This article on upcoming NASA missions is a guest article by Ariana Vlad, senior at the International Computers High School of Bucharest, Romania, where she focuses on studying Physics and Mathematics.
The Universe has yet to reveal all of its secrets to mankind. Astronomers and physicists have joined their resources and ideas, working relentlessly towards a common goal. With its various projects and missions, NASA is here to help, having the same purpose in mind: exploring the vast expanse of the cosmos. While the greatest missions usually take tens of years from project and reality, cosmos enthusiasts have a lot to look forward to in the near future.
Top 5 Upcoming NASA Missions
1. Mars 2020
The newest Mars rover is set to launch in July 2020, from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. After more than a year, it will arrive at the Jezero Crater in February 2021, helped by an upgraded, stronger, and flexible wheel design. Mars 2020 will also focus on collecting samples of rocks and soil. The robot’s arm is equipped with scientific instruments that will determine, based on chemical, mineral, physical, and organic characteristics, where to drill and collect Martian rocks.
To further this research, the samples will also be analyzed through high-resolution imaging and three types of spectroscopy. Scientists will then search for evidence of past life on Mars and health hazards that could endanger future human missions. Unlike other missions to the Red Planet, this one will also include a small helicopter. Despite the coronavirus, Mars 2020 mission is going as per the schedule. You can read about the mission in detail here.
2. James Webb Space Telescope
After quite a few delays and setbacks, the James Webb Space Telescope is set to launch in 2021 from Guiana Space Center, French Guiana. It will work as a successor to the Hubble Telescope after its retirement. One part of the telescope will be a Mid-Infrared Instrument that will provide images of celestial objects in infrared light.
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Scientists hope that these images will contribute to our understanding of the formation and evolution of the universe, as well as the way dark matter behaves like. This search might even reveal clues that will enable astronomers to further their research for the “first light” (the first-ever episode of a star formation). JWST is one of the most awaited upcoming NASA missions.
The Psyche Mission (named after the celestial body it will analyze) will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and arrive on a full metal asteroid that is said to be the exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet. Scientists have been able to detect the presence of metallic cores in Earth-like planets, but have never managed to see and analyze past a planet’s mantle and crust.
The Psyche asteroid could represent the window towards a better understanding of the creation of terrestrial planets (now know as the result of violent collisions and accretion). Collected data could answer most of the questions astronomers have regarding this peculiar celestial object: what is its age, how was it formed, how similar it is to the Earth’s core, how does its topographic map look, is it a remnant core or just unmelted material?
4. Artemis Mission
NASA’s Artemis Mission will send the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024. The mission includes the Space Launch System (the most powerful rocket in the world), the Orion deep-space human-rated Command Module, the Modern Human Lunar Landers, and the Artemis Generation Suits (designed for a broader range of movement).
All these top-tier instruments and devices will take astronauts to the Lunar South Pole, where they will test how vital technology behaves in specific conditions and how well the human body endures long-lasting space missions. This groundbreaking mission, if successful, acts as a preparation for a future trip to Mars.
4.The Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST)
The Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is a five-year designed mission that will launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in 2025. The telescope’s primary instrument (the Wide Field Instrument) has its main mirror similar in dimensions to Hubble’s, but it was improved to have a field of view 100 times greater (which translates into more data collected in less observing time).
Because of this, WFIRST will analyze and inspect over a billion galaxies over the mission’s lifetime. Astronomers are hopeful that due to its accuracy and sensibility, it might discover over 2500 exoplanets. The other part of the telescope, the Coronagraph Instrument, will also look into nearby exoplanets by performing high-contrast imaging and spectroscopy.