As we wait for Juno’s first close-up images of Jupiter on August 27, NASA continues to explore our solar system to help answer fundamental questions about how we came to be, where we are going and whether we are alone in the universe.
“Juno is the latest example of the extraordinary science we have to look forward to right in our own solar system,” said Jim Green, Director of NASA Planetary Division.
“There are many uncharted, promising worlds and objects we are eager to explore with our current and future missions,” he added in a statement.
In September, NASA will launch OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) – the first US mission to a near-Earth asteroid (Bennu) to collect a sample for return to Earth in 2023.
OSIRIS-REx will help unlock secrets of the history of our solar system, and shed light on how life may have come to be on our planet.
The James Webb Space Telescope (Webb telescope), set to launch in 2018, can observe not only faint objects across the universe but also our neighbouring planets and their moons within our solar system.
Webb’s angular and spectral resolution will allow us to observe these targets with unprecedented sensitivity and even follow geologic activity.
With Juno exploring Jupiter, NASA is also intrigued by its largest moons.
Io’s intense geological activity makes it the most volcanically active world in the solar system, something Webb could potentially follow-up with.
The US space agency has selected nine science instruments for a future mission to investigate whether Europa — a mysterious moon that scientists believe to have a liquid ocean beneath its icy surface — hosts habitable environments.