The 4 Most Important Space Missions of the Next Four Years
The face of the space industry has changed beyond recognition since the Moon landings back in 1969, and in fact the advancement in the last 10 years has been so vast and expansive that it makes the future of the sector quite difficult to predict. New nations and private space organisations have now entered space, and have brought with them a new intensity and enthusiasm to the industry that had perhaps waned slightly, but that may well lead humans to Mars in the next decade.
Right now, what we do know is that there are four missions that eclipse others in terms of the discoveries they will make and the impact they will have on humanity. From the UAE mission to Mars, to a new attempt to land on an asteroid – take a look at the four key space missions of the next four years
Juno to Jupiter
NASA’s Juno mission entered into an orbit of Jupiter just a month ago, collecting data on the largest planet in our Solar System while simultaneously withstanding the immense levels of radiation created by Jupiter’s magnetic fields.
Juno’s mission will last 20 months, during which time the spacecraft will collect data on Jupiter’s chemical composition, atmosphere, aurora and magnetosphere. The target of the mission is to ultimately gain insight not only into what lies beneath Jupiter’s clouds, but to also gain an understanding of how our Solar System became what it is now. As the largest planet, Jupiter holds the largest number of clues about what happened at the very beginning. It was the first planet, and had a massive impact on the evolution of the Earth, something which it continues to do. Two mysteries that Juno hopes to solve are whether Jupiter has a core, and what the composition of the planet is. The mission team call this ‘cosmic archaeology’, as Juno effectively digs to uncover historical artefacts that help us trace our origins.
UAE Mission to Mars
UAE has entered the global race of Mars exploration with its Emirates Mars Mission, the first ever Arab mission to any other planet. A probe named as ‘Hope Probe’ will be sent to Mars in 2020; it is being developed by Emirati engineers at Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre.
Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) is a Dubai government Space Agency working on ambitious missions like Hope Probe mission, the UAE’s most advanced satellite known as KhalifaSat and UAE’s first ever Nanosatellite which will be launched this year.
A team of Emirati engineers is working in the clean rooms of MBRSC to develop the Hope probe. After a successful launch of the probe, UAE will become the first ever Arab country to explore the Red Planet. The probe will study the Martian atmosphere to create its holistic picture as never done before; hence, it is expected to make some major contributions with respect to Mars exploration
Europe and Russia to the Martian surface
The ExoMars Mission, also scheduled for 2020, is a collaborative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian space agency, ROSCOSMOS. The Exo Mars rover will be delivered to the Martian surface along with a surface platform, and will begin to collect samples from the surface using a drill. The rover will perform in-depth analysis on the samples it collects using the very latest in scientific instruments, allowing it to carry out mineralogical and chemistry determination investigations. A primary objective of the mission is to land the ExoMars mission in an area of Mars with the highest potential to find preserved organ material from the very earliest days of Mars.
Osiris-Rex Journey to an Asteroid
OSIRIS-Rex will become the first NASA spacecraft to travel to a near-Earth asteroid. Due for launch in September this year, NASA has equipped OSIRIS-Rex with an infrared spectrometer that will measure the spectral signatures coming from the mineralogical and molecular components of the asteroid.
The asteroid, called ‘Bennu’, is widely expected to contain a number of organic molecules on its surface, and after a two-year journey to reach the asteroid, OSIRIS-Rex will be tasked with gathering 60 grams of the surface material it finds, before returning to Earth for lab analysis. Studying asteroids is regarded as being critical to the ongoing pursuit of answers as to how the Solar System and planets evolved. On Earth, the plethora of rocks available have become contaminated over billions of years, meaning that clues to the origins of our planet have long since been erased or replaced. However, rocks on an asteroid are in pristine condition, meaning astronomers are effectively able to journey back to the very beginning of the Solar System with the collection of just a select few.
We can expect more adventurous and ambitious missions to be announced in the next few years, including the potential of an elevator to space, a new system to clear space debris from the Earth’s orbit, and more distant projects that are all geared towards enabling us to better understand ourselves and our surroundings. Hold on tight!