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纽约时报科学新闻:好奇号登火星:人均七美元的大片

  After Safe Landing,Rover Sends Images From Mars

  好奇号登火星:人均七美元的大片

  PASADENA,Calif.—NASA followed up its picture-perfect landing of a plutonium-powered rover Sunday night with a picture of the balletic Mars landing—as well as some well-earned self-congratulation about what the accomplishment says about NASA’s ingenuity.

  加利福尼亚州帕萨迪纳——周日晚上,在其以钚燃料为动力的探测车完美着陆后,美国国家航天航空局(NASA)公布了一张芭蕾舞般优雅的火星着陆照片,同时对这次着陆成功所体现的NASA的创新能力,表达了他们辛苦换来的自我褒奖。

  “There are many out in the community who say NASA has lost its way,that we don’t know how to explore—we’ve lost our moxie,”John M.Grunsfeld,associate administrator for NASA’s science mission directorate,said at a post-landing news conference,where beaming members of the landing team,all clad in blue polo shirts,crammed in next to the reporters.“I want you to look around tonight,at those folks with the blue shirts and think about what we’ve achieved.”

  “很多人说NASA已经迷失了方向,说我们不知道如何探索,还说我们已经失去了勇气,”NASA科学任务指挥署副署长约翰·M·格伦斯菲尔德(John M.Grunsfeld)在探测车着陆后举行的新闻发布会上说。登陆团队成员统一身着蓝色Polo衫,满脸含笑,紧挨着记者,出现在会场上。“今晚我希望你们能朝四周看看,看看那些穿蓝衬衫的工作人员,想想我们取得的成就。”

  That achievement,in the early hours of Monday morning Eastern time,was indeed dramatic:with the eyes of the world watching,the car-size craft called Curiosity was lowered at the end of 25-foot cables from a hovering rocket stage,successfully touching down on a gravelly Martian plain.

  于东部时间周一凌晨取得的这项成就的确激动人心:在世人的注视下,汽车般大小的“好奇”号探测车被用约7.6米长的缆绳从盘旋着的运载火箭上放下,成功地降落在一片满是砾石的火星平原上。

  For the world of science,it was the second slam-dunk this summer—the first one being the announcement last month that the Higgs boson,a long-sought particle theorized by physicists,had likely been found.But while the focus of high-energy physics world has shifted overseas to CERN,the European laboratory,the United States remains the center of the universe for space,ahead of Russia,Europe and China,and for NASA,it was a chance to parry accusations of being slow,bloated and rudderless.

  在科学界,这是今夏的第二项重大成就。第一项是上个月科学家宣布有可能发现了希格斯玻色子(Higgs boson)。希格斯玻色子是物理学家在理论上提出的一种粒子。长期以来,科学家们一直在寻找这种粒子。然而,尽管高能物理学的中心已转移到了欧洲核子研究中心(CERN),美国仍是航天领域的中心,走在俄国、欧洲和中国的前面。对NASA来说,这次成功让它有机会对称其效率低下、骄傲自满以及管理混乱的指责进行反驳。

  “If anybody has been harboring doubts about the status of U.S.leadership in space,”John P.Holdren,the president’s science adviser,said at the news conference,“well,there’s a one-ton automobile-size piece of American ingenuity.And it’s sitting on the surface of Mars right now.”

  “如果还有人质疑美国在航天领域的领先地位,”美国总统的科学顾问约翰·P·霍德伦(John P.Holdren)在新闻发布会上说道,“那么,我们美国有一台重达一顿、同汽车一般大小的创造发明,现在,正停在火星表面。”

  Now that it has reached Mars,Curiosity ushers in a new era of exploration that could turn up evidence that the Red Planet once had the necessary ingredients for life—or might even still harbor life today.Far larger than earlier rovers,Curiosity is packed with the most sophisticated movable laboratory that has ever been sent to another planet.It is to spend at least two years examining rocks within the 96-mile crater it landed in,looking for carbon-based molecules and other evidence that early Mars had conditions friendly for life. 纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com

  在火星着陆的“好奇”号开辟了一个全新的探索时代。它的探索可能发现火星曾有过生命的必备条件——甚至现在仍有生命体存在——的证据。“好奇”号的体积比以前的探测车大得多,配有一个可移动实验室,是被送往其他星星的所有实验室中最精密的一台。“好奇”号将用至少两年时间对一个约155公里大小陨石坑内的岩石进行检测,寻找碳基分子和能证明早期火星曾有过适合生命生存的环境的证据。“好奇”号就是在这个陨石坑着陆的。

  Only one other country,the Soviet Union,has successfully landed anything on Mars,and that spacecraft,Mars 3 in 1971,fell silent shortly after landing.So far,this rover appears to be healthy.

  除美国外只有苏联曾向火星成功发射过探测器。1971年,苏联发射的“火星3号”探测器在登陆火星不久后就不动了。目前为止,“好奇”号看起来运行良好。

  “What’s amazing about it is the miracle of this engineering,”said John P.Grotzinger,the project scientist.

  “令人惊叹的是这项工程奇迹,”参与此次项目的科学家约翰·P·格勒青格(John P.Grotzinger)说。

  As the spacecraft sped toward its destination on Sunday,the pull of Mars’s gravity accelerating it to more than 13,000 miles per hour,officials tried to tamp down concerns that a crash would entirely derail future plans.

  周日,当飞行器加速驶向目的地时,火星引力产生的牵引使其飞行时速增至约2.1万公里。NASA官员曾试图平息有关飞行器失事将彻底破坏未来的计划的担忧。

  “A failure is a setback,”said Doug McCuistion,the Mars exploration program director.“It’s not a disaster.”

