Space Exploration Chronology: 2010 - 2019 | Earth-like planet found | ISS Completed | Messenger Mercury | Curiosity on Mars | Dawn | JWST | Virgin Galactic | New Horizons visits Pluto | Space Interferometry Mission



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2010

Gliese 581 g (Zarmina)
First Earth-like candidate exoplanet, known to the Human race, is discovered



Click on the image to see it in full resolution.
Artwork credit: (c) Lynette Cook


Discovery announced September 29, 2010
Significance This is a first candidate planet, besides Earth, that we know of, that has potential to harbor life as we know it, on its surface. Probability of extraterrestrial life jumps from uncertainty to very high chances. This discovery also dramatically increases potential frequency of habitable and inhabited worlds in our Galaxy, up to 40 billion planets.
Discovery made by Team of American astronomers, led by principal investigator Steven Vogt, professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz and co-investigator Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.(3)



Gliese 581 g (Zarmina) is unlike any other exoplanet (planet outside our Solar System) ever discovered. It is located in the middle of habitable zone of its parent star (Gliese 581, a Red Dwarf), like Earth. Which means that it is capable of sustaining liquid water on its surface due to mild temperatures. It has a mass approximately 3.1 to 4.5 that of Earth, which allows it to retain an atmosphere but not take in too much Hydrogen, which would turn it into a Gas Giant. The planet's radius is 1.3 to 2.0 that of Earth. It is appoximately 20% to 50% larger than Earth, with similar gravity.

The planet is perpetually faced with one side to its star, a phenomena known as tidally locked. Consequently, one side of the planet is exposed to perpetual daylight, another to darkness. It is unclear, at the moment, what the surface temperature is like on either side, because climate conditions, such as wind, would distribute surface temperature more evenly. Nonetheless, the daylight side is probably too hot for complex life (up to 71 Celcius, 160 Fahrenheit), as we know it, to flourish, while dark side resembles parts of Earth in wintertime, around -30 Celsius (-24 Fahrenheit).

The key to life, however, is on the "ring of life" that exists like a band between both sides, which experiences constant sunset environment and perfectly normal Earth-like temperatures. As you would move within this stretch from the more sunny side to the darker side, you would experience temperature changes exactly like those on Earth. This mysterious, alien environment is very stable, which is ideal for evolution of life.

If life had evolved in the same manner as it has on Earth, it would, by now, encompass almost the entire planet. On Earth, living organisms can be found in the most extreme conditions, provided they had time to adapt.

Unfortunately, we have no knowledge of its atmosphere, because it does not transit in front of its star from our perspective, which is a requirement set by the limited power of modern technology, to study an atmosphere of an exoplanet.

Given the abundance of water in the universe, the chances of water being present on the surface is very high, which would automatically be liquid due to the planetary climate.

Much is now known about its plantery system, which is reminiscent of our own. There are six confirmed planets in this system, which, in many ways, reseble planets in our own Solar System. It is safe to make the assumption that there are also moons, orbiting around some of these planets.



Comparison of Gliese 581 planetary system, its habitable zone with our Solar System
Click on the image to see it in full resolution.
Credit: ESO, Wikipedia (Henrykus)


Zarmina's stability of climate suggests that if sentient/intelligent life had evolved there, it would be far ahead of us in its advancement due to age advantage. In which case, we wonder, when our own little world was discovered by them. The team's lead astronomer, Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, has made a controversial statement that he is 100% positive that life exists on Zarmina.

Location of the system is 20 light years away, about 200 trillion kilometres. There are only approximately 100 stars in such proximity to Earth. This distance, in cosmic perspective, can be classified as "right around the corner." Even though that with modern technology, it is virtually unatainable, in one hundred years or so, it is conceivable that a probe will be sent in its direction.

In October 2008 a message from Earth was beamed, in international collaboration, from National Space Agency of Ukraine, in direction of Gliese 581 c, which is a neighbouring planet of Gliese 581 g (Zarmina), which was regarded as most Earth-like (just outside the habitable zone) planet, until the discovery of the planet in subject. The message will take 20 years to arrive there, any potential response will take another 20 years to get to Earth.

