The Future of Space Exploration: An Overview of Upcoming Missions and Technologies

Space exploration has captured the imaginations of people around the world since the beginning of time. It’s no surprise, then, that as technology advances, humanity is dabbling in more and more science fiction endeavors. The future of space exploration promises to be full of new, exciting—and even dangerous—missions and technologies. This article will provide an overview of upcoming missions, technologies, and possibilities for the future of space exploration.

Exploration of Our Solar System

The exploration of our solar system is the focus of some of the most groundbreaking and ambitious missions on the horizon.

Mars Mission: The Mars 2020 mission is set to launch later this year, and upon its arrival, it will be the first rover mission to collect and return samples to Earth for further study. The rover will also be equipped with seven science instruments designed to study Martian rocks and soils, look for signs of past and present microbial life, and search for contaminants in the atmosphere and on the surface that might pose a threat to human astronauts one day. The mission will also help pave the way for a potential human mission to Mars in the future.

Outer Planets: The outer planets of the solar system are still largely a mystery, and exploring them is a difficult task due to their distance and the challenges associated with getting to them. With the help of new propulsion technologies, such as the NASA-developed Nuclear Electric Propulsion (NEP) system, complex space missions have become a reality. NEP is currently scheduled to be tested on a mission to explore Jupiter and its moons beginning in 2022, with a plan to “look for possible plumes of water erupting off Europa.”

Exploration of Deep Space

Some of the most exciting future space exploration missions are focused on uncovering the secrets of deep space.

Search for Exoplanets: Thanks to the work of programs like the Kepler and TESS missions, exoplanet discoveries have been made by the thousands. They are helping build a better understanding of our own solar system and how planets and stars form and evolve in the universe.

The James Webb Space Telescope: The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for 2021, is one of the most anticipated upcoming deep space missions. It will be used to look for signatures of life on a wide variety of planets as well as study the formation of stars and galaxies.

Exploration of Near-Earth Objects

Space exploration of near-Earth objects has become a priority for many space agencies in recent years, as they have become an increasingly likely threat to planet Earth.

Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM): The Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is a proposed mission to capture and redirect an asteroid into a stable orbit around the Moon for study. Such a mission would provide valuable information about near-Earth objects and help the development of technologies that can be used to deflect hazardous asteroids in the future.

DART Mission: The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is an upcoming mission scheduled to launch in 2021. It will use a kinetic impactor to test our capability to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth by crashing a spacecraft into it.

Exploration Technologies

Though space exploration of the past relied heavily on humans, the future of space exploration will be aided by many new advanced technologies.

Robots: The use of robots has been essential to deep space exploration. In addition to the successful use of rovers in the exploration of other planets, new autonomous robots are set to be developed for exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond. These robots will be designed to explore hard-to-reach places or highly hazardous areas that wouldn’t be safe for a human.

3-D Printing Missions: 3-D printing has been used to create satellites and structures in space, including the International Space Station. These printing methods are set to expand with future missions aimed at creating habitats, laboratory modules, and even fuel for deep space exploration.

Solar Sails: Solar sails are a form of propulsion technology that can be used to explore beyond our solar system by riding the light particles given off by the sun. Solar sails are incredibly efficient and require no fuel, allowing them to travel much farther and faster than current spacecraft. In 2016, the first experimental solar sail, called LightSail 2, was sent into space by the Planetary Society, making it the first ever mission to be propelled by light.

Space Tourism: Space tourism is becoming a reality as several companies are developing projects to enable people to travel to space. Companies such as SpaceX and Boeing are currently working on projects to enable commercial space flight, and a number of private citizens have already made the trip to space. Space tourism promises to revolutionize the space industry in the future.

Space exploration has become an integral part of our world today, and the possibilities for the future are seemingly limitless. With advances in technology and an ever-growing thirst for knowledge of the universe, these future missions and technologies are sure to open up a world of exciting discoveries. The exploration of our solar system, search for exoplanets, exploration of deep space, exploration of near-Earth objects, and the use of various exploration technologies will all play important roles in the future of space exploration. What we can expect from these exploration efforts is still uncertain, but one thing we do know is that space exploration is certain to take us to places even we may never have dreamed of before.