NASA has wanted to get a better look at its space shuttle landings ever since the tragic disintegration of space shuttle Columbia in 2003. Part of the space agency's solution: a modified Navy aircraft that can take 10,000 to 15,000 images of space shuttles traveling at a few miles per second.
Space shuttles have about 10,000 thermal tiles that protect their underbelly and wings during the white-hot descent from orbit. A protective layer of air molecules forms around the shuttle with temperatures up to 3,000 degrees F -- still mild compared to temperatures of more than 9,900 degrees F beyond the boundary layer.
The Navy P-3 Orion aircraft uses a system called Cast Glance that's normally deployed for missile defense missions. NASA added an off-the-shelf camera with an infrared light filter, and calibrated Cast Glance optical sensors so that scientists could gauge surface temperatures on the shuttle. All the action gets captured from a standoff distance of nearly 19 miles away.
Researchers working on the Hypersonic Thermodynamic InfraRed Measurements (HYTHIRM) project have imaged three shuttle flights so far, including the latest pictures from the landing of the space shuttle Discovery. They hope to collect more diagnostic data from the six remaining shuttle flights scheduled for now.
[via Technology Review]
This great photography but the Orion will not get much use out of these pictures. I guess we can sell piloted reentry technology to the Chinese to help eleviate the National debt. That is unless they have already gotten it through espionage.
true especially since we are scrapping the shuttle programming(2010) and replacing it with a with the archaic orion program(2014) and relying on Russians to supply the ISS for a few years...talk about going backwards in time not forward stupid stupid nasa. this is why civilian and private space travel should step up.
The shuttles may get an extension to keep the ISS running, I suppose we'll find out in the upcoming months. It's not totally Nasa's fault. If they had more money, they'd probably have less problems; with their budget always getting cut, and projects being canceled, they don't have much to work with. And of course then there's Congress, which wanted those stupid shuttles because they thought it would be cheaper. We had designs for the new Orion back in the 80s, or even as early as the late 70's, but of course we went the route of the shuttle, because it was cheaper. Everything is about money. Space exploration shouldn't be about money, but it is, that and politics. The private sector will most likely be the ones heading to Mars and beyond, because they're the ones with all the money. I'm sure if another country is close to traveling to Mars, the U.S. government/military will step in and will pour loads of money and resources into beating the country, since the U.S. has to be the first to do everything, like the Space Race of the 60's. I'm happy that many countries around the world are participating in the space program, because it has to be a global effort for humanity to do anything. Having the U.S. alone participate in sending people to Mars or beyond isn't logical, won't work. The more countries involved, more money, more resources, more man power, more scientists, more engineers, etc = success. Perhaps once the U.S. economy get's better, then we can focus more on space travel and exploration.