Discovery of an Earth-like planet finally allows scientists to make an educated guess on the frequency of habitable planets in the Milky Way Galaxy, they estimate the number to be in between 20 and 40 billions of planets. This estimate is beyond previous optimistic guesses.

There is little doubt that mankind will explore this planet in the distant future, colonization in the distant future is not out of the question either. Professor Steven Vogt calculates that it would take 200 years to get there using Nuclear Pulse Drive, which is close to our current technological capabilities. He proposes that works on such starship begin as soon as possible. It could either be fully automated with robotic artificial intelligence or contain a crew on a multigenerational mission.

Similar finds should become common in the common decades.

The planet is unofficially called Zarmina, in honor of the chief astronomer's wife.


Pulse of sharp light, resembling laser, was spotted coming from this planterary system in 2008, by an Australian astronomer Dr.Ragbir Bhathal.(4)



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February 2011

Kepler Telescope discovers a confirmed planetary system, named, Kepler-11

Computer generated image of Kepler-11, a sun-like star with at least six, confirmed, planets in orbit.
Click on the image to see it in full resolution
Image credit: NASA/Tim Pyle


Discovery announced February 1, 2011
Significance This is the largest group of exoplanets discovered using a transiting method in a single star system.
Discovery made by The Kepler Mission team, particularly by Bill Borucki, Kepler PI and Jack Lissauer, Kepler Co-Investigator

Short NASA animation of Kepler-11 planetary system in HD quality:

The planetary system of Kepler-11 (star), is located approximately 2,000 light years away from Earth. The composition of these planets is a mix of rocks and gases. They are not within the habitable zone of their parent star. These exoplanets are all larger than Earth, the largest are comparable to Neptune and Uranus. Planets of Kepler-11 system have been named: Kepler-11b, Kepler-11c, Kepler-11d, Kepler-11e, Kepler-11f, Kepler-11g. With Kepler-11b being the innermost and Kepler-11g the outermost planet, discovered as of now. It is possible that there are more planetary bodies in this system.(8)

Official Kepler Mission powerpoint presentations on the matter, available for download:

Bill Borucki's Slides (Power Point, 12.14 MB)

KeplerJack Lissauer's Slides (Power Point, 15.47 MB)

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March 2011

Space mission Messenger: NASA returns to Mercury


Click on the image to see it in full resolution.
Credit:NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington.


Mission launched August 3, 2004
Destination reached March 18, 2011
Objectives Position itself in the orbit of Mercury for one year (Earth year) and study its surface. Learn about the chemical composition of the surface, geological past, magnetic field and the core of the planet, the poles, exosphere and magnetosphere.
Results MESSENGER has commenced observation of the planet's geochemistry, geophysics, geologic history, atmosphere, magnetosphere, and plasma environment. Detailed data is retrieved on nearly daily basis. Mercury is now understood to have a relatively high composition of volatiles, unlike our Moon, which is often used to compare and understand the innermost planet due to their obvious similarities in appearance. Mercury is abundant in potassium. Magnetic field is unevenly distributing, leaving the south pole more exposed to charged particles.




Enjoy this comprehensive lecture on the Messenger mission:


The MESSENGER is a first mission to Mercury since NASA's last visit in 1975. Mercury is one of the least known planets in our Solar System. There is, however, little interest in Mercury among the general public because it has no atmosphere, its temperature ranges in extremes from -183 to 427 Celcius, with some intermediate temperature in the terminator zone. There is absolutely no possibility of any form of life on this planet. What interests scientists about this planet is its magnetic field and ancient volcanic activity.(6)

The spacecraft's altitude, due to highly elliptical orbit, varies from 200 kilometers (124 miles) to 15,000 kilometers (9,000 miles). (9)


Click here for access to an external source of information regarding the MESSENGER mission.





