Future of space science exploration
The future of space exploration involves both telescopic exploration and the physical exploration of space by unmanned robotic space probes and human spaceflight.
Near-term physical exploration missions have been announced by or are being planned by both national and private organisations, focussed on obtaining new information about the solar system. In the longer term there are tentative plans for crewed orbital and landing missions to the Moon and Mars, establishing scientific outposts that will later make way for permanent and self sufficient settlements. Further exploration will potentially involve expeditions and settlements on the other planets and their moons as well as establishing mining and fueling outposts, particularly in the asteroid belt. Physical exploration outside the solar system will be robotic for the foreseeable future.
Chang’e 5 is a robotic Chinese lunar exploration mission consisting of an orbiter and a lander. It is currently under development and it is scheduled for a launch in December 2019, after being postponed due to the failure of the Long March 5 launch vehicle in 2017. Chang’e 5 will be China’s first sample return mission, aiming to return at least 2 kilograms of lunar soil and rock samples back to the Earth. Like its predecessors, the spacecraft is named after the Chinese moon goddess, Chang’e. This will be the first lunar sample-return mission since Luna 24 in 1976.
Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) is a lunar lander being developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The lander will demonstrate precision landing technology. As of 2017, the lander is planned to be launched in 2021. Its is Japan’s first major lunar surface mission, and will demonstrate precise, pinpoint lunar landing. During its descent to the Moon, the lander will recognize lunar craters by applying technology from facial recognition systems, and determine its current location from utilizing observation data collected by the SELENE (Kaguya) lunar orbiter mission. SLIM aims to soft land with an error range of 100 m.
Exploration Mission-1 or EM-1 (previously known as Space Launch System 1 or SLS-1) is the uncrewed first planned flight of the Space Launch System and the second flight of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. The launch is planned for June 2020 from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center. The Orion spacecraft will spend approximately 3 weeks in space, including 6 days in a retrograde orbit around the Moon. It is planned to be followed by Exploration Mission 2 in 2023.
The ExoMars Rover is a planned robotic Mars rover, part of the international ExoMars programme led by the European Space Agency and the Russian Roscosmos State Corporation. The plan calls for a Russian launch vehicle, an ESA carrier module and a Russian lander that will deploy the rover to Mars’ surface, scheduled to launch in July 2020. Once safely landed, the solar powered rover would begin a seven-month (218-sol) mission to search for the existence of past life on Mars. The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, launched in 2016, will operate as the rover’s data-relay satellite.
Mars 2020 rover
Main article: Mars 2020 rover
The Mars 2020 rover, part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, is scheduled to launch in July/August 2020. This mission will collect samples for future return to Earth to provide insight on the possibility of life on Mars. It will seek for signs of past microbial life and habitable conditions while also collecting information on resources for future astronauts.The Mars 2020 rover will collect core samples and put them in a cache for future missions to retrieve for testing. Furthermore, the rover will test a method for producing oxygen from the atmosphere on Mars, characterize environmental conditions, and identify other resources for future astronauts.
Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight), part of NASA’s Discovery Program, was launched in May 2018. It plans to study Mars’ interior to investigate the history of the evolution of this planet to provide insight on the evolutionary processes of all the rocky planets in the inner solar system. Since Mars is less geologically active, it has more extensive signs of early terrestrial planet formation. The data collected will help scientists understand Mars’ history, which will provide information on the forces that shaped Earth.
2020 Chinese Mars Mission
The Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and Small Rover (HX-1) is a planned project by China to deploy an orbiter and rover on Mars. The mission is planned to be launched in July or August 2020 with a Long March 5 heavy lift rocket. Its stated objective is to search for evidence of both current and past life, and assessing the planet’s environment.
Europa Clipper is an interplanetary mission in development by NASA comprising an orbiter. Set for a launch in June of 2023 aboard the Space Launch System, the spacecraft is being developed to study the Galilean moon Europa through a series of flybys while in orbit around Jupiter. The mission will complement ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer launching in 2022, which will fly-by Europa twice and Callisto multiple times before moving into orbit around Ganymede. Launching around the same time as the Europa Clipper, the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer will have a cruise phase some three times as long.
Space telescopes – CHEOPS
CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite) is a planned European space telescope for the study of the formation of extrasolar planets. The launch window for CHEOPS is October to November 2019. The mission aims to bring an optical Ritchey–Chrétien telescope with an aperture of 30 cm, mounted on a standard small satellite platform, into a Sun-synchronous orbit of about 700 km (430 mi) altitude. For the planned mission duration of 3.5 years, CHEOPS is to examine known transiting exoplanets orbiting bright and nearby stars.
PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO) is a space observatory under development by the European Space Agency for launch in 2026. The mission goals are to search for planetary transits across up to one million stars, and to discover and characterize rocky extrasolar planets around yellow dwarf stars (like our sun), subgiant stars, and red dwarf stars. The emphasis of the mission is on earth-like planets in the habitable zone around sun-like stars where water can exist in liquid state. It is the third medium-class mission in ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme and named after the influential Greek philosopher Plato, the founding figure of Western philosophy, science and mathematics. A secondary objective of the mission is to study stellar oscillations or seismic activity in stars to measure stellar masses and evolution and enabling the precise characterization of the planet host star, including its age.
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) was launched on April 18, 2018 and will search for exoplanets using the transit method. This mission is scheduled to run for two years, and will focus on 200,000 stars near our solar system to find orbiting exoplanets. TESS is on a larger scale than missions before as it will study brighter stars and cover more sky area than did the 2013 Kepler mission.
James Webb Space Telescope
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is scheduled to launch on March 30, 2021 as a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). It is an infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror that will serve as the premier observatory of the next decade. It will study the phases of the Universe, providing detailed information on the formation of solar systems and the evolution of space.
Mars Orbiter Mission 2 (MOM 2), also called Mangalyaan 2, is India’s second interplanetary mission planned for launch to Mars by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in the 2022-2023 time frame. The orbiter will use aerobraking to lower its initial apoapsis and enter into an orbit more suitable for observations.
Hope Mars Mission
The Hope Mars Mission is a space exploration probe mission to Mars built by the United Arab Emirates and set for launch in 2020. Upon launch, it will become the first mission to Mars by any Arab or Muslim majority country. The mission was announced by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates, in July 2014, and is aimed at enriching the capabilities of Emirati engineers and increasing human knowledge about the Martian atmosphere.
Main article: Exploration of the asteroids
An article in science magazine Nature suggested the use of asteroids as a gateway for space exploration, with the ultimate destination being Mars. In order to make such an approach viable, three requirements need to be fulfilled: first, “a thorough asteroid survey to find thousands of nearby bodies suitable for astronauts to visit”; second, “extending flight duration and distance capability to ever-increasing ranges out to Mars”; and finally, “developing better robotic vehicles and tools to enable astronauts to explore an asteroid regardless of its size, shape or spin.” Furthermore, using asteroids would provide astronauts with protection from galactic cosmic rays, with mission crews being able to land on them without great risk to radiation exposure
The spacecraft’s path (green) is shown in a frame of reference where Jupiter remains stationary. Lucy has two close Earth flybys before encountering its Trojan targets. After 2033, Lucy will continue cycling between the two Trojan clouds every six years.
Lucy, part of NASA’s Discovery Program, is scheduled to launch in October 2021 to explore six Trojan Asteroids and a Main Belt asteroid. The two Trojan swarms ahead of and behind Jupiter are thought to be dark bodies made of the same material as the outer planets that were pulled into orbit near Jupiter. Lucy will be the first mission to study the Trojans, and scientists hope the findings from this mission will revolutionize our knowledge of the formation of the solar system. For this reason, the project is named after Lucy, a fossilized hominid that provided insight on the evolution of humans. The asteroids studied are ancient fossils of planet formation which could hold clues to the origins of life on Earth.
The Psyche spacecraft, part of NASA’s Discovery Program, is scheduled to launch at the end of 2022 to 16 Psyche, a metallic object in the asteroid belt. 16 Psyche is 130 miles (210 km) wide, and it is made almost entirely of iron and nickel instead of ice and rock. Because of this unique composition, scientists believe it is the remnants of a planet’s core that lost its exterior through a series of collisions, but it is possible that 16 Psyche is only unmelted material. NASA hopes to obtain information about planetary formation from directly studying the exposed interior of a planetary body, which would otherwise not be possible.
The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security – Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft was launched on September 8, 2016. It traveled to 1999 RQ36 (Bennu) to collect samples of this asteroid because it is believed to be relatively unchanged. Bennu is largely made up of chondrules, clumps of molten rock held together by electrostatic and gravitational forces, that have not been altered by geologic activity or other reactions, making it a prime example of the early solar system. It arrived on 3 December 2018.
Outer Solar System – JUICE
The JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) is an interplanetary spacecraft in development by the European Space Agency (ESA) with Airbus Defence and Space as the main contractor. The mission is being developed to visit the Jovian system focused on studying three of Jupiter’s Galilean moons: Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa (excluding the more volcanically active Io) all of which are thought to have significant bodies of liquid water beneath their surfaces, making them potentially habitable environments. The spacecraft is set for launch in June 2022 and would reach Jupiter in October 2029 after five gravity assists and 88 months of travel. By 2033 the spacecraft should enter orbit around Ganymede for its close up science mission and becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a moon other than the moon of Earth.