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NASA Completes Study Of Future Mission Concept To Ice Giants Uranus And Neptune

First Posted: Jun 27, 2017 04:43 AM EDT
Uranus And Neptune
The American space agency has completed a study of a future mission concept to the ice giant planets.
(Photo : CrashCourse/YouTube screenshot)

A study, led and sponsored by NASA, of the probable future missions to Uranus and Neptune, has recently been released. It is the first part in a series of mission studies that the American space agency will carry out to back the next Planetary Science Decadal Survey.

According to Deccan Chronicle, NASA will use the result of the recent and future studies as the Decadal Survey deliberates on the space agency’s planetary science priorities from 2022 to 2032. The series of studies will find out what scientific questions a mission to Uranus or Neptune should address and accordingly discuss the technologies, flight paths, spacecraft and instruments that can be adopted.

Incidentally, to date, both the icy giants have been visited for a really short period of time by the Voyager 2 spacecraft that flew by Uranus in 1986 and Neptune in 1989. Interestingly, though Uranus and Neptune are collectively known as the ice giants, scientists believe that they have relatively very less solid ice now and that two-thirds of their total mass is actually made up of a massive liquid ocean.

According to co-chair of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Amy Simon, humans still have no idea about how these ice giant planets originated or why they or their natural satellites look the way they do. Furthermore, only a detailed study of one or both the icy giants can provide more clues about how the solar system formed and evolved.

"This study argues the importance of exploring at least one of these planets and its entire environment, which includes surprisingly dynamic icy moons, rings and bizarre magnetic fields," NASA’s Mark Hofstadter said. Incidentally, the newly released study discusses various concepts for a potential mission that includes probes, flybys and orbiters that would explore the atmosphere of Uranus to study its composition. According to the study, the data collected would be relayed back to Earth with the help of a narrow-angle camera.

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