Future Space Travelers May Follow Cosmic Lighthouses

An image of NICER on the exterior of the space station with one of the station’s solar panels in the background. (Credits: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — For centuries, lighthouses helped sailors navigate safely into harbor. Their lights swept across the water, cutting through fog and darkness, guiding mariners around dangerous obstacles and keeping them on the right path. In the future, space explorers may receive similar guidance from the steady signals created by pulsars.

Scientists and engineers are using the International Space Station to develop pulsar-based navigation using these cosmic lighthouses to assist with wayfinding on trips to the Moon under NASA’s Artemis  program and on future human missions to Mars.

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NASA Team First to Demonstrate X-ray Navigation in Space

This illustration shows the NICER mission at work aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — In a technology first, a team of NASA engineers has demonstrated fully autonomous X-ray navigation in space — a capability that could revolutionize NASA’s ability in the future to pilot robotic spacecraft to the far reaches of the solar system and beyond.

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