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Tragic triana
January 6, 2006 8:55 PM   Subscribe

Bob Park mourns Triana in his "What's New" newletter: NASA has quietly terminated what may have been its most important science mission. Critics of programs to limit emissions argue that climate change is caused by solar variation, not by atmospheric changes. There is one unambiguous way to tell: locate an observatory at L-1, the neutral-gravity point between Earth and Sun. It would have a continuous view of the sunlit face of Earth in one direction, and the Sun in the other, thus constantly monitoring Earth's albedo. Originally called Triana, the Deep Space Climate Observatory has already been built and is sitting in storage.
posted by 445supermag (23 comments total)

 
If it's already built, what sort of effort/cash would it take to put it at L1 privately?
posted by thecjm at 9:00 PM on January 6, 2006


L1 is already in use.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:12 PM on January 6, 2006


Well, can't disprove the solar variations theory of climate change if you can't monitor solar variationss, now can you?
posted by ilsa at 9:22 PM on January 6, 2006


Launch costs in the industry are around $10,000 per 1kg, and Triana is about 3600kg, so thats $36M. For comparison, a Shuttle mission costs around $500M.

It would be possible if you could secure the DSCO from NASA and pay someone like SeaLaunch to launch it into oribt. The craft should have its own propellant to move itself from orbit into the transfer orbit to get to L1.
posted by SirOmega at 9:28 PM on January 6, 2006


  1. Peel an orange but leave most of the white sticky layer on it
  2. shine a strong light at the orange
  3. measure the albedo of the albedo
I learned a new word.
posted by jouke at 9:31 PM on January 6, 2006


So we finally find something useful to do with the space program, and we don't do it? Geh. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for exploration and studying the effects of zero gravity and whatnot, but this is something we can't really know without going into space, right? Isn't this the type of thing NASA is for?
posted by es_de_bah at 9:36 PM on January 6, 2006


L1 is already in use.

It doesnt really matter. Thats like saying Earth's orbit is already in use.
posted by vacapinta at 9:41 PM on January 6, 2006


Steven, the merits of this satellite aside, there's no reason that more than one satellite can't share L1. Most LaGrange points attract numerous asteroids. The entire vicinity is quite economical for station-keeping operations.

What's interesting is that for an empty point, it can be treated something like a body around which a device can orbit.

It's gonna be expensive to get it to L1, though. It won't just need to get to orbit, it will need its own booster once it gets there. Such devices are no longer taken up on Shuttle (in fact, Shuttle won't be delivering any more commercial or military satellites, period), so that isn't an issue. But it needs a Titan IV or something.

The commercial launch industry, to date, has largely focused on geosynchronous orbit at most. I don't think there's been a single commercial launch to interplanetary space at this point.

Regardless, the impetus behind Triana was primarily political, not scientific; I'd have to be convinced that the scientific benefits were unique and necessary. There are other things that need funding, too.
posted by dhartung at 9:43 PM on January 6, 2006


It doesnt really matter. Thats like saying Earth's orbit is already in use.

Huh? If someone claimed a scientific controversy could be settled if we'd just try looking at it from a location on Earth's orbit, pointing that out that we've done so would be a perfectly valid response.

This is a shit post to one poorly-sourced paragraph and one ambiguous and uninformative paragraph.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:49 PM on January 6, 2006


...pointing that out that we've done so would be a perfectly valid response.

I dont understand. The Soho satellite is not equipped to make these observations. I was just making the point that dhartung made about there being no reason we cant put many satellites around L1.
posted by vacapinta at 9:58 PM on January 6, 2006


This is a shit post to one poorly-sourced paragraph
Well, NASA isn't helping with the sourcing.
Oh, and here's a witty rejoiner: fuck you.
posted by 445supermag at 9:58 PM on January 6, 2006


Most LaGrange points attract numerous asteroids.

And they collide occasionally, too. When it comes to asteroids, that's not a problem. But collisions between satellites is pretty serious.

Anyway, when it comes to L4 and L5, it isn't a problem anyway because objects will spontaneously orbit the L4 and L5 points.

However, they don't spontaneously orbit L1, L2 or L3; those are different. Keeping two objects in any of those without collision is more complicated.

In fact, keeping one object in any of those positions is complicated enough. SOHO has a navigation team whose job it is to keep it in place.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:58 PM on January 6, 2006


SOHO has a navigation team whose job it is to keep it in place.

One would expect a similar team for the albedo mission, and some sort of communication process, including perhaps the requisition of instant telecommunication technologies like telephones and email, to coordinate such orbit-keeping. I mean, this ain't rocket-science.
oh wait
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:05 PM on January 6, 2006


I dont understand. The Soho satellite is not equipped to make these observations.

