Space Exploration Chronology: 2020-2029 | Lunar Base | Terrestrial Planet Finder | Solar Probe Plus | Europa Jupiter System Mission



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2020

Japanese robotic Lunar base is operational
Credit: JAXA

Program started First Japanese robots arrived at the Lunar surface in 2015
Fully operational
By 2020
Objectives Establish permanent presence on the Moon. Bring geologic samples back to Earth for analysis. Test capabilities of Japanese robotic Artificial Intelligence software and hardware. Prepare for the manned International Lunar Base. Scientific advancement through development in various subfields.
Results Pending


Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency has been surveying the Moon with orbiters for over ten years, by this time. In 2015 humanoid robots were sent to explore the surface and prepare for the base. By 2020 a base is operational, it is located near the souther pole. It is a precursor to the manned International Lunar Base.

Lunar surface
Credit: JAXA


Robotic lunar base draws all of its power from the sun, using solar panels. The robotic fleet consists of rovers on treads and androids. These machines have a range of approximately 100 km (60 mile) around their base. Each rover is equipped with its own solar panels, enabling it to work indefinitely. Robots will conduct seismographic measurings, to study inner structure of the Moon. Robots will also have an ability to transmit HD quality video to Earth, which will be available to the public via internet. Cost of the project is $2.2 billion (2010 estimate).

Permanent presence on the Moon is recognized to be a logical step for mankind to establish before colonizing and extensively exploring our Solar System. Future International Lunar Base will be deployed in close proximity to this robotic outpost. *



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2023

NASA deploys Terrestrial Planet Finder
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Mission launched Sometime around 2023
Destination reached Almost immediately after launch
Objectives Use a system of telescopes to directly image and study planets, at a distance up to 50 light years away. Determine what their formation and development was like. Analyze their atmosphere for presence of carbon dioxide, water and ozone. Thus, detecting evidence of life on these exoplanets.
Results Terrestrial Planet Finder will produce a wealth of data on Earth-like planets in other star systems, including ability to detect evidence of life, as opposed to pure speculation on the subject.



Terrestrial Planet Finder mission is a complex space observatory, deployed beyond the Moon's orbit, with intention to last from 5 to 10 years. This mission continues the legacy of The Kepler Mission and Space Interferometry Mission. It consists of five spacecraft, flying in a formation. Four of them are 4-meter wide mid-infrared telescopes, the fifth spacecraft collects light from the four telescopes.

Vision of exoplanets
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Before, exoplanets were detected and studied by their relationship to the nearby star, such as through transiting and astronometrical methods. Terrestrial Planet Finder allows to study the planets directly, by dimming the glare exerted by the star.*


Click here to launch NASA 3D simulation of the Terrestrial Planet Finder.


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2024

NASA's Solar Probe Plus spacecraft is on its closest approach to the Sun
Credit: NASA
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Mission launched July 30, 2018
Destination reached December 19, 2024
Objectives Position itself withtin the Sun's outer atmosphere, known as Corona. Study origins and implications of solar wind, dynamics of magnetic fields and dusty plasma.
Results

Scientists had foreseen such a mission for decades, starting in the middle of the 20th century. However, technology of the time did not allow anything remotely similar to have taken place.
Solar Probe Plus will utilize a carbon-composite heat shield to protect scientific instruments from 2,600 Fahrenheit and extreme radiation. Nothing of the sort has been attempted by mankind prior to this mission. The spacecraft will reach an awe inspiring velocity of 125 miles per second. Solar Probe Plus will spark a whole series of future missions that will unlock the Sun's potentially beneficial, as well as harmful, capabilities.*




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2025

Manned International Lunar Base welcomes its first routine astronauts

Credit: JAXA
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Planning & development started By NASA in 2004
Operational By 2025
Objectives Establish permanent human presence on the Moon. Implement and test necessary equipment for colonization beyond Earth. International Lunar Base is to become gateway to the rest of the Solar System. Conduct telescopic observations of the Universe without atmospheric obstruction. Study lunar geology. Inspect feasibility and potential of in-situ resources extraction and use.
Results Necessary and inevitable step to extending human presence beyond Earth. International Lunar Base became crucial for future manned Mars base.


