Watch out Uranus, NASA might be planning a visit with the assistance of a rare planetary alignment in 2030. Sending a probe to visit the large planet will provide scientists on earth with information inlcuding a confirmation about how much gas it is made of. One problem with Uranus and Neptune is the distance needed to travel there since it is not as easy voyage as well.
Why is it such a big deal going to Uranus
In the solar system, most other planets have been visited by our robotic probes, but Uranus and Neptune are not as accessible as other planets in our small corner in the universe. So far, the only visit from human civilizations robotic emissary, like NASA's Voyager 2 flyby during the 80's.
There's an ambitious plan concocted by NASA that will use a peculiar cosmic alignment, driving a NASA craft on a beeline to see these gas giants that lay in the solar divide before. Technically, the greater travelling distances are what keeps NASA from sending probes.
Fast facts about Uranus
Comparatively, the Sun's photons will travel 8-minutes before reaching the earth, the duration for light to reach Uranus is 2.7-hours, and 4.2-hours for photonic light to touch Neptune. These are differences in how long light travels in the inner to outer solar systems. One method is to chart a flight path based on the gravity of other planets to slingshot spacecraft to higher speeds.
How did Voyager reach Jupiter and Saturn
The flybys of Voyager 2 was enabled by charting a launch trajectory that was programmed by scientists to reach Neptune in 12 years of its launch date. Using the same principle in 2030, Jupiter will be in the right point to shoot any probe gravitationally towards Uranus and Neptune. Calculations show that a probe sent on that trajectory will reach Neptune or Uranus from 12 to 13 years, ETA in 2040 A.D.
How to step on the brakes when reaching Neptune or Uranus
Speed is important to make up the long-distance but knowing how to keep these probes from overshooting their destination is crucial. It is important to know how to hit a trajectory that will allow them to orbit Uranus or Neptune by carefully planned flight path. For one thing, Voyager 2 flew past the objectives, but the next probes should hang around the orbit, and study these extraterrestrial environments.
Orbiter spacecraft are the best ones suited for this mission configuration. One reason is that Uranus and Neptune are enigmas that should be studied since little is known about them. For instance, solar winds are on Neptune, and Uranus seems to have collided with it. Uranus has an odd axial tilt to it, both have moons, and ring systems for a surface landing for probes.
What is needed to return to these planets
A deadline exists to reach the launch date within a decade or miss the rendezvous at the exact point in time. Approval from all sectors that are relevant to giving the project a go signal, for deep space exploration is crucial. Scientists are now expectant and advocating the mission's priority for science too.
NASA's impending return to Uranus or Neptune will be a small corridor to decide on. Whatever happens in 2030 is anyone's wild guess, but space is waiting.
Related article: Scientists Still Trying to Find Life Existence in Mars