There's nothing in any of the links that says, specifically, what observations Triana was equipped to make. The 'What's New' page only talks about what could, theoretically, be observed from the L-1 point. If, however, you're saying that SOHO can't observe the Earth, it looks like you're correct.

Interestingly, most of the news articles and House transcripts regarding Triana I've skimmed in the past few minutes make no mention of studying climate change. Instead, they talk about how cool it would be to have a live feed of the Earth from space and how that would raise environmental consciousness. If that's how it was sold to the legislature, no wonder they killed it.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:10 PM on January 6, 2006


oh, btw, SDB... welcome back to mefi. I am in awe of your corpus, though unfortunately I tend to gravitate more toward the "SSDB" versions to maintain my sanity.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:10 PM on January 6, 2006


Oh, and here's a witty rejoiner: fuck you.

You mean 'rejoinder.' Calm down, I like space posts; I wish this one had had more meat to it, but there doesn't seem to be much of substance on the web regarding Triana. Oh, well. (And since fucking when does NASA get to just yank pages off the Net? Just leave it up and let the links die like any other self-respecting government site administrator.)
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:15 PM on January 6, 2006


A NASA Paper on TRIANA from '99, of a more scientific bent.
posted by 445supermag at 10:20 PM on January 6, 2006


Instead, they talk about how cool it would be to have a live feed of the Earth from space and how that would raise environmental consciousness. If that's how it was sold to the legislature, no wonder they killed it.

I agree. Going into this post I felt mild outrage. Now, I'm not so sure i wouldnt have voted to kill it myself.
posted by vacapinta at 10:22 PM on January 6, 2006


L1 is already in use.

So is the geosynchrous orbit, which means there's only one sat up there, right?

SOHO isn't at L1 (and TRIANA wouldn't have been either.) SOHO orbits the L1 point. Staying exactly on L1 (or for that matter, L2 and L3) is very difficult -- the stability is only in the plane of the orbits of the two main masses.

If you imagine the gravitational effects as a topo map, L1, L2 and L3 are peaks -- once you fall off them, you'd roll down the hill. L4 and L5 are troughs, once you get into them, you need to work to leave. If the ratio between the two main masses is high enough (~24.5:1, IIRC) then L4 and L5 are very stable points -- which is why the Sol:Juipter L4/L5 points have gathered the Trojan asteroids.

So, SOHO orbits 90 degrees to the earth-sun plane, with one focus of the orbit at L1. There's plenty of room in these sorts of orbits for more observatories.

The unstability of the L1-L2 points resulted in a very surprising effect, once we had enough computing power to figure the orbits out. An object precisely at one of these points is effectivly at the top of a gravitational hill. If you nudge it just right, it can go just about anywhere. So, you end up with a series of very complex orbits that can reach anywhere in the solar system with very little thrust. So, both L1 and L2 are really onramps to the interplanetary superhighway -- if you have enough Δv to get to L2, plus a tiny bit more, you can reach almost anywhere in the Solar System. However, they're not exactly fast.
posted by eriko at 7:27 AM on January 7, 2006


It doesn't make any sense at all that this couldn't be done with a multitude of lower satellites keeping an eye on the sunlit portions of the earth, while the sun itself could be monitored by an earth-based network of solar observatories, that I'm sure already exist.

In other words, this posts sounds like something a bunch of global-warming deniers came up with as an excuse to cast more doubt on the anthropogenic climate change theory. That is why it's a crap post. Bob Park's personal blog isn't the best source on this.

While such a device would be cool, given today's technology I just don't see how it could get any information that we couldn't otherwise get.
posted by delmoi at 7:51 AM on January 7, 2006


In other words this sounds like a "Wahhh, the government won't spend money to disprove our crazy psycho theory that contradicts the commonly accepted view of climate theory, which we disapprove of!!!" .
posted by delmoi at 8:03 AM on January 7, 2006


Triana is a viable and valuable scientific experiment that could give near-conclusive data on the actual effects of solar radiation on the atmosphere, and that's just one of it's capabilities. Two friends of mine have been working on this for years, their entire graduate lives, and they are in complete agreement with Bob Park on the reasons the launch of Triana has been repeatedly killed in Congress.

Just because the original post didn't include a link to the scientific paper 445supermag included later doesn't mean this isn't something worthwhile, interesting, or tragic.

There's a lot of papers, hard technical [PDF] information, government documents, and research available on Triana. It isn't difficult to find.

[rant] If you read MeFi for the posts and comments, you're not much better off than staring at a television screen. If you're not willing to take the extra step of doing a little research to get more sources, learning some new ideas, or challenging your own opinions, go watch something "fair and balanced" and let the rest of us do it for ourselves without interference from your entrenched ignorance.[/rant]
posted by Revvy at 12:32 PM on January 7, 2006


Revvy: Hear hear!
posted by JHarris at 5:33 AM on January 8, 2006


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