NASA releases important exploration missions for the next decade


According to a recent report on the website of the British "Nature" magazine, American planetary scientists have released an informative report on NASA's current understanding of the solar system and the next decade (2022 to 2032) focus of exploration.

The report is based on 527 white papers submitted by planetary scientists across the United States and nearly two years of discussions by 97 experts, the most notable of which are: launching a Uranus probe in the early 2030s; Send probes to Enceladus (one of Saturn's moons) in the late 1990s or early 1940s.

Uranus becomes "Uranus"

The report called Uranus "one of the most fascinating objects in the solar system" and recommended the "Uranus Orbiter and Probe" as the number one flagship mission program.

The astronomers have proposed launching orbiters and probes to Uranus, with an investment of about $4.2 billion, ideally in 2031 or 2032, and they would take 13 years to reach Uranus and then orbit Uranus for several years to get information about its Atmospheric, interior and satellite information. The last and only time humans visited Uranus was the Voyager 2 probe that flew by Uranus in 1986. The latest expedition promises to shed light on the formation and evolution of the planet and its moons.

It is reported that the orbiter will fly around Uranus for several years, collecting information about its magnetic field, which may power Uranus' glowing auroras. The probe will enter Uranus' atmosphere and measure its atmospheric composition, temperature and circulation. "This will be the first space mission by scientists to an ice giant, given that we believe ice giants may be the most common type of planet in the universe," said Robin Canap of the Southwest Research Institute, one of the report's lead authors. , this mission is particularly important.”

The mission will explore some of the 27 known moons of Uranus, possibly Tianwei and Tianwei, two moons that have enough water under the ice.

"This mission will be absolutely transformative," said report participant Amy Simon, a planetary scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "Uranus is full of mysteries, such as why it spins almost sideways and how it formed." A complex magnetic field. Studying Uranus can give scientists information about planets orbiting other stars, because of the more than 5,000 known exoplanets, the most common are Uranus-sized."

The astronomers noted that Uranus missions could be launched on a commercial Falcon Heavy rocket, and missions to the farther Neptune could require larger rockets, such as NASA's Space Launch System (SLS).

Finding life on Enceladus

The report's second flagship mission is the Enceladus Orbiter, an orbiter-lander probe that could be worth as much as $5 billion that will spy on Saturn's icy moon Enceladus. Probe. Enceladus has an ocean beneath its surface, and plumes burst through the ice shell and blast into space. "The conditions on Enceladus allow scientists to directly investigate the habitability of an ocean world and assess whether it is habitable by life," the report said.

The Enceladus Orbiter will spend a year and a half orbiting Enceladus, collecting samples of those plumes, and then descending on Enceladus for a two-year mission there , collect more samples and analyze them for signs of life. The mission is expected to launch on an SLS or Heavy Eagle rocket in the late 2030s and land in the early 1950s.

Asteroids attack and need defense

In addition, the report is the first to analyze NASA's preparations to protect Earth from a deadly asteroid. It recommended that the agency start a mission to detect near-Earth asteroids as soon as possible. NASA recently announced that to save money, the project will be delayed by two years to 2028.

In recent years, NASA has increasingly focused on the field of planetary defense, which involves identifying, tracking, and assessing the risks posed to Earth by nearby asteroids. The agency already has an exploration program to detect such asteroids and is working to build a new spacecraft called Near-Earth Object Surveyor to identify such near-Earth objects, all endorsed by the new report .

The top priority listed in the report is completing NASA's "Mars sample retrieval" mission. The Perseverance Mars rover has been collecting samples as it explores the Martian surface, before handing them over to a spacecraft scheduled to arrive on Mars in 2028, allowing the samples to eventually return to Earth for analysis by scientists.

The report also recommends relatively small space missions, such as launching a rover to collect samples from the moon's south pole and have astronauts bring the samples back to Earth.

In addition, the report considers four other flagship mission scenarios: a Europa lander, a Mercury lander, a Neptune orbiter and probe, and a Venus exploration mission that includes an orbiter, lander, and the Venusian atmosphere. , but ultimately rejected these options due to issues such as cost and technology maturity.

This decadal survey captures the most pressing scientific questions planetary scientists need to address over the next decade: origins (how did the solar system and Earth originate, and whether they were rare in the universe), celestial bodies (how planets evolved), and life and habitat. Habitability (what conditions lead to habitable environments and life on Earth, and whether life exists elsewhere), the new mission will help scientists answer these questions.