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Space Technology


Helpful Links:
Information on space technology that NASA is currently using:
Info on reflecting and refracting telescopes:
Info on radio telescopes:
Info on spacecraft:
Info on space shuttles:



Refracting Telescope:

refracting telescope
How does it work?
Light from an object passes through a double convex objective lens and is bent to form an image on the focal point.  The image is then magnified by the eyepiece.  Refracting telescopes are very durable and resistant to misalignment.  Refracting telescopes have a few problems.  Images are not always clear because the light is being bent (distorted).  The size of the lens is limited (which limits the power of the telescope).  And refracting telescopes cannot see through bad weather.


Reflecting Telescope:

relflecting telescope
How does it work?
Uses a mirror as an objective to focus light from the object being viewed.  Light passes through the open end of a reflecting telescope and strikes a concave mirror at its base.  The light is then reflected to the focal point to form an image.  Reflecting telescopes produce clear images. They are very helpful for viewing dim or dark objects.  They are less expensive to produce. Large reflecting telescopes can see objects that are a millionth or a billionth the brightness of the faintest star that can be seen by the human eye alone!  Examples include the twin Keck reflecting telescopes on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the Hubble Space Telescope orbiting Earth.

Radio Telescopes

radio telescope

How does it work?
A type of telescope that uses a large curved dish to collect and record radio waves traveling through space.  Because radio waves pass freely through Earth’s atmosphere, a radio telescope can be used during the day or night and during bad weather.  There are no major disadvantages to using radio telescopes.

Space Craft

Artificial Satellites

artificial satellite

Description of the space craft:
Any human-made object that revolves around another object.  A combination of the satellite’s forward motion and the gravitational attraction of Earth causes a satellite to travel in a curved path, called an orbit.   Most artificial satellites are unmanned, however, the international space station is an artificial satellite where astronauts live and work in outer space.  Artificial satellites are non-reusable because they are not returned to earth and put back into orbit multiple times.

Space Probes

space probe

Description of the space craft:
A space probe is an instrument that gathers information and sends the data back to Earth.  Unlike satellites that orbit earth, space probes travel far into the solar system.  Some have even traveled out of the solar system.  Space probes carry cameras and other data-gathering equipment, as well as radio transmitters and receivers that allow them to communicate with scientists on Earth.  Space probes are unmanned so they can travel to places humans cannot go.  Space probes, while designed to last a very long time, are non-reusable.  Examples include Mariner 2 launched in 1962 to verify high temperatures in Venus’s atmosphere, and Pioneer 10 launched in 1972 to observe Jupiter and send back photos.

Space Shuttle

space_shuttle_launchspace shuttle

Description of the space craft:
A reusable spacecraft that transports astronauts satellites, and other materials to and from space.  At launch, the space shuttle stands vertically and is connected to an external liquid-fuel tank and two solid-fuel booster rockets.  When the shuttle reaches an altitude of about 45km, the empty solid-fuel booster rockets drop off and parachute back to Earth.  They are recovered and used again.  The liquid-fuel tank also falls back to earth, but isn’t recovered.

Once the space shuttle reaches space, it begins to orbit Earth.  There, astronauts perform many different tasks.  The cargo bay can carry a self-contained laboratory, where astronauts conduct scientific experiments and determine the effects of space flight on the human body.  On missions in which the cargo bay isn’t used as a lab, the shuttle can launch, repair, and retrieve satellites.  After each mission is completed, the space shuttle glides back to Earth and lands like an airplane.  The space shuttle is no longer in commission by NASA.

Space Station

space station

Description of the space craft:
Large artificial satellite that provides support systems, living quarters, and equipment so that humans can live and work in space and conduct research not possible on EarthThe International Space Station, for example, is a permanent laboratory designed for use in long-term research.  Click here to watch a tour of the International Space Station.


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