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July 2011

Robotic spacecraft DAWN is inserted into Vesta's orbit in the Asteroid Belt

Click on the image to see it in full resolution.
NASA/courtesy of nasaimages.org


Mission launched September 27, 2007
Destination reached July 16, 2011 (Vesta)
February 2015 (Ceres)
Objectives Study two large protoplanets, Vesta and Ceres, in the Asteroid Belt in order to have deeper understanding of how planets are formed. Detailed mapping of their topography. Determine their shapes, volumes and spin-rates. Measure frequency by which particular elements appear on both surfaces. Identify and map thermal and mineralogical properties.
Results DAWN spacecraft has successfully arrived at Vesta (formally known as 4 Vesta). Below you will find an automatically updating news stream coming directly from the scientists operating this extraordinary exploration probe.

The Dawn is a unique spacecraft that is capable of being inserted into an orbit of one object, study it, leave the orbit, head for another object and be inserted into the other object's orbit. This is revolutionary in space exploration, which is usually either a single orbit insertion or a high velocity fly-by.

It does not rely on conventional chemical-based rocket propulsion, instead it uses ion propulsion engines. This allows for an unprecedented maneuverability, including a velocity change of 10 km/s (6 mi/s). This propulsion system was first tested in space by NASA's Deep Space 1 spacecraft in 1998.

"Ion thrusters expel ions to create thrust and can provide higher spacecraft top speeds than any other rocket currently available." (Source: NASA)

Read more about Ion Propulsion at official NASA Fact Sheet.



Click on the image to see it in full resolution.
NASA/courtesy of nasaimages.org





Fascinating lecture on the history of the Solar System in the context of the Dawn mission, including explanations for the chosen targets:



Visit official NASA Dawn web-site for latest updates


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August 2011

NASA announces the discovery of liquid flowing water on Mars

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took this image of liquid flowing water on Mars from the planetary orbit
Click on the image to see GIF format slides showing water lines extend over time.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona


Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter arrived at the martian orbit in 2006. It has since been gathering surface information, including studying any present and past geologic activities. MRO had gradually acquired circumstantial evidence for presence of liquid water on the surface of Mars today and on August 4, 2011 NASA scientists have revealed that what they are witnessing, in a number of geographic locations, is salty liquid flowing water. Although there is still some degree of uncertainty, there is now strong evidence supporting this claim.

Streams of liquid water seem to appear cyclically, in the warmer seasons, when Mars is closer to the Sun. Observed water is mostly likely rich in salt, which enables it not to freeze as quickly as pure water would. NASA reports that the liquid flowing features range between 0.5 and 5 yards or meters in their width and are sometimes hundreds of yards long. There are at least thousands of such flows detected.

Local temperatures indicate that the present liquid cannot be Carbon Dioxide or pure water, these chemical compounds would be in a different state of matter under present conditions. Salt water, otherwise known as brine, is the plausible explanation. On Earth, most marine life dwells in salt water. Scientists already knew that Mars used to be abundant in brine, however, it was thought that the last liquid salt water disappeared from the surface of Mars at least millions of years ago, which is still relatively recent, in geologic terms.



Previously, much speculation on the subject of water on Mars had engulfed our red neighbor planet. Even though we have been visiting Mars, via our robots, since the 1970's, it was only in 2008 that the NASA Pheonix lander confirmed presence of water ice. Water is of criticial importance for life. On Earth, where there is world, there is life.

It is now theoretically possible for some extant (living) biology to exist on Mars. One possible type of habitat could be isolated reservoirs of brine tens of kilometers underground. They could sustain such living organisms as extremophiles found on Earth. These could be multicellular complex life forms, in other words it has become plausible for humanity to have its first encounter with Aliens in the coming decades.


Click on the image to see in full resolution
Unfrozen brine in cryopegs and fracture networks provides habitats for the survival and growth of organisms both within and under frozen rocky materials on Earth and, by analogy, could provide habitats on Mars.
Image credit: NASA/Indiana University


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December 2011

The International Space Station is completed

Rendering of a completed International Space Station
Click on the image to see it in full resolution.
Credit:NASA/nasaimages


In-situ construction began November 20, 1998
Station completed December 2011
Objectives Establish a long-term research laboraory in Earth's Low Orbit for experimentation in an environment of micro-gravity. Constant presence of on-site personnel allows scientists to maintain conducted experiments in a timely manner. Develop and test peripheral technologies required for future long-term manned presence in space. Study health implications of prolonged human presence in space. Assist in preparation for future missions to the Moon and Mars. Involve a record number of countries in a single project in space.
Results Objectives met. Over a decade of uninterrupted human presence in space. Record number of scientific investigations ever conducted in space.


