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NASA activates Deep Space Atomic Clock that could pave way for missions to Mars; The Deep Space Atomic Clock was launched back in June, and was finally activated on August 23.

Byline: Shivali Best

Missions toMarshave just taken a huge step forwards, thanks to a new atomic clock thatNASAhas activated this week.

The clock was launched to Earth orbit back in June, and was finally activated on August 23.

According to NASA, the clock is a critical step towards enabling spacecraft to navigate themselves in deep space, rather than relying on receiving directions from Earth.

The clock is the first of its kind that's both a reliable timekeeper, and small enough to try onboard a spacecraft.

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Atomic clocks are used to measure the distance between objects by timing how long it takes a signal from one point to the other.

For missions into deep space, atomic clocks must be extremely precise.

An error of just one second could mean the difference between landing on Mars or missing it by hundred of thousands of miles, according to NASA.

During tests on Earth, the Deep Space Atomic Clock was shown to lose one second every 10 million years. Now, NASA will test whether this same is true in space.

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Todd Ely, principal investigator for the project, said: "The goal of the space experiment is to put the Deep Space Atomic Clock in the context of an operating spacecraft - complete with the things that affect the stability and accuracy of a clock - and see if it performs at the level we think it will: with orders of magnitude more stability than existing space clocks."

Over the next few months, NASA will measure how well the clock keeps time down to the nanosecond.

A statement added: "The results begin the countdown to a day when technology can safely help astronauts navigate themselves to other worlds."

CAPTION(S):

Credit: NASA

The clock has already been tested on Earth and will now be tested in space

Credit: NASA

The Deep Space Atomic Clock

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Title Annotation:Science
Publication:Daily Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 27, 2019
Words:334
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