Image of Jupiter from NASA Cassini
There have been a few recent events that have sparked excitement about space exploration again. The new Mars rover is sending back many exciting images and collecting data about the Martian environment. We also got to hear about the plan for privatized asteroid mining.
These things are absolutely impressive, but I also want to point out some other upcoming things in space exploration that are pretty exciting.
There Might be Water on Titan
The Cassini-Huggens mission is still sending back data, and one of the more recent discoveries was regarding Saturn’s moon Titan. The moon was found to have very large tides deforming the surface. It is now thought that this deformation is caused by a body of water beneath the ice shell surface that may be up to 250km deep.
Voyager 1 and 2 are Still in Operation
Voyager 1 and 2 were launched in 1977 and are still approaching the edge of the solar system. Their power is expected to last until 2020. These spacecraft are currently in the heliosheath. Voyager 1 is expected to reach the heliopause, or the edge of the solar system within its lifetime. However, there is still debate going on about whether this will be soon or several years from now. It’s an unknown, and the Voyager 1 spacecraft will hopefully be giving us the answer of where the edge of the solar system lies in the near future.
ESA Plans a Mission to Jupiter’s Moons
While Jupiter is a terrifyingly giant ball of gas in which no life form that we know of (yet) could exist, Jupiter has several moons that may potentially harbor life. ESA has recently approved a mission to Jupiter’s moons called JUICE (Jupiter Icy moons Explorer). The mission will investigate three of Jupiter’s moons that are thought to have water—Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Ganymede is the largest moon in the solar system, and is thought to have an internal ocean underneath its ice crust. Europa and Callisto both have ice, and Callisto is known its heavily cratered surface.
NASA has a satellite on its way to Jupiter
As you are reading this JUNO is up in space preparing for a gravity assist maneuver from earth to propel it to Jupiter. The spacecraft will start its journey in October 2013, and will arrive at Jupiter on July 4, 2016. The purpose is to study what lies below Jupiter’s clouds. It will certainly be telling to see what drives the complex dynamics seen from the outside of Jupiter.