May 26, 2022

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Ten years after Mars, the planet becomes NASA’s new priority

American scholars have concluded: Uranus will be the new priority for astronomers and planetary scientists in the years to come, after Mars was selected ten years ago. Promise of astonishing new discoveries … but we must be patient.

Every ten years, the most eminent scientists of the American Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine collaborate to produce the most valuable report on research advances in research since the last edition, and above all still ways to be explored. In the cosmology chapter of this new edition, these experts have set a new priority: this is aboutUranus, The seventh planet in the solar system.

If this group of highly influential scientists is so interested in this ice giant, it is because it has not yet received the attention it deserves. The 2011 edition of the report identified another very close priority, namely Tuesday. We can say that this recommendation was followed to the letter.

The next big space exploration project

Since the beginning of the decade, it has been the focus of everyone’s attention. In addition to the objections of Elon Musk who never stopped his love for the Red Planet, we were able to follow the piles of work there, each one more impressive than the other; At this time, several machines including Curiosity, Diligence And Intelligence Continue to explore the secrets of the red planet.

The last two have arrivedArrive at the famous Delta This is the main purpose of their mission, which is to try to find traces of past lives. So there is reason to be particularly excited for the rest of the events. But in the shadow of this cosmic superstar, there is no doubt that other celestial bodies are hiding real scientific treasures, while NASA and other agencies have not shown the same love for them.

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Mars has been the darling of NASA and space enthusiasts for ten years … but this honorary title must be given up. © NASA

This priority treatment is mainly explained Distances in the game. Mars orbits at a distance of about 211 million kilometers from the Sun; Uranus, on the other hand, is located at an average distance of about three billion kilometers from the Sun. The number that makes it obvious Especially hard material to achieve; Currently, Voyager 2 There is only one ship that has visited this planet. Out of sight out of mind

For now, anyway. Because if NASA follows the recommendations of academics as it did once again for Mars, one can expect the Armada of first-class scientific instruments to begin to show interest in it. It will probably start with a design New research specially dedicated to this purpose.

An interesting study material

We can say that the arguments in favor of this trip have not diminished. Because if Uranus is so mysterious in so many things, the little information available to researchers is already enough to raise a lot of questions.

The first of these peculiarities is about its character. Uranus is considered a Of the giant பனி, I.e. it is mainly composed of gas and liquid. So this has no real surface, strictly speaking. A probe could theoretically approach it, but it would immediately be reduced to dust by donet pressure.

On the other hand, it also implies that fascinating events take place there; Like its close relative Neptune, we know that it is the home of reality.Diamond rain”In the middle layers of its atmosphere!

In addition, the axis of its rotation raises many questions. Most planets orbit “vertically” (or more precisely, perpendicular to the plane defined by orbit). In Uranus, on the other hand, the axis of rotation is almost parallel to the plane; So is she “Lying” in its orbit, As if it had been tapped on its side by a violent impact. However, this is one of the hypotheses being explored by researchers.

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On the left, the axis of rotation of the earth; To the right, Uranus, is very inclined. © University of Oregon / Pearson Education

Additional elements for reading

In addition, Uranus has a good set of unique elements. It starts with its two sets of rings, although they are not as noticeable as Saturn’s rings. Contains 27 satellites with all the traditional names derived from the works of William Shakespeare or Pope Alexander. All of these objects are very interesting. They are divided into three types; Thirteen small “internal” satellites, nine of which are called “irregular” satellites.

But we and above all find out Five big moons. Of these, four are geological processes, showing evidence for active cryovolcanism and fluid circulation; Elements that naturally create priority goals for these future tasks.

Suffice it to say that the arguments have not diminished, especially since the required technology has already been properly mastered. Among all the projects reviewed by academics, the study of Uranus thus appeared The most mature and practical large space project to date. The report therefore proposes that the logistics and financial basis for this work should be set by 2024 itself.

20 years before the first results came … at least

But we have to wait beyond this deadline to see the first message coming from Uranus. To begin, we have to wait for one Appropriate boot window. In fact, a shuttle cannot leave when desired. It must take into account the respective positions of the planets departing and coming into their respective orbits.

This can save time and resources, but also greatly facilitates maneuvers at the end of the race. This is already very important for places like the Moon or Mars; But, when we talk about long-distance objects like this, travel time is better calculated in decades.

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In fact, under optimal conditions, the vehicle can reach Uranus At least 13 years old. This duration refers to the ability to play with an effect called “”.Gravity slingshotThanks to Jupiter’s gravitational pull it is pushing itself towards Uranus. Suffice it to say that if departed at the wrong time, the work will be delayed for decades.

To benefit from this gravitational slingshot and reach Uranus in a respectable time, we have to wait until the planets align. The next compatibility window does not come before this 2031; This means that, under the most promising circumstances possible, this craft will not reach Uranus 2043.