The International Space Station is a project of unique magnitude. It took 13 years to assemble it in space, involving dozens of countries and up to 160 billion U.S. dollars were spent on it. Total internal pressurized volume is equal to that of Boeing 747. It is by far the largest space station ever built by humanity, it is approximately four times larger than the Soviet, and later Russian, space station MIR (1986-2001). For comparison, total cost of MIR was only $4.3 billion. Most of power is provided by solar panels, that generate ~90 kilowatts of power. It was initially planned to end mission by sending the space station on a collision course with Earth (deorbit) in early 2016 but in 2010 U.S. Congress voted to extend International Space Station's operational state to at least 2020, possibly even beyond that to 2025 or 2028. Some criticize ISS as too expensive, suggesting that research conducted on the station could have been achieved with alternatives of significantly lower costs. It is argued that funds used to finance International Space Station could have been used to extensively explore our Solar System with interplanetary probes.


International Space Station in 2000
Click on the image to see it in full resolution.
Credit:NASA/nasaimages


Research is, primarily, conductedin fields of human research, space medicine, life sciences, physical sciences, astronomy and meteorology.(7) The aim of these studies is to understand how all life, including human, functions in an environment of space and all the consequential implications on health in terms of further space exploration and colonization of space beyond Earth's orbit.

Full list of publications based on experiments conducted on the International Space Station



International Space Station in 2009
Click on the image to see it in full resolution.
Credit:NASA/nasaimages


Testing new technological innovations is part of the mission. These include various utilitarian microfacilities that will be used in future missions of manned exploration. Robotics are frequently employed to aid astronauts, among them Mobile Servicing System (MSS) is most prominent, it is a controlled system that played a crucial role in the assembly of the station. By 2011 NASA's Robonaut-2 became the first humanoid robot to operate in space. Its humanoid forms allows the robot to utilize all tools available for human occupants. In the coming years modified versions of the Robonaut will conduct EVA's to perform physically strenuous repairs outside the space station.

Watch these video files in HD on Robonaut-2, the first humanoid robot in space. Brought to you by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Johnson Space Center.



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2012

NASA rover Curiosity lands on Mars
Largest and most advanced laboratory ever deployed on another planet



Credit: NASA

Mission launched November 25, 2011
Destination reached August 6, 2012
Objectives Analyze dozens of samples from deep within the rocks and ground, using the most advanced equipment ever sent to Mars. Further expand our understanding of ancient Mars climate. Determine whether microbial life can or ever could exist on Mars. Operate for at least 686 days (one Martian year). Determine radiation potection needs that will be required by future human explorers.(2)
Results

Space exploration in 2012 is reinforced with a new generation rover. Mars Science Laboratory "The Curiosity" rover is the largest, most sophisticated, most powerful rover ever sent beyond the boundaries of Earth. It continues in the footsteps of the NASA tradition of robots on Mars, which began with Viking 1 & 2 landers, was contines by the Pathfinder rover and then with the two early 21st century Spirit and Opportunity rovers. Curiosity is going to land on Mars in August 2012.

The following is an 11 minute detailed animation in High Definition quality showing the journey of the Curiosity rover from space to the martian surface, including the highly complex sky-crane landing method:



Over 100 scientists were scanning the red planet for potential landing sides. Before Curiosity all rovers were landed into very safe terrains with little features, resembling deserts on Earth. Now, however, a bold decision was made to land the big rover inside a gigantic ancient crater. It is called the Gale crater and spans 96 miles (154 kilometers) in diameter, larger than some countries on Earth. In the middle of it rises an enormous mountain rising

This High Definition animation is narrated by the Project Scientist of the Mars Science Laboratory, also known as Curiosity rover, explaining the reasons behind the decision to choose Gale crater as the rover's destination on Mars:



Curiosity serves as a precursor mission for future human exploration of Mars. Like the predecessors, Curiosity will continue the search for signs of past life. Unique terrain of the chosen location opens up layers of deposits from different time, revealing the planet's geologic history to the rover's 10 sophisticated scientific instruments.

