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【China Daily】China, Europe to send a SMILE into space
Update time: 2015-06-18
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A new satellite will soon tell the Earth to "Say 'cheese'!" And the Earth will respond with a SMILE.

Chinese and European scientists are jointly planning a project that will study the Earth's magnetic field from a satellite to study how the field interacts with solar wind.

The European Space Agency and Chinese Academy of Sciences announced on Wednesday the Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer, or SMILE. The project's satellite will be launched in 2021 and operate for three years.

The ESA and CAS will invest 53 million euros ($59.8 million) each in the project, said Wang Chi, director of the State Key Laboratory of Space Weather, which is affiliated with the National Space Science Center of CAS.

"Earth is affected by solar wind every day, which can cause electromagnetic interference that destroys power grids and communication systems," Wang said.

When the solar wind is very intense - the latest case of which took place on March 17 - the solar wind breaks through the magnetosphere and Earth is exposed to high-energy particles, bringing shimmering lights in the sky to polar regions.

Scientists have been trying to figure out the relationship between the magnetosphere and solar wind. The subject has been listed as one of the key development directions of NASA's Science and Technology Roadmap for 2014-2033.

SMILE differs from previous missions in that it will study what happens globally in the Earth's magnetosphere as well as the ionosphere, which is closer to Earth. This will provide more detailed information that could help scientists understand how the sun's effect on Earth's magnetic field influences events on the planet.

Previous studies were like trying to take a portrait of someone but including only the ear and some parts of the shoulder, Wang said.

SMILE, on the other hand, is expected to give a more complete picture, which according to ESA's website will make an important contribution to scientists' understanding of space weather and, in particular, the physical processes taking place during the continuous interaction between solar wind and the magnetosphere.

This will be the first time that the ESA and China have jointly selected, designed, implemented, launched and operated a space mission.


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