NASA is not preoccupied only with trying to figure out how to put humans on Mars, or creating super-fast jets. The space agency also prepares a relatively small astrophysics mission that includes experiments regarding the International Space Station.
NASA selected two Small Explorer missions (aka SMEX) and two smaller Missions of Opportunity. Paul Hertz, who is the director of NASA’s astrophysics division, spoke about the importance of the upcoming project:
Each of these missions would take the next steps in some of the hottest areas of astrophysics today,
With the high science rewards for low dollar amounts, Explorers missions successfully fill the scientific gaps in our current fleet of space observatories.
The stars represent the star of the show
NASA’s purpose is to understand more about the stars and their surroundings. For instance, the dying stars are targetted, as astronomers want to better understand their history by observing gamma rays from radioactive elements in the galaxy.
Neutron stars will also be catching the attention of the astronomers that will get involved. They will look for signs of gravitational-wave events caused by such cosmic objects merging with others.
But also the stars from our vicinity are targetted – astronomers will be studying ultraviolet flares that could strip the atmospheres of eventually existing planets orbiting around them.
Astronomical amounts of money needed
NASA’s upcoming missions will cost enormous amounts of money. The SMEX missions will cost about $145 million, and Missions of Opportunity will cost about half: $75 million.
We don’t have any reasons to think that NASA’s plans of putting humans on Mars will be canceled. Although it sounds like pure Science Fiction to most people, it’s an idea that needs to be taken as seriously as possible. It will be the first time in history when humans will land on another planet. The Moon is not a planet, but only the natural satellite of Earth.