The unique nature of this mission extends beyond potential scientific achievements and visually dramatic landscape, the very landing method is going to be the most complex out of any that were ever attempted outside Earth: after typical atmosphere entry, a rocket powered sky-crane will lower the rover on tethers until the latter's successful landing and will then fly away to some considerable distance to avoid any potential damage of Curiosity by the sky-crane.


Click on the image to see it in full resolution.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Scientists have reasons to believe that the base of the mountain in the middle of the Gale crater was formed in contact with liquid water, making it an intriguing location. The sophisticated onboard instrumentation will allow the robot to examine crucial components of living organisms, as we understand them, - organic compounds. Local presence of various minerals allows for a hypothesis that such organic compounds could have been preserved over billions of years in contact with these minerals.

Click here to access additional, external information.

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2014

NASA, ESA, CSA launch The James Webb Telescope: our window into the Universe and its past
Rendering of James Webb Space Telescope
Click on the image to see it in full resolution.
Credit:NASA


Construction began July 2008
Launched into space June 2014
Objectives Study the origin and evolution of the Universe by looking back in time, across over 13.7 billions of light-years. Study every phase of the Universe's evolution, primarily focusing on the formation of the early stars and planets. Study formation process of galaxies, dark matter, gas, stars, metals, physical structures and active nuclei. Study properties of solar systems and identify where chemical prerequisites to life are present in the Universe.
Results After 2015


The James Webb Space Telescope is being built NASA along with collaboration of European Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency. It is often referred to as The Hubble Telescope replacement. JWST is far superior than any telescope ever put in space, it's primary 6.5 meter diameter gold-coated beryllium reflector mirror has a collecting area six times larger than The Hubble Telescope. The telescope is named after a legendary head of NASA of the 1960's that organized the American space agency into what it still is today and was primarily responsible for the organization of the
Apollo Mission.



Illustration of Big Bang Expansion, which is going to be studied by the James Webb Space Telescope
Credit: NASA


The telescope will assume orbit L2 around the Sun sometime between 2014 and 2015, depending on the exact launch date, which is yet unknown. Average distance between the telescope and the Earth is going to be approximately 1.5 million kilometres or 9.3 million miles. It will remain operational for at least 5 years, possibly up to 10. JWST is not designed to be manually services as was the case with The Hubble telescope. Mass of the telescope is 6.2 tons
Because of the vast size of the Universe, the further we look in terms of distance, the further into the past we are seeing. Light travels at approximately 300 million metres or 186 thousand miles per second. Telescopes, thus, are a form of a visual time machine and The James Webb Space Telescope will be able to see deepest into this fabric of time-space than we ever could before.

For more information visit the official NASA James Webb Space Telescope web-site by clicking on this text



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September 2014

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo conducts first routine commercial tourist spaceflight, carrying 6 passengers and 2 pilots into suborbital space
Visual rendering of a Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo in suborbital space
Click on the image to see it in full resolution
Credit: Virgin Galactic


.
First private space flight The Ansari X Prize was a competition aimed at stimulating private sector innovation in the field of manned space flight. Burt Rutan flew SpaceShipOne into space on October 4, 2004
Commencement
Six tourists-astronauts entered suborbital space on September 18, 2014 on a first tourism-designated spaceship flight with passengers onboard
Objectives Build 5 SpaceShipTwo spaceships. Build 3 WhiteKnightTwo mothership-airplanes. Conduct safe regulas space flights to suborbital space, with 6 tourists onboard. Deliver a total of 500 tourist-astronauts into space during the first year of operation. Deliver 50,000 tourist-astronauts within the first 10 years of operations. Jump start space tourism, eventually making it more affordable and more daring in its endeavours.
Results Space, for the first time, became accessible to thousands of tourists. Virgin Galactic proved profitability of private space tourism and paved foundation for future tours to orbit, International Space Station and a trip around the moon.

