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冥王星之旅-探索的边界 – 译学馆
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冥王星之旅-探索的边界

The journey to Pluto, the farthest world ever explored - Alan Stern

“作为行星科学家 我不知道还能怎么形容冥王星:它又大又圆有数千英里宽”新视野号太空任务 首席研究员Alan•Stern
.
2015年7月4日
On July 4, 2015,
美国家航空航天局一艘名为“新视野”的太空船
a NASA spacecraft called New Horizons
距离地球五十亿公里
was 5 billion kilometers away from Earth.
在它突然失去联系时
It was only 10 days away from Pluto,
已经飞行了九年半的时间
after flying for 9.5 years,
距冥王星只有10天的路程
when it suddenly dropped out of contact.
但是我们稍微回顾一下
But let’s back up a little.
截至1989年
As of 1989,
人类已经成功地将飞船送到了
mankind had successfully sent craft to
太阳系中 除冥王星之外每个已知的行星上
every known planet in the solar system except one—Pluto.
你可能听说过 天文学家们并不认为冥王星
You may have heard that astronomersdon’t consider Pluto
及其伴星属于行星类
or its brethren to be planets.
然而 绝大多数行星科学家仍这样认为
However, most planetary scientists still do,
这就是我们此处用“行星”一词的原因
which is why we’re usingthat terminology here.
我们从地球上了解到的冥王星的知识有限
There’s a limited amountwe can learn about Pluto from Earth
因为它离我们太远了
because it’s so far from us.
然而 冥王星是一个科学界的金矿
Pluto, however, is a scientific goldmine.
它位于一个叫做柯伊伯带的区域
It’s located in a region called the Kuiper Belt,
那里有许多小行星
home to many small planets,
有成千上万的古代冰冷天体
hundreds of thousands of ancient icy objects,
还有数万亿的彗星
and trillions of comets.
这个神秘的区域存在
This mysterious region holds clues to the formation
太阳系形成的线索
of our solar system,
它很长很长 遥不可及
and it was long,tantalizingly beyond our reach.
直到新视野号的出现
Until New Horizons.
它的任务是探索冥王星
Its objectives: explore Pluto,
收集尽可能多的科学数据
collect as much scientificdata as possible,
把它传送回地球
transmit it back to Earth,
然后再近一步探索柯伊伯带
then explore farther out in the Kuiper Belt.
为实现这一目标新视野号团队为他们的飞船配备了
To achieve this, the New Horizons teamoutfitted their craft
七种最先进的科学仪器
with seven state-of-the-artscientific instruments.
其中包括Ralph:一套功能强大的摄像机
Those included Ralph, a set of cameras
可以从数万公里外拍摄到曼哈顿
powerful enough to capture features the size of city blocks in Manhattan
城市街区的大小及特点
from tens of thousands of kilometers away.
还有REX:用无线电波
And REX, designed to use radio waves
测量冥王星的大气压和温度
to measure Pluto’s atmospheric pressureand temperature.
所有太空船上的设备都必须
All of the onboard equipment had
制造得既可靠又轻便
to be built to be both reliable and lightweight
因为新视野号还有一项额外的挑战:
because New Horizons had anadditional challenge;
它必须以最快的速度到达目的地
it had to reach its target as fast as possible.
为什么呢?
Why?
大约在2020年 冥王星会在其轨道上运行到一处
Around 2020, Pluto will reacha point in its orbit
大气可能会凝结的地方
where its atmosphere could freeze.
并且由于中轴的倾斜度
And due to the tilt of its axis,
冥王星表面每年都会有越来越多的部分笼罩在黑暗中
more and more of Pluto’s surface is shrouded in darkness every year.
每248个地球年冥王星才能完成一次完整的轨道运行
Pluto completes a full orbit once every 248 Earth years,
所以下次访问的最佳机会 会经历漫长的等待
so it would be a long wait for the next prime opportunity to visit.
为看到新视野号是如何及时赶到冥王星的
To see how New Horizons got to Pluto in time,
我们直接跳到发射的部分
let’s jump to its launch.
它的三个火箭传送阶段 将新视野号的速度加快到
Its three rocket stages acceleratedNew Horizons to such great speeds
仅用9小时就越过40万公里飞到月球
that it crossed the 400,000 kilometers to the moon in just nine hours.
大约一年后 这艘飞船到达了木星
About a year later,the craft reached Jupiter
并得到了引力辅助
and got what’s called a gravity assist.
就是说 它要飞到离这个气体巨星足够近的地方
That’s where it flies close enough to the gas giant
去获取引力弹弓效应
to receive a gravitational slingshot effect.
之后 新视野号以每小时约50,000公里的速度飞行
New Horizons was then flyingat around 50,000 kilometers per hour,
并以同样的速度飞行八年
