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Science

Eight NASA Missions You Should Be Following

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Early in the morning on August 6, 2012, thousands of New Yorkers converged into New York City’s Times Square to join others from around the globe to celebrate a moment in history. They came to witness NASA landing the rover Curiosity on to the planet Mars, begging for more.

The near perfect landing was an awesome feat of engineering and human drama. Everybody watching felt the surge of pride and emotion as the moment came upon us. One of the commenters even remarked that the night felt similar to when humans first walked on the moon. The landing will be remembered as one of those moments in history where you will always remember where you were at the time.

The majesty of the event brought in new fans for NASA. Twitter and other social media sites were abuzz with NASA praise. Even as the landing was going on, there were cries throughout the world asking for what’s next . These calls came from everyone from long-time space enthusiasts to the thousands of new NASA converts watching that night. There were even demands for Kickstarter campaigns to help fund NASA. Either way, the people wanted more!

Looking for an answer for this question, I came across a list of missions NASA has coming down the pipe. A number of these missions are already on their way, while others are still on the drawing board.

LADEE (May 2, 2013)

Scheduled to launch on May 2, 2013, LADEE is heading to the moon to study the thin lunar atmosphere to pave the way for humans to return. It is good to see NASA actively try to get back to Luna.

MAVEN (November 18, 2013)

NASA’s next Mars mission is MAVEN. This orbiter is expected to launch on November 18, 2013 with a similar mission to LADEE studying the Martian atmosphere. It is only an orbiter, but MAVEN should fill the void between Curiosity and InSIght.

Dawn (February 2015)

Dawn was launched in 2007 with little fanfare with a mission to study the asteroid belt. It will become the first craft to visit a dwarf planet when it reaches Ceres in February of 2015. It is currently at the asteroid Vesta while you read this. Ceres doesn’t receive the fame that other celestial bodies seem to have, but it is good to see NASA spread the love around.

New Horizons (September 14, 2015)

Pluto may no longer be a planet, but that does not mean we cannot treat it like one. Launched in 2006 and scheduled to arrive on September 14, 2015, New Horizons will become the first human spacecraft to visit the dwarf planet and its moons. The craft will not stay long as this is only a flyby mission. New Horizons will only have a few days before it leaves for the Kuiper Belt and beyond.

Juno (July 5, 2016)

Juno is being sent to Jupiter to answer some intriguing riddles suggested by the countless extrasolar planets discovered over the years. Launched in 2011, the craft will study the Jovian atmosphere in an attempt to figure out where Jupiter originally formed and how did it get to be where it is today. Juno will reach Jupiter on July 5, 2016.

InSight (2016)

Seismology does more than just inform us of upcoming earthquakes. It lets us to look inside things we normally could not. Just about everything we know about Earth comes from seismology. So, why not use it on other planets? The Martian lander InSight is NASA’s answer to this question.

James Webb Space Telescope (2018)

Hubble has redefined our perceptions of the universe in so many ways that it is impossible to count them all. Hubble-captured science and pictures are everywhere you look. In 2018, NASA plans to do it all again with the James Webb Space Telescope.

Mars Sample Return (TBA)

Mars Sample Return is NASA’s proposed follow-up to InSight. Still nothing more than an idea with no launch date, this is the mission we all dream about: a sample return mission. It will be the first mission to another planet that will actually return to Earth.

This list is only a sample of the missions NASA has in store for us. NASA currently has over fifty missions in various stages of development. Thirty-eight of them are already deployed and doing science with at least eight more coming this decade. While mostly Earth-centric, space exploration is still alive and well in America, and we all should be proud of that.



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