While they have eyes on Uranus and Neptune, I would like to put forth my own idea for a mission to the black hole ‘V4641 – Sagittarii’ in the center of our Universe. Likely it would be a less expensive spacecraft to create. Don’t need to have too many things tested seeing as no one seems to believe data can make it out of a black hole. HOWEVER, all that is supposition and theory – theory that says a black hole doesn’t follow physics. Seems to me we ought to do more than theorize. Yes, the black hole is 1600 light years from us, perhaps that is a bit much, but we are working on an FTL drive, maybe when it comes time to test it, when we are a tad more along in its development, we could test it with that trip in mind? AND that means it comes out of a different budget. Sort of a loophole!! Anyway, just a consideration; ‘Cause if we sent it the earliest possible moment, well, then it will give back data the earliest possible moment. If not, we just continue to guess. I’d just like us to put it on the long term list, for when technology advances a tad. BUT let’s not wait too long ‘cause the black hole is far away!
NOW on to the next mission; first there are several factors that are important. Such as the Europa Clipper, a costly endeavor (and of so awesome) which will eat up a large portion of the $$ of which there isn’t all that much to begin with. None the less, low-level work can begin on the next big thing! What are our priorities with space, scientific and otherwise? The Europa mission doesn’t depart Earth until 2022 (only seven short years from now!) The last time we really looked at what’s in our plan, it was Mars and a probe to Europa, time to do some more planning.
So what is the focus of this next report? NASA has asked scientists to assess how to design and fly robotic space probes to Uranus and Neptune, so that’s a clue. Both are among the last of the solar system’s classical planets yet to be orbited.
It is most unfortunate that as we extend our reach into the galaxy – looking at planets and worlds and asteroids far from Earth, the cost goes up. Kind of like when you plan a vacation – the further you go, the more you spend…on gas, food, t-shirts that read ‘my mom went to Neptune and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!’
Regardless, in the ‘real’ world, NASA doesn’t just make up missions and carry them out; there are politics and bureaucracy involved. This study is the first of bureaucratic steps in a multi-year effort involving independent cost and technical assessments, scientific peer review and federal budgeting before a mission to one of the icy giant planets goes from the drawing board to reality.
Results from this study are then given to a panel of scientists selected by the National Research Council – due date? Early 2020’s.This council, the NRC committee, meets once a decade to map out the top priorities, ranks NASA’s missions that are for consideration by NASA.
So, what’s on the menu? Well in 2020 NASA has a new Mars rover set for launch – the sample and specimen storage/retrieval mission and then there is the Europa flyby probe. Back in 2011 Uranus was third in line for consideration, but if selected it won’t launch until after the above mentioned spacecraft.
Of course another on the menu would be the robotic mission to Titan (Saturn’s moon). A world with river, seas and lakes of liquid Hydrocarbons; The Saturn system, her moons and Saturn herself, is chock full of resources and is one of the most friendly as far as habitation is concerned. This one is likely to come prior to Uranus.
Oh, and another mission to Mars. One that will pick up the samples collected and held by the earlier mission and return them to Earth.
Also – Venus is big on the scene. Especially after the development of the VAMP (Venus Atmospheric Maneuverability Platform); this is an aircraft especially designed to fly the Venutian skies. It is a really awesome inflatable propeller powered aircraft.
And finally, but actually considered at the same level as Uranus is Neptune. Neptune is the eighth planet from the Sun. Its first discovery was based on mathematical equations before being discovered again by telescope in 1846. Also – as a little background, Galileo had sketched it but mistook it for a star due to its slow motion.
As to why we would want to see Neptune; it’s cloud cover has a blue tint due to an unidentified compound, the absorption of red light by methane and the planets mostly hydrogen-helium atmosphere. It is often referred to as the ‘ice giant’ as it has a slushy fluid mix of water, ammonia, and methane ices under its atmosphere. It is ~17 times the mass of Earth and 58 times its volume. Supposedly its rocky core is about equal Earth’s mass.
So those are the options for the next big planned mission. My push for a black hole mission is: a) it could be a cheaply formed spacecraft as yes it needs to communicate back to us, b) we could find out what occurs can it come back or not, does it get crushed… People have theories of a singularity or power that absorbs light and won’t let it go. If you have read “Sanacion:The Black Hole Mission” (while Hard Science Fiction it actually gives my theory), then you know my contention that black holes DO follow physics and it isn’t that light can’t get out it is that things follow the path of least resistance.
Other than my suggestion which I really just want on the books, the ones above, particularly Saturn’s moon, Titan sound cool. Did you have something you wanted to add?