10 years passed since, Burt Rutan, an aerospace engineer and a pilot, breached the boundary of space in a private spaceship.Virgin Galactic became Earth's first spaceline, privately funded by billionaires Richard Branson and Paul Allen.

Space Tourism prior to Virgin Galactic was limited to few individuals that paid between 20-35 millions of U.S. Dollars. Now space was accessible to at least thousands of individuals around the globe, with a cost of a single space ride of $200,000. As many as 390 people booked their flights by early 2011, paying deposits of $20,000 each. The amount of people that have been to space is going to double within just 16 months of Virgin Galactic spaceline's operations.


All stages of SpaceShipTwo routine flight
Click on the image to see it in full resolution
Credit: Virgin Galactic


Unlike conventional vertical rocket launches into space, Virgin Galactic utilizes an approach that was conceptualized in the 20th century but not realized. It consists of two vehicles; a mothership airplane, named WhiteKnightTwo that carries a rocket spaceship SpaceShipTwo. An airplane takes off in a traditional fashion, with the spaceship attached to its underbelly. The spaceship is then released when an altitude of 50,000 ft (15240 meters) is reached. Seconds later a hybrid-rocket engine turns on, achieving speed of 2,600 mph (4,200 km/h). 70 seconds later the spaceship reaches an altitude of 68 miles (110 km), in suborbital space, turns the engine off and floats in space for over 6 minutes, offering weightlessness and views of the Earth from space to its passengers.

Official VirginGalactic web portal



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2015

New Horizons NASA spacecraft reaches Pluto after a journey that took a decade


Credit: Southwest Research Institute (Dan Durda)/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (Ken Moscati)

Mission launched January 19, 2006
Destination reached July 14, 2015
Objectives Study Pluto and its moon Charon, for the first time in human history. Detect Charon's atmosphere. Identify surface temperatures of both of these worlds. Look for additional nearby natural satellites that may exist. Learn geology of both Pluto and Charon. Map their surfaces. Reveal material composition of both of these bodies, as well as other bodies in the outer Kuiper Belt. Monitor Pluto's escaping atmosphere (such process will be measured for the first time), learn its composition and subsequently derive answers about the history of our own atmosphere. Increase our knowledge about planetary formations. Explore the dynamics of a binary system, where graviational focal point is between the two bodies, for the first time in history. Study Kuiper Belt in order to predict frequency of possible comets heading towards Earth. Further our understand of the Solar System in general and specifically the Kuiper Belt, a potential source of both dangers and benefits for the humanity in the future.
Results

New Horizons is a mission of immense historical importance, it is the fastest NASA spacecraft ever launched and it will journey over 3 billion miles. New Horizons will visit the last largely unknown planet (dwarf planet) in the Solar System. It is currently rushing towards it at an astonishing speed of 14 kilometers per second.

NASA regards it as one of the priority missions of our age. Pluto is unique in many ways, it does not fit into our traditional view of the inner and outer planets. Its size is small and it shares a graviational focal point with a moon called Charon which is half the ` of Pluto itself. New Horizons will offer a unique opportunity to understand closer than ever the relationship of binary objects. There are astonishing amounts of binary planets and binary stars in the Universe and this is our chance to understand their dynamics in our own Solar System. Unfortunately, it will not be possible to stop by to explore Pluto and Charon for an extended period of time, because of fuel limitations and the incredible speed at which New Horizons will be traveling.

The following image shows actual New Horizons spacecraft before its launch:



Credit: NASA/courtesy of nasaimages.org.

