NASA scientists said we have not yet fully achieved this, but a lot of progress will eventually be made to make humans an interplanetary species. As the day when humans launch a manned mission to Mars for the first time approaches, researchers continue to develop and refine key technologies to minimize the risks associated with space missions. One of these basic technologies is NASA’s space atomic clock, which should provide a GPS-like navigation system for spacecraft.
Robots or manned spacecraft currently need to communicate with ground systems to determine their position in space. The time required to transmit this information over long distances in space will delay the confirmation of the spacecraft’s position and trajectory. Since the launch of DSAC in 2019, NASA has been working hard to improve its stability so that it can navigate offline more effectively.
In a new article published in the journal Nature, NASA reported on the progress made in this regard, and pointed out that the mission team has created a new record for the long-term stability of the space atomic clock and the current stability of the space atomic clock by more than ten times. One of the main goals of the DSAC mission is to measure the stability of the clock over time to understand how it changes.
In a new document, the team noted that the stability achieved after more than 20 days of work is reflected in a temporary deviation of less than 4 nanoseconds. In order to put this in perspective, modern atomic clocks on GPS satellites orbiting the earth must be adjusted at least twice a day to resolve the natural drift of the earth’s atomic clock.
The stability and time lag reported in the document is approximately five times those reported in 2020; however, it is worth noting that this does not mean that the clock itself will perform better, it just means that researchers can measure drift more accurately. The collection of data throughout the year (DSAC mission started in June 2019) allows researchers to increase this number accurately.
The DSAC mission is scheduled to end in August, but NASA has announced that with the launch of Deep Space Atomic Clock 2, technological improvements will continue. Deep Space Atomic Clock 2 is an improved version of the current DSAC and will be particularly suitable for use on ships. The VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy) mission will head to Venus at the end of the century.