NASA announced that the first close-up pictures of Jupiter will be sent by the Juno spacecraft on August 27, but in the meantime, the American space agency is keen on exploring more of our solar system.
We’re still looking to answer some fundamental questions about humanity’s fate in the universe. How did we come to be? What are we heading towards? Are we alone in the universe? Science wants to help us provide some answers, and Juno is just the latest example of how we can do that.
According to Jim Green, head of NASA’s Planetary Division, “there are many uncharted, promising worlds and objects we are eager to explore with our current and future missions.”
For example, NASA is getting ready for the September launch of OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer).
This will mark the very first US mission that has a near-Earth asteroid (called Bennu) as the destination, planning to collect a sample and return to Earth by 2023. NASA scientists hope that OSIRIS-REx will unlock some of the secrets of our solar system’s history, as well as the origins of life on our planet.
More space tools will collect more answers
In 2018, the agency also plans to launch the James Webb Space Telescope, which can observe even the fainter objects in the universe, but also Earth’s neighboring planets and their fascinating moons.
Thanks to the Webb telescope’s angular and spectral resolution, astronomers will be able to follow the geologic activity of these targets and observe them with unprecedented sensitivity.
As Juno sets out to explore Jupiter, NASA also hopes to get a better understanding of its largest moon, Io. Its extreme geological activity makes this natural satellite one of the most volcanically active worlds in our solar system, which Webb could also follow-up with.
NASA has already chosen nine science tools that will be used for a future mission centered on investigating Europa – a mysterious moon that might feature habitable environments.
The Hubble telescope, with its range of upgraded instruments, has been extended another five years, and the agency expects it to keep on providing excellent data about the surrounding universe.
According to Green, “On our journey to Mars, we are closer than ever before to sending American astronauts to our neighbouring Red Planet.”
Image Source: NASA