Future NASA missions have always been the subject of discussion since the organization’s inception. Every trip into space reveals new data which in turn helps develop plans for future trips. Whether these trips are done by piloted units or through remote vehicles, they’re becoming more complex as time goes on.
Since the mid-1900s, space exploration has been a topic of growing interest. With every new technological breakthrough and major discovery, scientists are looking to a bigger future for space travel.
Space travel has come a long way since the historic moon landing in 1969. Here are just a few of the future space missions and how they may help human beings in their future exploration (and possible colonization) of the cosmos.
“Curiosity” Will Help Humans Learn About Their Neighbor
NASA’s Curiosity rover has been a source of discovery since its inception in 2011. In its quest to discover life on Mars’s surface, it has yielded many other valuable findings.
The Curiosity rover first put tracks on the red planet in 2012, serving as a groundbreaking source of data for NASA officials. The vehicle, which is around the size of a MINI Cooper, was brought to a gentle landing on the surface using a parachute and rocket propulsion. Now using a nuclear-energy-based motor to power itself, the Curiosity rover continues to study the planet.
The rover has taken plenty of pictures detailing Mars’ surface. While it is one of the NASA projects that has garnered attention for the unique visuals it provides, it has been gathering plenty of important data that will be vital for future missions.
Everything from the planet’s topographical layout to its climate can be analyzed thanks to the Curiosity rover. In an age where scientists are already looking toward manned space flights to the planet, this information will be very valuable in the future.
Juno Could Solve Major Mysteries About the Solar System
While Mars is usually given a lot of attention due to its close proximity to earth, Jupiter is a curious case as well.
The biggest planet in the solar system has always drawn questions about how a planet of such mass formed. While there are plenty of theories, scientists have lacked the appropriate data to draw reliable conclusions.
All that may change thanks to Juno, a probe that will orbit Jupiter over three-dozen times. The orbit path will be an elliptical one, providing previously unseen glimpses below the cloud covering and offering information about what the planet is made of.
Juno’s contribution to space exploration will be historic, but the probe itself will be sacrificed in the effort. After gathering and relaying the necessary information, the probe will be destroyed by Jupiter’s atmosphere.
Dawn Will Explore Mysterious Protoplanets
Rather than focusing on the planets in the solar system, Dawn will provide information about protoplanets. More specifically, it will be used to explore Vesta and Ceres during its trip to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Dawn’s construction may also serve as a pioneering force for future NASA missions. The probe is the first to accelerate ions using electricity, providing a much more energy-efficient setup than those offered by traditional rocket engines.
The probe has already provided information about Vesta during an orbit in 2011-2012, and Vesta in 2015. It got within 240 miles of the surfaces and is continuing to gather data on the spectra of these protoplanets. Officials have stated the mission is proceeding as planned.
The James Webb Space Telescope Will Provide Amazing Views
Next year, NASA plans to put a massive satellite in space with an attached telescope. The size and scope of the device mean humanity will be seeing the cosmos in greater detail than ever before.
The view will be the result of 18 beryllium mirrors that are four-foot wide each and feature gold coating. There’s also a huge sun shield that will be used to prevent the unit from overheating. The telescope will provide a better view of mysterious objects and phenomena that scientists have been unable to explain thus far.
A more detailed view of space will also help provide greater insight into how the universe was formed. This data could prove to be some of the most useful ever gathered for future space missions.
New Horizons Will Move Beyond the Solar System
The New Horizon probe flew by Pluto for the first time in 2015. Though the planet was demoted months after the probe’s launch in 2006, New Horizons offered a never-before-seen glimpse into the icy ball.
New Horizons will live up to its name, heading past the solar system and providing valuable information on undiscovered and mysterious wonders outside NASA’s current view. Understanding how planets work outside the solar system may help scientists plan out future exploration and colonization efforts.