Tuesday, November 11, 2014

JPL Scientists Planning to Probe Uranus

I was doing some browsing today on the Falcon 9 Heavy and comparing it to NASA's SLS heavy lift launcher, when I came across this tidbit on proposed future missions enabled by the SLS. FWIW, Falcon 9 heavy will be capable of placing 53 metric tons into orbit, while NASA's SLS should be able to lift between 70 and 130 metric tons to orbit. Clearly SLS has a much greater capacity, but one might have to ask how much more expensive is it by comparison. At any rate, a proposed mission for the SLS is an eventual mission to Uranus, as proposed by NASA's Outer Planets Assessment Group. In a 2013 presentation, JPL's Mark Hofstadter advocated for a Uranus mission and outlined some scientific goals of such a mission. This was then reported in a story in American Space authored by Leonidas Papadopoulos titled, "New Mission Concepts for SLS With Use of Large Upper Stage" as the following:

A dedicated Uranus orbiter has also been the longing of the planetary science community. A Uranus orbiter is listed as the third highest priority Flagship mission after Mars and Europa in the 2013-2022 U.S. Planetary Science Decadal Survey. Dr. Mark Hofstadter, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, stressed that point during a presentation at the January 2013 meeting of the Outer Planets Assessment Group, in Atlanta, Ga.

In other words, JPL scientists have been longing to probe Uranus, and apparently been doing so for quite some time. This may come as quite a shock to many of you readers. I know it's not April first, but given the tragedies of the last few weeks, perhaps now is a good time for a bit of scientific levity.


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