Manned lunar base has been conceptualized since the mid 20th century. However, it wasn't until 2004 NASA Vision for Space Exploration was announced by then President George W. Bush that serious planning began. Aspects of lunar base, such as robot habitat modules, transportation vehicles and minor equipment was ready as early as beginning of the 2010's. The program, called Constellation, was cancelled by President Obama. It took congressional action to restore aspects of the program. Years later, the mission to return to the Moon was fully restored in 2016. The revised version envisioned an International Lunar Base, which has already been advocated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Thus, United States and Japan became the two founding nations of the International Lunar Base, later to be joined by European Union, India and China. Due to the globalized nature of the economy and the scope of the project, over 30 countries have been involved in a mission to establish permanent human presence on the Moon.

Basic lunar architecture, at this point, is based on NASA developments of 2005-2015. Modified version of the ATHLETE, is crucial for the lunar activities. It is a cargo transporting vehicle, capable of overcoming any type of terrain. It has the ability to roll as well as walk, using its sophisticated six robotic extremities.



Credit: NASA
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Lunar astronauts use The Lunar Electric Rover, developed by NASA, to move around the base and beyond. It is the size of an Earth pick up truck, has 12 wheels. Two astronauts can live inside one for up to 14 days, there are sleeping and sanitary facilities available to them, for long distance exploration missions. This rover is capable of traveling over hundreds of miles, climbing over various obstacles, including 40 degree slopes. Extra attention was given to make Extra Vehicular Activities (EVA) as convenient as possible, using the REV.


Credit: NASA
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Different configuration of the same platform as that of the Lunar Electric Rover allows for a much slight vehicle, suitable for alternative purposes. The same platform can be quickly modified for more purposes, one of which is an addition of Lance blade, enabling the rover to flatten out terrain, trailblazing roads over the lunar surface.


Credit: NASA
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2029

Europa Jupiter System Mission is concluded with a guided impact on Europa's surface
The Jovian System Exploration Rendering: Jupiter and its prominent moons
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
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EJSM Launched Jupiter Europa Orbiter (NASA) launched in February 2020
Jupiter Ganymede Orbiter (ESA) launched in March 2020.
End of mission
Guided impact crash by Jupiter Europa Orbiter onto Europa and by Jupiter ganymede Orbiter onto Ganymede.
Objectives Characterize and determine the extent of sub-surface oceans and their relations to the deeper interior.
Characterize the ice shells and any subsurface water, including the heterogeneity of the ice, and the nature of surface-ice-ocean exchange.
Characterize the deep internal structure, differentiation history, and (for Ganymede) the intrinsic magnetic field.
Compare the exospheres, plasma environments, and magnetospheric interactions.
Determine global surface compositions and chemistry, especially as related to habitability.
Understand the formation of surface features, including sites of recent or current activity, and identify and characterize candidate sites for future in situ exploration.
Results Pending




NASA and ESA formed a Joint Jupiter Science Definition Team to formalize conceptual exploration of the Jovian system. California Institute of Technology, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Arizona State University represented NASA, which funded approximately 85% of the entire mission costs. ESA was represented by CESR & Ecole Polytechnique, France. Architecture of the mission included two scientific spacecraft's (flight systems), launched independently in 2020.
NASA Jupiter Europa Orbiter (JEO), was designed to focus its observation on Europa, Io and to function within the inner radiation belt, unlike JGO. Launched in February 2020. European Space Agency's Jupiter Ganymede Orbiter (JGO) was designed to study Ganymede and Callisto. Launched on March 2020.

Four prominent moons of Jupiter and their hypothetical geological structure
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
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December 2025 to February 2026: JGO and JEO conduct simultaneous inner magnetosphere/solar wind measurements; 45 days earlier, JEO was inside the magnetosphere as JGO was facing the solar wind. At the same time JEO conducts studies of Io, while JGO studies Ganymede.
By the end of 2026 JGO and JEO study Callisto and Io in unison, unraveling the processes of volcanism and torus dynamics on Io. In 2027 JEO begins its observation of Europa. Meanwhile, the combined work of JGO and JEO produces first stereoscopic observations of plumes, surface features, and atmospheric phenomena on Callisto and Ganymede.
In May of 2028, while JGO is in orbit around Ganymede, JEO encounters it from a further distance, at which point magnetosphere investigation of the moon is conducted. Mission ends in March 2029 for JEO as it impacts Europa and in February 2029 for JEO with a Ganymede impact.(4)


Download Full 2009 Joint Report by NASA and ESA

Visit Astrobiology section for more information on the habitability of Jovian System's moons

JPL page on EJSM



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Sources
  1. Solar Probe Plus: NASA's Mission to Touch the Sun
  2. Terrestrial Planet Finder
  3. CNET news: Japan plans $2 billion robot moon base by 2020
  4. JPL: Europa Jupiter System Mission (EJSM)

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