NASA Sails Ahead at Full Speed in Solar System Exploration
The successful orbit entry of the Juno spacecraft in Jupiter marked a milestone for NASA and now that the mission has officially started, what could be the next move for the agency?
NASA says it will sail at full speed in terms of Solar System exploration.
NASA is currently preparing to take in-depth and close-up images of Jupiter on Aug. 27 and while waiting, the agency announced that it intends to keep the momentum going to sail full speed with its Solar System exploration programs. The question regarding "how we came to be, where we are going and whether we are alone in the universe" are the fundamental issues NASA's quests aim to answer.
"Juno is the latest example of the extraordinary science we have to look forward to right in our own solar system," NASA Planetary Division Director Jim Green said in a press release. "There are many uncharted, promising worlds and objects we are eager to explore with our current and future missions," Green added.
The future is looking bright for NASA. Aside from Juno's mission, the agency is set to build the next Mars Rover to launch in 2020. While other missions have been ordered to study interesting moons like lo and Europa that potentially hold the key to life such as liquid ocean beneath icy surfaces.
The new James Webb Space Telescope (Webb Telescope) will also be launched in 2018; it is capable of observing faint objects in the universe and the Earth's neighboring planets and moons within the Solar System.
"Webb's angular and spectral resolution will allow us to observe these targets with unprecedented sensitivity and even follow geologic activity,on" a NASA official said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Cassini spacecraft is simultaneously exploring Saturn, its rings and moons and is providing valuable data vital in the study of the planet. It was launched in 2004 and is nearing the final phase of its mission in 2017. The most exciting part is about to unfold when Cassini completes 22 dives through the gap between Saturn's ring and its outer atmosphere dubbed as the Grand Finale. NASA is expecting to gather "profound" scientific insights from this exciting phase of the mission.
On the edge of the Solar System, the New Horizons mission was granted an extension to explore a mysterious object in the Kuiper Belt. Last July 14, NASA celebrated the first year anniversary of Pluto flyby that has provided tons of significant discoveries on the dwarf planet.
Other missions are happening all at the same time, like the Dawn mission investigating asteroids and the OSIRIS-REx that is expected to carry sample materials back to Earth from space in 2023.
NASA is also as close to sending first manned crew to Mars and has approved nine planetary missions for the fiscal years 2017 and 2018 depending on available resources.