10 Huge Upcoming NASA Missions You Won’t Want To Miss

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established on October 1, 1958. It was a direct result of the “space race,” a period of the 20th century during which the United States and the Soviet Union essentially competed against each other for the most advanced technology and impactful space exploration. The US “won” when NASA’s Apollo mission successfully landed a man on the Moon in 1969.

Since then, NASA has conducted just under 200 missions, both manned and unmanned. In 2010, however, the administration took a blow when the shuttle program was retired and the replacement Constellation program, which would have sent astronauts back to the Moon, was cut by the Obama administration.

Despite this setback, NASA did not stop exploring the universe, as shown by missions involving the International Space Station and the ever-fascinating Hubble telescope. It doesn’t stop there, though. This is a list of NASA’s 10 most fascinating missions that’ll be taking to the sky.

Parker Solar Probe

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In May 2017, NASA announced its latest mission. This mission will do the unthinkable: fly into the Sun.

The probe is set to launch in 2018 and get within 6.4 million kilometers (4 million mi) of the Sun, which is very close on an astronomical scale. The purpose of the mission is to collect crucial data about the Sun’s structure and heating mechanism, which has puzzled scientists for decades.

One paradoxical feature of the Sun is that the surface temperature is 5,500 degrees Celsius (10,000 °F), while the corona, further above the surface, is actually hotter at 1.9 million degrees Celsius (3.5 million °F).

Take the Earth, for example. The higher one gets in the atmosphere, the cooler the temperatures get. The fact that the Sun does the opposite is strange indeed, and scientists want answers—hence the creation of the Parker Solar Probe.

This mission is fascinating for several reasons. One, it will bring scientists the answers they want. Two, it will get unimaginably close to the Sun, withstanding thousands of degrees of heat. Third, it will be the fastest man-made object ever, flying at a whopping speed of 692,000 kilometers per hour (430,000 mph).

The probe is scheduled to land in 2025.

Europa Clipper

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The purpose of the Europa Clipper mission is to help provide answers to one of the biggest questions of all time: Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? Sometime in the 2020s, this spacecraft will go on the hunt for extraterrestrial life on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.

It was recently discovered that Europa has an ocean beneath its crust, and scientists want to know if that ocean is capable of harboring life. They will be looking for the key ingredients: liquid water, the right chemical surroundings, and an energy source.

To get this information, the Clipper will fly by Europa and collect as much data as possible. It will repeat this process 40–45 times before making the years-long journey back to Earth

JUICE

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The JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer, known as JUICE, is a mission headed by the European Space Agency (ESA). The ESA is partnering with NASA, which will help provide instrumentation, among other assets, for this mission.

The mission is scheduled to launch in 2022. It will explore Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede, which are three of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter. The purpose of JUICE is to develop a better understanding of the composition, environment, and evolution of the moons, including whether or not they are habitable. In a sense, it is very similar to the Europa Clipper, but it will be broader in the data it collects.

Like the Clipper, though, it will be a long mission. JUICE won’t launch until 2022, and it will take another 7.5 years to reach Jupiter. Then there is the mission itself and the nearly eight-year journey back to Earth. Of course, to an astronomer who is used to dealing with these great distances, that’s nothing!

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