as it would for the next eight years
穿越无尽的深渊到达冥王星
to cross the remaining gulf to Pluto.
以如此惊人的速度飞行
Going at such an astonishing speed
意味着放慢速度进入轨道或着陆
meant that slowing down to get into orbit or land
是不可能的
would’ve been impossible.
这就是为什么说 新视野号执行的是一次飞越任务
That’s why New Horizons was on a flyby mission,
它只有一次机会扫过
where it would get just one chance to screen
冥王星并进行观测
by Pluto and make its observations.
这次飞行必须完全自动化
The flyby would have to be fully automated,
因为在那种距离 任何从地球发出的引导信号
since at that distance, any signalsto guide it from Earth
都需要四个半小时才能到达
would take 4.5 hours to reach it.
因此 该团队为飞船的计算机
So the team loaded the ship’s computer
装载了一系列数千条指令
with a series of thousands of commands,
称之为核心装载
called the core load,
那些指令会在飞船距冥王星六天半的距离时开始执行
that would begin to execute when the craft was 6.5 days from Pluto.
可是 当新视野号离它只有十天的距离时
But when New Horizonswas just ten days out,
灾难几乎降临
disaster almost struck.
地面控制失去了与太空船的联系
Ground control lost contact with the spacecraft.
历经令人几近崩溃的两小时后
After two nerve-wracking hours,
新视野号重新上线
New Horizons came back online.
但任务控制人员发现其主计算机已重新启动
but mission control discoveredthat its main computer had rebooted,
丢失了整个核心装载和其他关键数据
losing the entire core load and other critical data.
没有它们 飞船会很快闪过冥王星
Without that, it would soon whizz by Pluto
这项任务就会无功而返
with virtually nothing to show for the mission.
任务的运营经理Alice Bowman
Alice Bowman, the mission’s Operations Manager,
带领团队连续工作72小时未合眼
led a team for 72 sleepless hoursto get the instructions
及时将指令加载回新视野号
loaded back into New Horizons in time.
没有丝毫犯错的余地
Without room for a single error,
她和她的团队使飞船重新恢复了正常
she and her team pulled it off,
新视野号开始拍摄并播放令人惊叹的图片
and New Horizons began takingand broadcasting breathtaking images.
这些观测结果呈现了一个令人愉悦的多样化世界
Those observations have revealeda delightfully varied world,
有地面雾 高海拔雾霾
with ground fogs, high altitude hazes,
可能存在的云 峡谷
possible clouds, canyons,
高耸的山脉 断层 陨石坑
towering mountains, faults, craters,
极地冰河地带 冰川 明显的沙丘地
polar caps, glaciers, apparent dune fields,
疑似的冰火山
suspected ice volcanoes,
还有过去留下的液体流动的证据等等
evidence for past flowing liquids, and more.
其中一个最令人兴奋的发现是
One of the most exciting discoveries
1000公里宽的史波尼克冰川
is the 1000-kilometre-wide Sputnik Planitia glacier.
它主要由缓慢搅动的冷冻氮气组成
Sputnik Planitia is mainly composedof slowly churning frozen nitrogen,
以前我们在太阳系从未见过类似的东西
and we’ve never seen anythinglike it in our solar system.
冥王星的探索取得了巨大成功
The exploration of Pluto was a great success,
但新视野号的任务还没结束
but New Horizons isn’t done yet.
2019年1月1日
On January 1, 2019,
它会打破自己探索最远天体的记录
it’ll break its own record forfurthest explored object
去探测柯伊伯带中 一个叫2014 MU69的天体
when it visits a Kuiper Belt Object called 2014 MU69,
它正在比冥王星更远的十亿公里处围绕着太阳运行
which is orbiting the sun another billion kilometers farther away than Pluto.
全世界都在屏住呼吸看看它会在那里发现什么
The world is holding its breath to see what it’ll find there.
本节课的作者Alan Stern博士
The author of this lesson, Dr. Alan Stern
是一位行星科学家和新视野号任务的领导者
is a planetary scientist and leader of the New Horizons mission.
他工作了二十多年
He worked for over twenty years
带领着一个数百人的团队
leading a team of hundreds
去完成这项令人难以置信的勘探任务
to accomplish this incredible act of exploration.
想了解完整的故事
For the full story,
我们强烈推荐Alan的著作:
we highly recommend Alan’s book,
《追逐新视野号—-首次探索冥王星的艰辛历程》
Chasing New Horizons — The Epic First Mission to Pluto.
此书与行星科学家David Grinspoon合著
co-authored with planetary scientist, David Grinspoon.

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了解NASA新视野号太空飞船探索冥王星的大概内容

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