of a single vehicle for lift-off. We would be discussing multiple launch projects, missions or in short, campaigns. For example, the proposed NASA's asteroid-capture mission using two SLS launchers.

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(Used Jan. 12 - Jan. 18, 2014)

Now a serious proposition with real work being done on it, I think solar sails would be a good TOTW to encourage people to take interest in this new field.

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(Used Jan. 19 - Jan. 25, 2014)

We currently have only 16 questions (9, 5, 1, 0 and 1 respectively) tagged in relation to economic exploitation of resources in outer space and celestial bodies. Some of these might need a bit of retagging, since the shows 18 questions, but it still seems a rather small number for a rather significant aspect of space exploration.

There is more to space mining and harvesting for resources than merely a few individual energents, on Earth rare metals, isotopes, and otherwise valuable resources. It will also likely fuel the boon of the commercial / industrial space exploration era, or make national funded enterprises more economically viable, or even at all possible.

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(Used Jan. 05 - Jan. 11, 2014)

The Lunar Landing Training Vehicle was used during the Apollo missions to simulate flying the lunar lander at 1/6th the force of Earth's gravity:

enter image description here

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(Used Jan. 26 - Feb. 01, 2014)

Everything about rendezvous and docking, from procedures to hardware, from Agena target vehicle of the Gemini program through docking of manned and resupply vehicles with the International Space Station to future dual launch mission concepts of NASA's SLS.

Some example questions:

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(Used Feb. 02 - Feb. 08, 2014)

It is only listed with 6 (six) questions as-of-date. Yet it's almost impossible to imagine a space-launch given contemporary technology without some soft-ware/firm-ware/wet-ware ... whatever.

Methinks be worthy of greater ... recognition.

p.s. Shouldn't it be spelt 'soft-ware' rather than 'software'?

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(Used Feb. 09 - Feb. 15, 2014)

From Wikipedia on Propellant depot:

An orbital propellant depot is a cache of propellant that is placed in orbit around Earth or another body to allow spacecraft or the transfer stage of the spacecraft to be fueled in space. Many different depot concepts exist depending on the type of fuel to be supplied or its location. In-space fuel depots are not necessarily located near or at a space station.

Potential users of in-orbit refueling and storage facilities include space agencies, defense ministries and communications satellite or other commercial companies.

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(Used Feb. 23 - Mar. 01, 2014)

There's many wonderful space exploration related museums around the world with fantastic futuristic ideas that never made it, past mission exhibits, space art, e.t.c. and some might even be selling original era memorabilia and collector's items. With the help of questions about individual museums, their exhibits and other activities we could create a collection of posts to serve as a virtual museum of space exploration.

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, (used Mar. 02 - Mar. 08, 2014)

From Wikipedia on Heavy lift launch vehicle:

A Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle, or HLV / HLLV, is an Orbital Launch Vehicle capable of lifting between 20,000 to 50,000kg to LEO. The current Heavy-Lift Launch vehicles in service are the Ariane 5 in its ES variant and the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy.

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(Used Mar. 09 - Mar. 15, 2014)

Space exploration can't be without space-craft. Space-craft, in turn, can't be without design, development, and what not.

Do we have a on what properties lend a metal/composite/whatever to the body of a space-craft? How about what materials/properties the coating on a space-craft must have?

IMHO (feel free to shoot the idea down if it's naïve/obvious) this stack should

  • create a , and
  • depute the tag as ToTW in the near future
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  • $\begingroup$ Aye. I saw |+: just too lazy to edit the question after $\endgroup$ – Everyone Feb 28 '14 at 4:22
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(Used Mar. 16 - Mar. 22, 2014)

Procedures followed or measures taken to ensure safety of individuals, assets, or information.

As important as it sounds, we currently only have 4 questions tagged with it. It should not be confused with , which is a whole new set of topics that defy short and easy definition. In a nutshell though, we could say that assures, or tries to assure . In terms of space exploration, we so far talked of physical and information security:

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(Used Mar. 23 - Mar. 29, 2014)

Asteroid and comet exploration. What missions have successfully landed on an asteroid, comet, or other small body? Comet missions I find more fascinating because of their very eccentric orbits.

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(Used Mar. 30 - Apr. 05, 2014)

SpaceX is a relatively new company to the Aerospace industry, that has one a contract to deliver goods to the International Space Station (CRS). It has two launch vehicles that are under some form of production, the Falcon 9 and the Falcon 9 Heavy.

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, , (Used Apr. 06 - Apr. 12, 2014)

They're all the same field, and I find them pretty fascinating. The maths behind orbiting is so simple on the face of it, but the interactions between bodies in a busy star system are complicated, and finding transfer orbits that efficiently use fuel and time is still a tricky practical problem.

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(Used Apr. 13 - Apr. 19, 2014)

The images that come back from the ISS of the Earth's surface are always extremely fascinating. It allows us to visualize processes that exist on long timescales and over big areas of land. Without the ISS or other remote sensing technologies (probes, for example), it would be very difficult to fathom the scope of these activities. It would be great if we had a week to discuss specific remote-sensing technologies and how they help us determine the probability of a geological active body, presence of water or other liquids, and subsequently life.

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  • $\begingroup$ Not at all! Good addition. $\endgroup$ – Stu Feb 14 '14 at 19:00
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Questions regarding mission or spacecraft plans which are not material, but are only concepts.

We currently have only 5 questions tagged as conceptual but that doesn't seem to be a good representative number of how many questions asking about space exploration conceptual projects and ideas that are still competing for attention (funding, approval, feasibility studies,...) we actually have. For example, certainly falls in this category, and there are other examples, so if this suggestion is selected, we could take this opportunity to add this tag to questions it applies to.

It is also a broad topic, and while I believe that draming big is an important part of development of space technologies and outlining possible missions, I also believe it is important to clearly classify it as such, so they can be considered for what they are - concepts.

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,

I was a bit surprised that we only have a single question tagged as space observatory, but we do have a few other questions about , , , , and so on, so these could use a few additional tags so they're easier to find and score better on search engines. That could be one reason for selecting this as one of our ToTW. For orbiters, we don't even have a specific tag yet, which is also surprising, but is doing quite well with roughly 40 questions. This seems a bit too selective and I suspect some of those could use retagging.

But my main idea is that we often only discuss orbits, trajectories, station-keeping, technical troubles, life-expectancy, and limits of specific space observatories and orbiters, and less so their main purpose, discoveries made and scientific literature their data was used for and help us better understand our solar system and beyond. And there are some absolutely fantastic observatories already deployed (Hubble, Chandra, Kepler, Herschel, Planck, Messenger, Stereo, SDO,...), some that have just now started doing their science or are about to (Gaia, LADEE, Juno,...), and even more fantastic ones that will relatively soon be joining them (Webb, BepiColombo, LISA Pathfinder, Juice,..). Well, soon in complex and expensive space exploration mission terms. Still, let's discuss these more, create new, more specific tags for them, and retag those that could use that.

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