The Next Step for NASA:
Current NASA missions run the gamut from exploring the farthest reaches of our solar system to understanding weather patterns here at home. The following is a short sampling of the projects on which NASA is presently working:
- NuSTAR, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, will search the Milky Way and beyond to study collapsed stars, black holes and supernova. By using high-energy x-ray telescopes, it aims to learn more about the universe’s most active galaxies and phenomenas such as the creation of elements and the explosion of stars.
- The Dawn Mission, launched in 2007, is studying both the asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet, Ceres, to better understand the early formation of our solar system. Dawn arrived and began its orbit of Vesta in 2011; it is slated to arrive at Ceres in early 2015.
- NASA’s Keplar program is tasked with the discovery of new planets, in hopes of eventually finding one with life-supporting potential. Recent discoveries include an invisible planet, detectable only by its pull on a neighboring planet’s orbit; and Kepler-16B, a planet orbiting two stars with a double sunset like Star War’s Tatooine.
- The Juno spacecraft is currently exploring the nature of the planet Jupiter. As of this writing, the craft is 11.4 million miles from Earth and traveling at 75,000 miles per hour. Scientists hope to discover more about the planet’s structure, temperature and atmosphere, which may help determine how Jupiter was formed.
- The Cassini mission has been exploring the Saturn system since 2008. Discoveries include a fountain shooting from the moon Enceladus, a world that may possess the potential for the development of primitive life.
- NASA is preparing to land a mobile laboratory, Curiosity, on Mars to analyze ground samples for possible evidence of past microbial life. The rover will spend twenty-three months on the red planet exploring previously unvisited areas. In 2013, NASA will launch the MAVEN mission to explore Mars’ atmosphere, seeking clues to the planet’s history and habitability.
View a complete list of NASA missions or find out more by borrowing the following titles from your local branch of the Springfield-Greene County Library:
- Life as We Do Not Know It : The NASA Search For (and Synthesis of) Alien Life by Peter D. Ward.
- Spaceflight: The Complete Story from Sputnik to Shuttle -- and Beyond by Giles Sparrow
- NASA & the Exploration of Space : With Works from the NASA Art Collection by Roger D. Launius
- America in Space: the First 25 Years (DVD)
- When We Left Earth: the NASA Missions (DVD)
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