A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Position-Finding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2018 Feb 10, 13:05 -0800
The coverage in Ocean Navigator is late to the game. This has been discussed in NavList messages for many years. The recent attention probably follows a NASA press release last month: https://gameon.nasa.gov/category/deep-space-navigation-and-communication/.
Though we allow the word sextant to be used for a rather broad range of instruments, it should be added that this NASA experiment, which uses the nickname "SEXTANT", is nothing like a sextant. A better description for this would be something like "Nature's GPS". It operates in the time domain, like GPS, and not in the angle domain, like a sextant. By comparing the delays in the signals from pulsars, a position can ber determined in much the same way as by GPS.
Should we celebrate NASA's amazing achievement? Sure. Whoopee. So long as money does not exist in our glorious Tomorrowland world. This experiment is probably decades away from being fielded in any real navigation context. It's un-necessary "space cadet" game-play. Its presence as an experimental package on the International Space Station is a fine reminder of the simple fact that space stations encourage pointless, make-work projects. It's grotesquely wasteful government pork. The space station is a hole in space surrounded by aluminum, into which you pour money.