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STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) is the third mission in NASA's Solar Terrestrial Probes Program (STP.) The mission, launded in October 2006, has provided a unique and revolutionary view of the Sun-Earth Sytem. The two nearly identical observatories -one ahead of Earth in its orbit, the other trailing behind- have traced the flow of energy and matter from the Sun to Earth. STEREO has revealed the 3D structure of coronal mass ejections; violent eruptions of matter from the sun that can disrupt satellites and power grids, and help us understand why they happen.
On October 1, 2014, communications with STEREO-B were lost during a test of the spacecraft's command loss timer, a hard reset that is triggered after the spacecraft goes without communications from Earth for 72 hours. The STEREO team was testing this function in preparation for something known as solar conjunction, when STEREO-B's line of sight to Earth -and therefore all communication- was blocked by the sun.
On August 21, 2016, however contact was reestablished. Over 22 months, the STEREO team has worked to attempt contact with the spacecraft. Most recently, they have attempted a monthly recovery operation using NASA's Deep Space Network, or DSN, which tracks and communicates with missions throughout space. The DSN established a lock on the STEREO-B downlink carrier at 6:27 p.m. EDT. The downlink signal was monitored by the mission Operations team over several hours to characterize the attitude of the space craft and then transmitter high voltage was powered down to save battery power. The STEREO-B team will work to get the twin observatories working properly again in the coming weeks and months.
To know the importance of this mission, we would like to direct your attention to the solar storm of 1859 which initially caused beautiful and bright aurorae around the world and then followed by telegraph systems failing all over Europe and North America. In some cases telegraph operators had electric shocks and telegraph pylons threw sparks. Although most solar flares are smaller and not directed toward Earth, but a similar event today, can cause much bigger problems considering our dependence on and our use of technology and would cost about a trillion dollars.
Space weather satellites could give us about half a day to shut down our power stations and technology driven systems, but with both STEREO-A and STEREO-B we can have even up to 3 days to prepare.
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The First Quantum Satellite
On August 16, at 1:40 am, China launched the very first quantum satellite into the space. The Satellite named Micius, after a 5th century BC Chinese scientist/philosopher, is intended to be used to experiment with unhackable quantum communication over long distances.
It's been reported that the satellite is carrying a crystal that would use photons to encode data and encryption keys in quantum particles that are beamed to Earth. Any attempt to intercept or decipher the data will cause the subatomic particles to burst and the authorized ground bases would know immediately of the attempt.
Until now, this type of transmission hasn't exceeded a 300-kilometer range, but scientists hope that transmitting from and through space will solve this difficulty. To be successful in transmitting from space, the satellite will need to be precisely oriented to its receiving stations on Earth. According to the official Xinhua news, using Micius, the scientists also intend to study other properties of sub-atomic particles, including quantum entanglement.
To read more, see pictures, and watch a video of the launch, please visit: