NASA’s MMS spacecraft sets new Guinness World Record

MMS or Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, the NASA spacecraft which studies the Earth’s magnetosphere now holds the Guinness World Record for having the highest altitude fix of a GPS signal. The craft is moving in a highly elliptical orbit at 70,006.4 kilometres above the surface. There are four MMS satellites which integrated GPS measurements into its accurate tracking systems and required orbit calculations of a very high degree to guide the tight flying formations.

Earlier in the year the MMS also notched another feat in its name when it achieved the closest flying separation of about seven kilometres between the four satellites. However, the four satellites have much more than just breaking records. It conducts groundbreaking records for NASA. The satellites have completed one year of their operation and have given scientists new insights into the Earth’s magnetosphere.

The four MMS satellites fly in a pyramid formation tp map magnetic reconnection. Magnetic reconnections happen when the Earth’s magnetic field interacts with the Sun’s magnetic field. This tight formation is kept steady by precise calculation using GPS tracking and obtains high resolution and 3D observations.

The knowledge of magnetic reconnection and its working is crucial to understand about different phenomena in the Universe which includes the formation of auroras on Earth, to sun flares on the surface of the sun, and even to the space surrounding black holes. The study of the Earth’s Magnetosphere is important because it forms the first line of defence of the planet protecting life on Earth from harmful radiations which include Cosmic rays from deep space as well as the emissions ejected by the sun during flares from the corona. In the absence of a magnetosphere, the atmosphere will be peeled off just like what happened to the atmosphere of Mars.

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