Mercury and Mars Missions in the Future
The situation in space will be different for NASA, as they it will continue with the science missions. The planetary scientists will finally be able to take a closer look at Mercury, a task which they attempted to accomplish for a very long time now. NASA’s Messenger spacecraft has been in space for six years, during which it has traveled towards Mercury, through the inner solar system. The spacecraft has been around Mercury for a while now, as it has orbited it 3 times, taking pictures of it. It managed to photograph about 98 percent of its surface, and with the aid of its instruments, it managed to collect important data about the atmosphere molecules and about the magnetic field which are removed from the planet by the radiation caused by the Sun.
However, the Messenger spacecraft did not fly more than one hour each time, and when it will go closer to the planet, it will perform the orbit for one year. The scientists believe that Messenger will be able to acquire important data and information it will orbit around the planet for one full year. It will be able to obtain information about the minerals and the rocks from Mercury, and about the changes which might occur in the magnetic fields and in the atmosphere. The year will be very important, as it will be the time when the Sun’s 11-year sunspot cycle will come to surface once again. Sean C. Solomon, who is the principal investigator of the mission, stated that they have the necessary instruments for the task, but that they need the time in order to find out the information.
The scientists are eager to find out what hides inside Mercury’s giant craters. The temperature on mercury is very diverse. The usual temperature on top of it is 800 degrees Fahrenheit, but the temperature inside of the craters is minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit. The main reason for the difference in temperature is the fact that the sun never reaches the craters, and as a result, they are never heated. They believe that there might be water on Mercury, and they said that the data collected shows signs regarding this matter. There are some who are not too optimistic about it, as they have stated that the silicate or the sulfur would produce the same result. They believe that there is sulfur on the planet instead of water.
NASA also wants to launch the shuttle Discovery one last time, later this month. They want to launch it in order to send supplies to the International Space Station. The shuttle Endeavour will make a similar flight in February, as it will reach the International Space Station in order to bring there the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which is a particle physics experiment, and also the final piece of the station. Once that will be done, the International Space Station will be finally completed. The six people, who are located inside of it, will then have the main task of creating a science laboratory in zero gravity. The project cost $100 billion and so far, they did not come with too much information. The program has been heavily criticized by the people and by the politicians who opposed it, as they all believed that the money would have been more useful for other things.
Julie A. Robinson, who is the program scientist for the space station, stated that the criticism was not welcomed, as it is not their fault that they could not make any major discoveries. She stated that it is a gamble, as no one can say for sure if these experiments or projects will be a success or not. The scientists from the space station will grow crystals, and will try to find out why their bones suffer while they are in space. They also want to analyze the reasons why combustion is affected by the lack of gravity. NASA will also analyze Mars, and they will look for all the previous rovers which have landed on the planet seven years ago.
One of them is Spirit, which got trapped in the sand this year, and since it could not produce electricity, they have a feeling that it will not be useful in the future. However they have stated that the Spirit might be used as a stationary science outpost, even if it can not move anymore. They hope that the rover will be able to recharge itself when the area of the planet is heated by the sun once again. Spirit was created t o last about three months, and it has managed to last way more than that. The scientists will wait until April or May to see if it will recharge itself. If it will do it, then they will be able to collect more data from it. If it will not recharge, then that’s it. There is another rover on the planet as well, called the Opportunity, which should reach its target very soon now.
Its target is a huge crater called Endeavour, and Opportunity has been on the road for more than three years, covering 12 miles during this time. The scientists have stated that if Opportunity will reach the crater, then they will be able to obtain data about the oldest portions of the planet, which could prove to be very informative. They stated that they might use the data in order to find out more about the past of the planet. Curiosity will be the third rover sent to Mars, but that will happen later in 2011, as the launching has been delayed because of certain technical problems. Curiosity is much better equipped than the other two, as it has a larger size, and it has certain equipment which will make the traveling on the planet much easier. It will have a laser which will be able to vaporize the rocks, in order to have the possibility of analyzing the minerals located inside of them.11