Archive for navigation

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Navigation in the Asteroid Belt

Navigation requires time and position data and the ability to calculate and plot a course. Historically, we have used “fixed” points like stars and buoys and beacons and landmarks and we plotted courses to fixed destinations. More recently we have learned to use a network of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites. The satellites move constantly […]

Deflecting an Asteroid Threat

Movies like to portray the ultimate defense against an asteroid threatening life on planet Earth as a nuclear weapon tipped missile. This makes little sense. We think of our Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) as being long range because they are compared to most of our other weapon systems. But in the sense of interplanetary […]

0800 – astrolabe

The astrolabe is an astronomical calculator used to solve problems related to the position of the Sun and the stars in the sky. It enables an accurate estimation of the position of the astrolabe on the surface of the Earth by creating a flat projection map of astronomical objects. The principles of mathematics and astronomy […]

-0200 – magnetic compass

The first magnetic compasses were made and used in China around -200. They were probably simple objects made from magnetic lodestone which were crafted so they could turn to orient themselves in a magnetic field. They were used as “devining” tools to reveal hidden knowledge through rituals. Around 700, Chinese inventors began using magnetized needles […]

Navigation: Clocks and Compasses

The history of navigation tools is about clocks, compasses and sextants. Navigating requires knowledge about where you are and where you want to go. Early navigation probably involved short, local trips, where there was no need to know your precise location and only a direction was needed to aim for some destination. This could be […]

Space Vehicles

Space vehicles that are designed primarily for space travel alone will be unlike craft that are designed for navigating in an atmosphere. There is no need to consider aerodynamics in space or stress related to strong gravitational fields. Instead, they need to have strong hull integrity and if they are designed to rotate to create […]


How will navigation be accomplished in space well beyond Earth? This subject area will probably be under a state of transition for some time as humankind expands outward across the solar systema and eventually beyond. A navigational grid is part of the system and it will need to have a “zero” orientation similar to the […]