Space missions

Bepi-Colombo

Target Mercury
Agencies ESA & JAXA
Launch October 2018
Arrival December 2025
Duration 2 years

Websites: 1 2

Objectives:

  • What can we learn from Mercury about the composition of the solar nebula and the formation of the planetary system?
  • Why is Mercury’s normalized density markedly higher than that of all other terrestrial planets, Moon included?
  • Is the core of Mercury liquid or solid?
  • Is Mercury tectonically active today?
  • Why does such a small planet possess an intrinsic magnetic field, while Venus, Mars and the Moon do not have any?
  • Why do spectroscopic observations not reveal the presence of any iron, while this element is supposedly the major constituent of Mercury?
  • Do the permanently shadowed craters of the polar regions contain sulfur or water ice?
  • Is the unseen hemisphere of Mercury markedly different from that imaged by Mariner 10?
  • What are the production mechanisms of the exosphere?
  • In the absence of any ionosphere, how does the magnetic field interact with the solar wind?
  • Is Mercury’s magnetized environment characterized by features reminiscent of the aurorae, radiation belts and magnetospheric substorms observed at Earth?
  • Since the advance of Mercury’s perihelion was explained in terms of space-time curvature, can we take advantage of the proximity of the Sun to test general relativity with improved accuracy?

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)

Target Mars
Agency NASA
Launch August 12, 2005
Arrival March 10, 2006
Duration Still ongoing

Website: Here

Objectives:

  • Characterize the present climate of Mars and its physical mechanisms of seasonal and interannual climate change
  • Determine the nature of complex layered terrain on Mars and identify water-related landforms
  • Search for sites showing evidence of aqueous and/or hydrothermal activity
  • Identify and characterize sites with the highest potential for landed science and sample return by future Mars missions
  • Return scientific data from Mars landed craft during a relay phase

JUNO

Target Jupiter
Agency NASA
Launch August 5, 2011
Arrival July 4, 2016
Duration Still ongoing

Website: Here

Objectives:

  • Determine the ratio of oxygen to hydrogen, effectively measuring the abundance of water in Jupiter, which will help distinguish among prevailing theories linking Jupiter’s formation to the Solar System.
  • Obtain a better estimate of Jupiter’s core mass, which will also help distinguish among prevailing theories linking Jupiter’s formation to the Solar System.
  • Precisely map Jupiter’s gravitational field to assess the distribution of mass in Jupiter’s interior, including properties of its structure and dynamics.
  • Precisely map Jupiter’s magnetic field to assess the origin and structure of the field and how deep in Jupiter the magnetic field is created. This experiment will also help scientists understand the fundamental physics of dynamo theory.
  • Map the variation in atmospheric composition, temperature, structure, cloud opacity and dynamics to pressures far greater than 100 bars at all latitudes.
  • Characterize and explore the three-dimensional structure of Jupiter’s polar magnetosphere and auroras.
  • Measure the orbital frame-dragging, known also as Lense–Thirring precession caused by the angular momentum of Jupiter, and possibly a new test of general relativity effects connected with the Jovian rotation.

InSight

Target Mars
Agency NASA
Launch May 2018
Arrival November 2018
Duration 2 years

Website: Here

Objectives:

  1. Understand the formation and evolution of terrestrial planets through investigation of the interior structure and processes of Mars by:
    • Determining the size, composition and physical state (liquid/solid) of the core.
    • Determining the thickness and structure of the crust.
    • Determining the composition and structure of the mantle.
    • Determining the thermal state of the interior.
  2. Determine the present level of tectonic activity and meteorite impact rate on Mars.
    • Measure the magnitude, rate and geographical distribution of internal seismic activity.
    • Measure the rate of meteorite impacts on the surface.

JUICE

Target Ganymede, Callisto and Europa
Agency ESA
Launch 2022
Arrival 2030
Duration 3.5 years

Website: Here

Objectives:

  • Characterization of the ocean layers and detection of putative subsurface water reservoirs
  • Topographical, geological and compositional mapping of the surface
  • Study of the physical properties of the icy crusts
  • Characterization of the internal mass distribution, dynamics and evolution of the interiors
  • Investigation of the exosphere
  • Study of Ganymede’s intrinsic magnetic field and its interactions with the Jovian magnetosphere

Lucy

Target 7 Trojan asteroids
Agency NASA
Launch October 2021
Duration 7 targets in 12 years

Website: Here


Osiris-Rex

Target Asteroid Bennu
Agency NASA
Launch Sept. 8, 2016
Arrival 2018
Back to Earth 2023

Website: Here

Objectives:

  • Origins: Return and analyze a pristine carbon rich asteroid sample
  • Spectral Interpretation: Provide ground truth or direct observations for telescopic data of the entire asteroid population
  • Resource Identification: Map the chemistry and mineralogy of a primitive carbon rich asteroid
  • Security: Measure the effect of sunlight on the orbit of a small asteroid, known as the Yarkovsky effect—the slight push created when the asteroid absorbs sunlight and re-emits that energy as heat
  • Regolith Explorer: Document the regolith (layer of loose, outer material) at the sampling site at scales down to the sub-centimeter

Psyche

Target Asteroid Psyche
Agency NASA
Launch Summer 2022
Arrival 2026
Duration 21 months

Website: Here


New Horizons

Targets Pluto & Asteroid 2014 MU69
Agency NASA
Launch January 19, 2006
Pluto flyby July 14, 2015
2014 MU69 January 1, 2019

Website: Here

Objectives:

  • Primary objectives (required)
    • Characterize the global geology and morphology of Pluto and Charon
    • Map chemical compositions of Pluto and Charon surfaces
    • Characterize the neutral (non-ionized) atmosphere of Pluto and its escape rate
  • Secondary objectives (expected)
    • Characterize the time variability of Pluto’s surface and atmosphere
    • Image select Pluto and Charon areas in stereo
    • Map the terminators (day/night border) of Pluto and Charon with high resolution
    • Map the chemical compositions of select Pluto and Charon areas with high resolution
    • Characterize Pluto’s ionosphere (upper layer of the atmosphere) and its interaction with the solar wind
    • Search for neutral species such as molecular hydrogen, hydrocarbons, hydrogen cyanide and other nitriles in the atmosphere
    • Search for any Charon atmosphere
    • Determine bolometric Bond albedos for Pluto and Charon
    • Map surface temperatures of Pluto and Charon
    • Map any additional surfaces of outermost moons: Nix, Hydra, Kerberos, and Styx
  • Tertiary objectives (desired)
    • Characterize the energetic particle environment at Pluto and Charon
    • Refine bulk parameters (radii, masses) and orbits of Pluto and Charon
    • Search for additional moons and any rings

Hayabusa-2

Target Asteroid (162173) Ryugu
Agency JAXA
Launch December 3, 2014
Arrival 2018
Return to Earth 2020

Website: Here

Objectives: Sample return.