Every 10 years, scientists decide which planetary research missions to develop for the next decade. The new Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey, released today, will help identify those future missions.
Get ready for more Mars exploration and an investigation of water on Saturn’s moon, Enceladus. Visits to other planets may also be in the works.
Identifying and prioritizing future missions is a gargantuan task. While NASA is at the forefront of making extraterrestrial research a reality, it can’t decide unilaterally which missions should be on the radar next. Instead, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate relies on scientists all over the country to propose research missions through the National Research Council (NRC). The NRC surveys the larger scientific community, asking researchers to submit the most significant scientific questions today in planetary science and astrobiology. Submissions to the so-called Decadal Survey also need to describe strategies for carrying out missions that can answer those questions.
The report lists 12 priority science questions that need answering. These questions focus on the formation of our solar system; delving deeper into planet and moon formation and evolution, including atmospheres, interiors of planets, and magnetospheres; investigating exoplanets; and searching for life in and beyond our solar system.
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