NASA has announced that it will extend the Juno spacecraft and InSight lander missions, aimed at exploring Jupiter and Mars, respectively. The idea is to obtain more discoveries about the planets, by expanding the capacity of the projects, known for bringing considerable news about the Solar System.
The decision is the result of a report produced by an independent review panel, composed of experts with experience in science, operations and mission management. Called “Senior Review”, the analysis aims to prepare an annual assessment of the scientific performance and relevance of the initiatives. It is then sent to the NASA Scientific Strategic Plan team for consideration.
In the case of Juno, the final operations have been postponed to 2025, and must explore other areas around it, such as the moons Ganímedes, Europa and Io. So far, the main revelations on Jupiter refer to its interior structure, magnetic field and complex atmospheric dynamics.
In July 2016, the spacecraft started traveling around the planet’s orbit and, so far, has been able to make more than 30 turns around it. In fact, its structure has remained firm, even in an environment full of enormous amounts of radiation.
The plan is to make it fly about 1,000 km from the surface of Ganymede in the middle of this year; 320 km from Europe in late 2022 – so you can confirm the presence of liquid groundwater – and 1,500 km from Io in 2024 – to explore active volcanoes.
The InSight mission was extended until December 2022, with the aim of deploying and operating a highly sensitive seismometer during the analysis of the Mars crust and mantle. The mission has already been able to improve the knowledge of atmospheric dynamics, in addition to the magnetic field and internal structure of the planet. In future activities, it will assess tidal waves – earthquakes in the area – to collect information about tectonic activity.
“Senior Review analysis validated that these two planetary science missions are likely to continue to bring new discoveries and produce new questions about our solar system,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division.
“I thank the panel members for their comprehensive analysis and the mission team, which will now continue to provide exciting opportunities to refine our understanding of the dynamic science of Jupiter and Mars,” she added.