However, after a fly-by of Pluto is completed, it will go into an extended mission mode. This part of the mission is no less exciting, for it will study the Kuiper Belt, which is the outermost region of our Solar System made up of a diverse stock of icy worlds. New Horizons will employ its 1.4 gigapixel camera to explore these worlds, their surfaces, composition, trajectories and overall destiny. Objects found in the Kuiper Belt are known as KBO (Kuiper Belt Objects) which are a source for cometary impacts. Our knowledge of this unknown, distant, cold, dark region is very limited at the moment. (1)

An hour long presentation by Alan Stern on the New Horizons mission, from February 2011


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2016

JUNO spacecraft arrives at the Jovian system for unprecedented studies of the Giant Planet

Renderingg of an American JUNO spacecraft's arrival at Jupiter
Click on the image to see it in full resolution.
Credit: NASA/JPL


Launched August 5, 2011
Arrived at Jupiter August 2016
Objectives Uncover mysteries behind the origins of giant planets. Study and understand global gravitational and magnetic fields. Understand Jupiter's incredible magnetosphere via a variety of measurements and observations in order to better comprehend the phonemonon in general, not just in Jupiter but also on Earth. Discover how abundant the presence of oxygen, water and nitrogen is. Prove and disprove theories of the planet's interior structure, including the composition and mass of the Jupiter's core. Conduct detailed observations of the planetary atmosphere, peering 40,000 miles into Jupiter. Thus, revealing for the first time the nature and processes of the atmosphere below its uppermost layer.
Results Pending



Jupiter is the second, after Earth, most important planet in the Solar System for us. Survival of life on Earth had literally depended on Jupiter for billions of years. Our current understanding of various vital processes that shaped and govern the giant gas planet is limited to theories that still require proof.

JUNO is going to be the most sophisticated spacecraft to ever study Jupiter, filling in the crucial blanks in its the development and current state of existence. JUNO is going to utilize the following scientific equipment for its studies: A gravity/radio science system, A six-wavelength microwave radiometer for atmospheric sounding and composition, A vector magnetometer, Plasma and energetic particle detectors, A radio/plasma wave experiment, An ultraviolet imager/spectrometer and An infrared imager/spectrometer.

Rushing at 160,000 miles per hour, engineers claim that JUNO is going to be the fastest probe ever built by humanity. It will travel for approximately 400 million miles utilizing gravitational sling-shot method, returning to Earth in 2013 to increase velocity and head on to Jupiter. All equipment is going to be powered by solar energy. Because Jupiter is one of the outer planets, its distance from Sun is considerable, which forces the solar panels to be of unprecedented large size. After orbiting Jupiter for one Earth year it will disintegrate in its deadly atmosphere. By that time it will return an astonishing amount of data back to Earth.

Visit official mission website for more information: http://missionjuno.swri.edu/


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2017

NASA launches Space Interferometry Mission, new generation space telescope, searching for Earth-like worlds & beyond

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
Click on the image to enlarge

Mission launched Approximately 2017
Destination reached Soon after launch
Objectives Continue the work of The Kepler mission with much greater accuracy and sensitivy. Search for exoplanets, including Earth-like ones, in habitable zones. Determine masses and luminosities of stars, including brown dwarfs, neutron stars and even black holes. Thus, allowing for analysis and simulation of stellar evolution scenarios. Study the age and evolution of the Milky Way (our salaxy). Detect and analyze distribution of dark matter in our galaxy and in the local group. Establish limits of the dark matter particle's mass. Study the processes of energy release and jets in both stars and mega-solar-mass galactic center. Form a visual grid of our sky with 4 microarcseconds accuracy.
Results Pending



Space Interferometry Mission builds upon the successes of space telescopes of the last decade, starting with The Hubble and ending with The Kepler mission. It will be succeeded by the Terrestrial Planet Finder mission, in terms of exoplanet search, sometime in the early to mid part of the next decade. SIM exploits the technological advances of the latest years to study our galaxy, exoplanets, dark matter and their processes, at an astounding precision, relative to previous efforts.(5)



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Sources
  1. New Horizons: Nasa's Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission
  2. NASA: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  3. Discovery News
  4. Daily Mail
  5. JPL: SIM
  6. NASA: MESSENGER web site
  7. ShuttlePressKit.com. 3 June 1999. Retrieved 17 February 2009.
  8. NASA Finds Earth-size Planet Candidates in Habitable Zone, Six Planet System.
  9. MercuryToday.com: Messenger Mission Design

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