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Sending a probe to Uranus labeled as top priority by space science community

The aeronautical society thinks it is time to study Uranus in depth – and they are real. A new report by planetary scientists from across the United States says sending an interplanetary probe to study the planet Earth should be considered a top priority for planet exploration over the next decade.

In particular, scientists are calling on NASA to create the Uranus Orbiter and Probe, or UOP. The concept will send a satellite orbiting the Uranus, along with an exploration of the planet’s atmosphere. Scientists estimate that such an operation will begin in the early 2030s until the engineers start next year.

If it worked, the UOP mission could provide the most complex details yet about this often unexplored world. The only satellite ever to visit Uranus was the NASA Voyager 2 spacecraft, which flew over the planet in 1986, arriving 50,700 miles from the planets. Voyager 2 has uncovered some interesting secrets about Uranus, discovering new moons and rings around the planet. But Voyager 2 did not last long; it was welcomed during a Solar System exploration and continued, and eventually went up into space.

Orbiter and probe can give you a lot more knowledge. Often, they can tell us exactly what Uranus is made of. Scientists believe that the planet is mostly composed of a combination of rocks, ice, and hydrogen and helium, but this has not been confirmed. “Our understanding of the internal structure of the planet is very poor and we really have very little idea of ​​what the proportion of the three elements is in common,” said Jonathan Fortney, a professor at UC Santa Cruz who wrote a report on the possible operations of Uranus and Neptune, they say Qarka. “So there was a long-held assumption that it was mostly snow but that was really a guess. We really don’t know that.”

Moreover, when scientists look at planets outside our Solar System, ice groups such as Uranus and Neptune appear to dominate the Earth. Again, they are the only major planets in our Solar System that we have never traveled around. Bethany Ehlmann, a professor at Caltech and a member of Dekadal’s steering committee, said: “Ice-like planets are the most popular there.” Qarka. “We have two cosmic neighborhoods in our Solar System, and it’s time to make sure.”

Operation Uranus is at the top of a long and detailed wish list today known as’ Ten Planetary Science Surveys. Published by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, it is a great document written every 10 years or more by a group of planetary scientists detailing the missions they would love to miss. see that happen ten years in the future. The Ten Years Survey is rarely done because of the time it takes to design and build a satellite satellite, it usually requires almost a decade of work to be carried out.

Because it takes a long time to come up with a clear ambition, scientists have to strategize their queries, evaluate the operations they want to take place in order of priority and minimum priority. The Uranus mission was first recommended in 2011 during the last Ten Exploration, but the satellite was listed as the top third priority behind the Mars rover designed to search for signs of life on the Red Planet and Satellite to learn about Jupiter’s moon ice Europe, which is thought to have a liquid ocean under it.

Both of these priorities have emerged from real operations. The Mars rover became NASA’s Perseverance rover, which landed on the red planet in February 2021 and continues to dig into the Martian soil sample. Operation Europa has become NASA’s Europa Clipper, a satellite designed to occasionally approach Jupiter’s moon to taste its atmosphere and possibly pass through water tubes that may emerge from the surface. So far, the Europa Clipper is scheduled to start in October 2024, with the arrival of Europe scheduled for 2030.

Saturn Enceladus, as seen on Nass’s Cassini satellite.
Photo: NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute

As these programs are funded and planned, low priority operations ten years ago have now moved to the top. Now, the second highest priority on the list, after the Uranus mission, is a satellite to visit Saturn’s moon Enceladus, which is also thought to have a liquid ocean under it. In particular, the Port Authority calls for the construction of the Enceladus Orbilander – a satellite that will serve as both an orbiter and a terrain. First the satellite will orbit the orbit around the Enceladus, with the possibility of orbiting pilots thought to emerge from the surface of the moon. Eventually, she will look for a place to stay in Enceladus, where she will stay on mission for two years. Its main purpose will be to look for signs of life.

It will take some time before the Enceladus mission flies, though. The portal calls for the start of the 2029 fiscal year as soon as possible, with Enceladus in the 2050s. And that is if The budget fully reflects the Uranus mission and the Nnceladus mission at NASA, which is likely to cost billions of dollars. Recognizing that investing is always risky, the writers of the decade also made a second recommendation in case the money did not fall; They suggest that the Uranus mission could begin development by 2028. But that is likely to mean that the Enceladus mission will not run until the first 2030s.

While the Uranus and Enceladus missions are the top new operations of the top ten writers, they also add to the list of recommendations for existing space missions that they already want to see continue. For example, they strongly recommend that NASA continue working on sample recovery from March. The Perseverance Rover was one big step in a long-term plan to dig samples and then eventually transfer them to Earth, where they could be studied in a laboratory. NASA is slowly moving forward with the next phase of that plan, which will include the creation of spacecraft that will land on Mars, collect stored Perseverance labs, extract Mars, and then return to Earth. It will be a very difficult process, and once again, the Portal recognizes that the budget can be a concern. While the report recommends that the return of this sample be completed as soon as possible, it also warns that it should not allow excessive budget spraying which would affect all other planetary operations that NASA is undergoing.

There are also many smaller operations recommended that will not cost nearly as much as Uranus and Enceladus flag operations. These include exploration of Saturn and the moon Titan, the new Venus mission, another mission to fly Enceladus, lunar missions, and more. Ports are not made on Mars, either; it wants to create another mission called Mars Life Explorer to search for signs that life is now living on the red planet while assessing the stability of the planet. In addition, the authors want NASA to continue its search for dangerous asteroids that could pose a threat to the planned satellite spacecraft called Surveyor NEO, which is scheduled to be killed in 2026.

It is a very detailed report, consisting of almost 800 pages. While the focus of the decade may be on learning about the world and the rocks in our Solar System, wrapping up this report is an important message that the authors want to emphasize: we also need to protect and support people. working these operations. In an effort to create a diverse community of scientists and engineers working on these programs, the report recommends the inclusion of students from unrepresented communities to pursue planetary science. The authors also recommend that NASA’s planetary science unit work to eliminate bias and create rules around its operations and conferences.

“While understanding science is the primary motivation for what our society does, we must also work to boldly address issues concerning our community’s most important resource – the people who encourage its planetary research and exploration operations,” said Philip Christensen, , a professor at Arizona State University and co-chair of the Dekadal steering committee, said in a statement.