Posted by: earthandbeyond | September 2, 2008

Earth’s Future Armada of Space Probes

I while ago, I did a post about space probes currently on their way to planets or currently at the planets. Well, here’s the follow-up. Now, enjoy finding out about future planetary space probes that have yet to be launched.

Mercury has a pair that will be going in 2019. BepiColumbo is a cooperation of JAXA and ESA, and it is the next probe to go to Mercury. The European component, Mercury Planetary Orbiter, will map the entire surface of Mercury. The Japanese component, the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, will study the magnetosphere of Mercury, which is unusually strong for such a small planet. A European lander has been cancelled.

Venus has 4 planned missions. First, in 2010, will be JAXA’s orbiter called PLANET-C. Its mission is infrared surface imagine and a search for lightning and volcanism. In 2013, NASA plans to send a lander, Venus In-Situ Explorer. It will examine a core sample, and study the minerals on the surface. This is not approved yet, though. In 2016, Russia is planning Venera-D. It’s going to map the surface, as well as look for future landing sites. Not much information is in English about this project. Another planned lander is Venus Surface Explorer, to be launched by NASA in 2020. However, it’s only a concept at the moment.

On to the Moon. To be launched next month is India’s Chandrayaan I. It will map the surface’s chemical composition, as well as 3D topography. Many space agencies have contributed to this mission. Later in 2008 or early 2009 is NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. It’ll provide a very detailed map of the Moon, much in the way that MRO has done for Mars. It will be very useful for searching for future landing sites. I’m very interested in this mission. LRO will also be bringing LCROSS to the Moon, an impactor that will go to the Moon’s permanently dark south polar craters. And finally, in 2009 is China’s Chang’e 2. It will map the surface of the Moon.

Mars’ future is busy. First is NASA’s 2010 launch of Mars Science Laboratory. It’s a large rover. Much bigger than any other Mars rover. And it will have a lot of scientific instruments, will do a lot of research, and will travel farther than any other rover has traveled. Scoops, drills, you name it, it has it. It will also be searching for evidence of past or present life. In 2013 will be ESA’s ExoMars. It will explore the surface of Mars, studying various things such as possibility of life and safety of future manned missions to Mars. Under study is a 2016 launch of NASA’s Astrobiology Field Laboratory. It’s specifically designed to search for the chemistry involved in life. And finally is the 2018 launch of the NASA/ESA Mars Sample Return Mission. It will probably be an orbiter, lander and rover. Basically, it’s designed to return a sample to Earth.

Mars’ own moon Phobos is getting a probe. In 2009, Phobos-Grunt is expected to be launched. The Russian probe will be a sample return mission. This will be launched with China’s Yinguo-1 probe to Mars. However, not much is known about that mission. It will study the magnetosphere and ionosphere interaction with space.

Jupiter’s future isn’t so busy. The planned 2016 NASA launch of Juno to Jupiter will study the planet’s composition, gravity field, magnetic field and polar magnetosphere. It will help scientists understand the formation of the planets and solar system.

Now to skip 2 planets. Neptune has a 2030 NASA mission under study. The Neptune Orbiter will study the planet, the rings and moons, Triton in particular.

That’s about it for now. There are other missions under study, particularly ones to Europa, Enceladus, Titan and Venus. But they are not finalized, and are still under study. Some will not be chosen, as they are in competition with each other for funding.



  1. Another mission, run by radio amateur organization AMSAT, is set to send an orbiter and an atmospheric balloon to Mars in 2011.

    I’ve just written about it here:

  2. Thanks for the information! A non-profit organisation? But it’s interesting to see a non-governmental organisation sending something to another planet.

  3. AMSAT is non-profit indeed and what more is, the specifications for their probe will be ‘open source’, allowing anyone with the sufficient funds to attempt a similar mission, if P5-A is successful, which I think is pretty exciting.

  4. That is very interesting! This could make it easier for private interplanetary exploration. With all the cuts in budgets to government run space programs, private will definitely be the way to go in the future.

  5. It’s good to see so many other countries getting into space exploration. While I am a big proponent of manned space flight, the knowledge that we will acquire about our solar system (and beyond) via probes is fr greater. The more we learn, the more questions we have. What a wonderful thing human curiosity is!

  6. Probes are the only way to go for long distance exploration for now. But I am hoping for more human presence in space. Moon base, Mars, then what?

  7. The Moon and Mars will be a great start if we can pull it off politically. An actual base will allow us to study effects of long term habitation in space. We may need to develop new technologies to allow humans to travel to Mars. I’m not sure what would be next though.

  8. Yeah, I agree. Travel to Mars will require radiation shielding to keep the astronauts from dying on their way to Mars. But it should be possible. As for where to go after, I’ve heard of talk about an asteroid.

  9. hi this is me star but i dont think visiting mars will need radiation

  10. Astronauts will need radiation protection. Mars has such a weak magnetic field and thin atmosphere that the radiation from the sun will kill the astronauts if they don’t have shielding.

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