Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Europa Visitor

I've been getting over an illness and haven't had much energy the last week or so, but over the last few nights, I did manage finish my 365 Days of Astronomy podcast for April 14, "Exploring Space with Your Computer" (it's due by March 14, but because of upcoming travel and other issues, I needed to get it done early). I really like how it came out. I wrote six short pieces of instrumental background music to set the mood for the different "scenes" in the podcast, and I used SONAR to record and mix the narration, special effects, and music into a small "radio play." It's almost 8 minutes long.

About half of the podcast involves Orbiter, and the opening scene (orbiting Europa) has gotten me interested in reviewing my space navigation skills, which are quite rusty. Not that anyone would know this from the podcast, but it bugs me when I can't manage a simple task like transferring from an orbit around Europa to Callisto using IMFD. The Jupiter system is great for navigation practice, by the way - it's like a mini-solar system, but instead of 6+ months to transfer from Earth orbit to Mars orbit, you can take maybe 4 days to transfer from a Europa orbit to a Callisto orbit. Of course time acceleration is used in both cases, but for Europa-to-Callisto, you can get there in a reasonable amount of real time without using extreme time acceleration that can sometimes cause problems.

Why Europa to Callisto? One reason is that there are several tutorials available for the IMFD (Interplanetary Multi-Function Display) "navigation computer" add-on. These include a couple of written tutorials for the older (but still very capable) IMFD 4 series as well as a cool video tutorial by Robert Denny for the more recent and advanced IMFD 5. That's what I'm reviewing first.

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