  “失败是一种挫折,”火星探测项目负责人道格·麦克奎斯逊(Doug McCuistion)说,“但不是灾难。”

  The Curiosity landing seemed particularly risky.Engineers chose not to use the tried-and-true systems used in the six previous successful landings,neither the landing legs of the Viking missions in 1976 nor the cocoons of air bags that cushioned the two rovers that NASA placed on Mars in 2004.Those approaches,they said,would not work for a one-ton vehicle.

  “好奇”号的着陆看起来非常有风险。工程师们决定不使用经过此前六次成功登陆检验的系统,也没有使用在1976年的海盗号任务(Viking missions)中使用过的着陆支架。2004年,NASA向火星发射了两个探测车,当时为了缓冲,使用了气囊包裹。这次发射也没有使用这种气囊包裹。

  Instead,for the final landing step,they came up with what they called the sky crane maneuver.The rover would be gently winched to the surface from a hovering rocket stage.

  在最后的着陆阶段,他们使用了天空吊车策略。探测车会被从盘旋着的运载火箭上轻轻地吊到火星表面。

    蛐蛐英语 www.qqenglish.com

  As the drama of the landing unfolded,each step proceeded without flaw.The capsule entered the atmosphere at the appointed time,with thrusters guiding it toward the crater.The parachute deployed.Then the rover and rocket stage dropped away from the parachute and began a powered descent toward the surface,and the sky crane maneuver worked as designed.

  随着着陆的开始,每一步都进行得完美无瑕。运载舱在预定的时间进入大气层,推进器将其引向陨石坑。降落伞打开。随后,探测车和运载火箭脱离降落伞,开始向火星表面作有动力下降,天空吊车动作完全按照预先设计完成了。

  “Touchdown confirmed,”Allen Chen,an engineer in the control room here,said at 10:32 p.m.Sunday.“We’re safe on Mars.”The room erupted with cheers,hugs,handshakes and high-fives.

  “确认着陆,”控制室里的工程师艾伦·陈(Allen Chen)于周日上午10点32分宣布。“我们安全抵达火星了。”屋子里的人们欢呼起来,工作人员纷纷拥抱、握手和击掌庆祝。

  Two minutes later,the first image popped onto video screens—a grainy,64-pixel-by-64-pixel black-and-white image that showed one of the rover’s wheels and the Martian horizon.A few minutes later,a clearer version appeared,then an image from the other side of the rover.

  两分钟后,显示器上出现了第一张画面,那是一张微粒状的64×64像素黑白画面,显示的是探测车的轮子和火星的地平线。又过了几分钟,图像更清晰了,后来又出现了一张探测车另一面的照片。

  “That’s the shadow of the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars,”Robert Manning,the chief engineer for the project,gushed.

  “那是‘好奇’号在火星表面的阴影,”此次项目的总工程师罗伯特·曼宁(Robert Manning)脱口而出。

  More photos followed.One image showed the rover’s destination,a three-mile-high mound at the center of the crater informally known as Mount Sharp.

  更多照片被传了回来。其中一张显示的是探测车的目的地。那是位于陨石坑中心的一座约4.8千米高的山。非正式的名字叫夏普山(Mount Sharp)。

  NASA also released a series of photographs that the rover snapped as it descended,showing the heat shield falling away and later a plume of dust kicked up by the rocket engines.

  NASA还公布了探测车在降落过程中拍摄到的一系列照片。这些照片显示了防热罩脱离探测车,以及火箭发动机扬起的灰尘。

  Over the first week,Curiosity is to deploy its main antenna,raise a mast containing cameras,a rock-vaporizing laser and other instruments,and take its first panoramic shot of its surroundings.NASA will spend the first weeks checking out Curiosity before embarking on the first drive.

  在第一周,“好奇”号将打开它的主天线,树起一根装有多台摄像机、一台岩石蒸发激光器以及其他仪器的杆,并对其周围环境进行第一次全方位拍摄。在开始进行首次行驶之前,NASA将把起初的几周时间由于对“好奇”号的检测。

  The successful landing helps wash away the mission’s troubled beginnings.Originally it was to cost$1.6 billion and was scheduled to launch in fall 2009,but technical hurdles and cost overruns led NASA to wait more than two years for the next time that Mars and Earth lined up in the proper positions.The project’s cost will now be$2.5 billion.

  成功着陆帮助人们忘记了这个项目困难重重的起步阶段。起初,项目成本为16亿美元,计划的发射时间是2009年秋天。但后来,技术障碍和成本超支使NASA多等了两年,才等到火星和地球再次进入合适的相对位置。现在,这个项目的花费是25亿美元。

  Charles Elachi,director of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory,which operates Curiosity and many other planetary missions,said it was well worth the money and compared the night’s exhilaration to an adventure movie.

  执行了“好奇”号和很多其他行星任务的NASA喷气推进实验室(Jet Propulsion Laboratory)主任查尔斯·叶拉奇(Charles Elachi)说,这些钱花得值,并将当晚的狂喜比作是看了一部冒险大片。

  “This movie cost you less than seven bucks per American citizen,and look at the excitement we got,”Dr.Elachi exulted.

  “这部影片的成本平均到每个美国人不足七美元,但看看我们从中获得的兴奋,”叶拉奇博士欣喜地说道。

  Even at the late hour,NASA’s Web sites collapsed as throngs of people across the Internet tried to look at the new Mars photos.

  甚至到了很晚的时候,因为大量网络用户试图浏览最新的火星照片,仍然导致了NASA的网站瘫痪。

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