NASA is preparing to launch probes that will help us learn more about distant planets such as Uranus and Neptune in the not so distant future.
As humankind continues to make great technological advances, the possibilities revolving around space exploration continue to advance too. There is currently talk of sending people to the moon for only the second time ever, and even discussions about the first manned mission to Mars sometime soon.
However, Mars and the moon is just the tip of what is an infinitely bigger iceberg. There is so much more for us to learn about in our solar system alone. Those other, more distant planets are on the minds of scientists and researchers too, however. In fact, as reported by A Science Enthusiast, NASA is currently prepping probes that will be sent as far afield as Uranus and Neptune.
NASA plans on sending four probes to Uranus in total, three that will orbit the planet and one that will fly right by. According to Jon Wenz of New Scientist, the flyby craft will "drop an atmospheric probe to take a dive into Uranus’s atmosphere to measure the levels of gas and heavy elements." There is a hitch, however. It is going to take these probes an awfully long time to get to Uranus and Neptune.
Believe it or not, NASA has actually sent a spacecraft to Uranus before, in 1977. To give you an idea of how far away the planet is, it achieved its mission of flying right past the gas giant nine years later. This time around, due to orbits and varying distance from Earth and the sun, the next probes won't complete their mission until some time in the 2030s.
Exciting stuff, but we and the scientists at NASA have a long wait on our hands. Apparently, due to those aforementioned orbits, now is the best time to launch a probe to Uranus, and the only time for a long time if they want to reach Neptune. Both are planets so distant and mysterious that we know very little about them. Hopefully, in a little more than a decade, that will have all changed.