NASA mission to Uranus, offers priorities for next decade
The planet Uranus is somehow neglected by science. At various times, the probes visited Mars, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and Mercury. Moreover, their own spacecraft will even visit the moons of Jupiter. However, no specific missions are planned for the ice giants, Uranus and Neptune in the far reaches of the solar system.
In a new report outlining top priorities in planetary science and astrobiology, the Board of Experts at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences recommends correcting this shortcoming. For initiation over the next decades, the Council prioritizes the Uranus probe as the next flagship planetary mission.
The paper, Origin, Planets and Life: A Decade Strategy for Planetary Science and Astrobiology 2023-2032, is an important report prepared by the US National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine once a decade at the request of NASA. The goal is to identify the most important scientific targets of the next decade.
And it seems that this time it may be time for uranium.
“The Committee gives the Uranus Orbiter and Probe the highest priority of the new flagship mission for the 2023-2032 decade,” the Committee said in a statement.
According to the report, this probe should conduct a multi-year orbital tour of uranium and explore its ebb, flowing atmosphere. The mission is to provide an unprecedented amount of information about the ice giants in general and Uranus and its moons in particular, as they are one of the most intriguing and mysterious objects in the solar system.
There is no doubt that uranium is too strange. It is the only planet in the solar system to move sideways, so much so that its axis of rotation is almost parallel to its orbital plane. Its atmosphere is almost everywhere, its magnetic field is very unbalanced, it has rings like no other body in the solar system, and this planet even emits X-rays.
Based on all this, the Committee of Experts suggests that Uranus deserves significant research, not only for its sake, but for a better study of the evolutionary history of the entire solar system; Especially considering that the last probe to land near this planet was Voyager 2 in 1986.
The committee identified several sections of the ideal time for launch in the 2030s; The first of them is in 2031. Planetary probes require very long work.
“Uranus is one of the most intriguing bodies in the solar system. The big puzzle is its low internal energy, active dynamics of the atmosphere and complex magnetic field.
As the Council notes, the giant collision in the early epoch of the solar system must have been caused by the extreme axial tilt of Uranus (Uranus rotates almost to the side), presumably due to the formation of its rings and satellites, but we do not know exactly. According to council experts, the large, icy-rocky moons of Uranus show strange signs of geological activity in the limited data of Voyager 2, and it is likely that the oceans are hidden in their bosoms.
Planetary bodies with oceans are of great interest to astrobiologists. Scientists believe that volcanic craters on the ocean floor of these geologically active bodies could allow the existence of entire ecosystems based on the chemosynthetic food chain, just like the one here on Earth in hydrothermal vents.
Several such bodies have already been identified in the solar system and are the most promising candidates for finding extraterrestrial life.
As a result, the committee identified such an oceanic satellite of Saturn as Enceladus and named a potential mission Enceladus Orbilander as its second priority. Water vapor cannons have been found on this ice-covered moon, emitting from its surface ocean. By taking samples from these cannons, one can determine the usefulness of Enceladus ocean life and who knows, maybe signs of life in the depths will also be observed.
The decadal report recommendation carries quite a bit of weight, but the mission guarantee is not really guaranteed. The previous, 2013-2023 report also recommended the Uranus and Enceladus missions, but with lower priority.
The cost of the uranium mission could be as much as $ 4 billion, but the potential scientific benefits would be invaluable. The Enceladus mission could have similar benefits.
The two top priority missions of the previous report were missions to bring samples from Mars and Jupiter icy as well as the oceanic moon to Europe. Both of these missions are currently in the implementation phase.
Other recommendations in the new report include continuing the mission to bring samples from Mars; Restoration of the Mars exploration program; Support for the continuation of lunar exploration; And for the first time hit a recommendation from NASA to improve its program to find and track life-threatening asteroids on Earth.
It may take a long time to reach these goals, but the journey to the stars begins with small steps.
“This report presents an ambitious but practical vision for the advancement of planetary science, astrobiology and planetary defense over the next decade,” said co-chair of the committee Robin Kanap.
According to him, the portfolio of recommended missions, high-priority research activities and technological developments will give transformative advancement to human knowledge and understanding of the origin and evolution of the solar system, as well as the benefits to life for other planetary bodies beyond life and Earth.
The full report is available on the website of the US National Academy of Sciences.
Prepared according to ScienceAlert.