Our universe holds many secrets some of which have been unveiled by the efforts of the scientists, while several remain a mystery. US space agency NASA keeps revealing amazing information and details about the universe.
NASA won’t stop and keep you updated with latest information and tell you what’s happening in the outer world. NASA has announced that it has got no less than 12 proposals for its next unmanned solar system mission under the New Frontiers program scheduled to be launched in the mid-2020s.
The proposals include the launch of an unmanned spacecraft to gather samples from the surface of a comet and a probe to investigate Saturn’s moons Titan and Enceladus. The proposals will undergo scientific and technical review over the next seven months.
NASA has always suspected existence of life beyond Earth and has even provided evidence for the same. The US space agency says a new mission to Saturn's moons Titan or Enceladus to hunt for signs of life beyond Earth will be reviewed.
The next mission will be selected for flight in around two years and its launch would take place in mid-2020s.
All the proposals for unmanned solar system mission fall within the following six ‘mission themes’:
#Comet Surface Sample Return: Under this mission, a spacecraft will land on a comet and will pick a microscopic sample of its surface and will then bring it back to Earth. Scientists hope that a study of these samples would provide the information on the origin and distribution of organic compounds present in our solar system.
#Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return: On the far side of the moon, there is the South Pole–Aitken basin, a 1,600-mile impact crater. Scientists believe that if the samples from it are analysed, they could provide details about the formation of the Moon and the history of the Earth-moon system.
#Ocean Worlds (Titan and/or Enceladus): A robotic spacecraft would explore Saturn’s largest moon Titan and its sixth-largest moon Enceladus and would probe their hydrocarbon seas. Current observations suggest Enceladus has a massive subsurface ocean.
#Saturn Probe: NASA will send a spacecraft to Saturn which will explore the dense atmosphere and structure of the gas giant.
#Trojan Tour and Rendezvous: NASA will send a spacecraft to Jupiter to examine two or more small bodies sharing the orbit of the planet. The spacecraft will also perform several flybys.
#Venus In Situ Explore: A robotic spacecraft will probe the dynamics of the thick atmosphere that covers the hottest planet in out solar system. It will also possibly examine the composition of surface materials.
What NASA says about the next mission?
“Selection of one or more concepts for Phase A study will be announced in November,” NASA said.
“New Frontiers is about answering the biggest questions in our solar system today, building on previous missions to continue to push the frontiers of exploration,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to reviewing these exciting investigations and moving forward with our next bold mission of discovery.”
About the New Frontiers program:
With the launch of the New Horizons spacecraft, NASA’s New Frontiers program kicked off in 2006. It is aimed at examining the ‘big picture’ of the solar system, says NASA. So far, New Horizons mission to Pluto is among the three missions that have been launched as part of the program.
Launched in 2011, the Juno spacecraft, the $1.1 billion mission, is currently orbiting Jupiter. The mission aims to find out whether Jupiter has a solid core, the origin of formation of its atmosphere and magnetosphere. It also aims to find out whether there is water in the planet. The information may provide clues to the origin of formation and evolution of the planet and could also tell about how the solar system came into existence.
Meanwhile, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which was launched in September is on its way to Bennu, the near-Earth asteroid, which it will rendezvous with in 2018.
It will carefully survey the surface of the asteroid in the visible and infrared spectra and then will collect between two and 70 ounces of sample material. It will then return it to Earth via a detachable capsule in 2023. The next mission would be the fourth one as part of the New Frontiers program.