Posted by: earthandbeyond | November 30, 2008

A planetary probe wish list

I’ve posted about current space probes and planned space probes earlier this year, but there are some things I feel are missing.  I know that the budget is limited for the various space programs in the world, but if we had a larger budget for space exploration, there are some ideas I’d like to see happen.  Some of my wishes below have already been considered and are possible plans in the future, but they are not approved (yet).

Mercury has an orbiter going to it now, but I’d like to see more.  How about a lander?  Of course, the lander should be at a pole, as Mercury’s slow rate of rotation would expose a lander to incredible temperatures at lower latitudes.

Venus needs another lander.  But one that can survive the heat and pressure of Venus’ atmosphere for a few days/weeks.  I want more surface pictures.  I want geological work done by the lander.  I want atmospheric measurements done.  And I want a seismometer!  Venusquakes would show that Venus is geologically active in some way.

For Mars, I want that flying probe that can fly around the planet, taking close up pictures of anything.  It’s just cool.

For Europa, we need a lander.  Of course, it should be very carefully built and stored so it doesn’t get contaminated by Earth microbes, in case there is life in Europa’s ocean.  Drill through the ice and see what’s down there.

For Ganymede, same thing as Europa.  We need a lander.  It’s also the solar system’s largest natural satellite, larger than Mercury.  It’s like a planet, basically.  Let’s get a probe there.

Titan needs another probe, but it needs an orbiter for detailed mapping, as well as an atmospheric flyer.  I want more clear images of the surface to search for more evidence of geologic activity.

Enceladus needs its own lander for similar reasons as Europa and Ganymede.  The presence of water there is something that needs to be investigated.

Uranus needs a probe of its own (please don’t read that with a dirty mindset).  Let’s study this oddball sideways planet and its satellites.  I especially want to see more about what’s going on with Miranda.  What happened to it?

Neptune also needs a probe.  It has a remarkably active atmosphere that needs more studying.  But it also has Triton, which is probably a Kuiper Belt object captured by Neptune.  It’s geologically active, and we only have pictures of one hemisphere.  We need to see the entire world.

Eris needs a probe, too.  Pluto’s got one, so how about one for the biggest dwarf planet of all?  Yeah, I know it’s very far away, and I’ll probably have grandchildren by the time a probe reaches it, but I still want to see all about Eris.

Finally, Haumea is an odd shape for such a large world.  I just want to see it.  That’s all.

Now it’s your turn.  What would you like to see?  Please leave a comment with your wish list.

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Responses

  1. I have to say that Europa takes absolute top points. I’m very anxious to see what may be found in that ocean. Imagine the philosophical consequences of finding extra-terrestrial life there in our lifetime. It would be awesome.

    Enceladus comes in number two, for its potential to habor life near the geysers that have recently been studied by the Cassini probe.

    Mars – plenty of data already, but still so much left to explore. What is replenishing the mysterious quantities of methane? What is causing those seasonal changes to the Dark Dune Spots? What are in those deep holes that have been found in the middle of everything? Is there water in the subsurface?

  2. Thanks for mentioning the caves on Mars. I want to see what’s inside them! How extensive are the cave systems? How deep are they? Are they capable of holding liquid water, even for short periods of time? But most importantly, can humans live in the caves? To protect a colony from radiation, the caves may be an ideal location. Underground cities are probably the best thing until we can make surface buildings that can shield people from radiation.


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