In (“Mars 2020 Mission Overview”). With a launch

In terms of the universe, we are insignificant. We can view objects that are currently within a 93,000,000,000, or 93 billion, light-year-diameter sphere, and we don’t know what’s beyond that (Redd). In comparison, Earth’s equatorial diameter is only 1.35e-9 light years across—that’s 0.0000000135 light years (Redd). The observable universe’s diameter is 689,000,000,000,000,000,000 times that of our planet’s. Imagining things beyond our physical reach has spurred mass amounts of research since the times of ancient civilizations, yet we still haven’t travelled any further than slightly beyond our only natural satellite, the moon. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is planning to change that. In upcoming years, NASA is planning to orbit and land on Mars, redirect an asteroid into orbit around the moon, and explore deep space with new technology.    Unlike all of NASA’s previous and current missions, Mars missions will be Earth Independent; they will no longer easily be able to return to Earth or get support quickly if anything goes wrong because transit to and from the Red Planet could be six to nine months either way (Dunbar). This means that NASA will have to develop a support system capable of sustaining human life for around two years, all with limited communications to Earth (McKinney and Kinchlow). To work their way up to this, they will start with their InSight—Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport—geophysical Mars lander, part of NASA’s Discovery Program mission (“InSight: Mission”). A low-tech, low-risk launch that can provide us with information about the seismic and internal conditions, composition, and formation of the planet will be extremely useful in figuring out what is needed to protect human visitors and what resources could be extracted to reduce expensive, heavy cargo (“InSight: Mission”). A similar mission set to launch two years after the InSight mission, the Mars Exploration Program, or MEP, is a long term, robotic exploration seeking signs of microbial life, previous habitable conditions, and hopefully subsurface water that could be tapped for resources (“Mars 2020 Mission Overview”). With a launch date set sometime around July or August of 2020 and a landing date around February 2021, this technology will provide more in-depth information on what resources are needed for a possible human expedition to the planet in the 2030s, and will also bring a cargo cache to the planet to distribute the weight of future missions’ resources over multiple trips (Dunbar). The exploration of Mars is probably the most well-known goal of NASA today, with good reason. The information from these missions is vital to understanding how the planet works and how we can capitalize on that during the exploration of Mars itself and future missions into even deeper space. This first step towards possible expeditions into the unknown intrigues me; the idea of discovery has always compelled humans to travel, but this takes that feeling to a whole new level; not only will we be discovering new land, but we will also be exploring an entirely new planet. We are so close to being able to travel farther into space than we ever have before, and as teenagers, our generations are going to be the ones that benefit from all of this. In the future, we will be the ones that get to travel through our solar system to the nearest terrestrial bodies, and possibly even beyond.Past Mars, NASA is also developing a robotic mission to visit and capture near-Earth asteroids to bring back to orbit around our moon, the Asteroid Redirect Mission, or ARM (“Asteroid Redirect Mission”). To get the public involved, NASA issued the Asteroid Grand Challenge, encouraging people to search for multi-ton boulders that are large enough to do research on but not large enough to damage the planet should anything go wrong, somewhere in near-Earth space; thanks to the public, thousands of potential ARM candidates have already been found, and the mission is planned to be underway sometime in the 2020s (“Asteroid Redirect Mission”). Capturing an asteroid and collecting samples will provide us with information about the formation of the solar system and allow for astronauts to train for long-term missions in a deep space environment closer to home (McKinney and Kinchlow). Astronauts could even use this environment to train for Mars in space itself instead of training underwater in NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, which will help more accurately gauge potential needs for Earth independent missions in the future (“Asteroid Redirect Mission”). The type of samples from this same mission, which we have only ever been able to recover in small amounts from meteorites on Earth, will also allow for much more extensive research on how and when our solar system was created (“Asteroid Redirect Mission”). OSIRIS-REx, another mission to collect asteroid samples, this time from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, was launched in 2016, will arrive at its destination in August of 2018, and will return back home in 2023, which is in the near future (McKinney and Kinchlow). I think these missions are particularly interesting because they not only expand our knowledge of asteroids and deep space, but also about our own planet. People often don’t realize how little information we receive from Earth because of its plate tectonics cycling every trace of the planet’s conception deeper into its mantle. Looking to outside sources for information about where we live is much more helpful, and in some cases the only worthwhile method in discovering the origin of our home planet, which is a major component in deciding what NASA’s future missions will entail.Along with asteroid redirecting technologies, NASA is also developing and advancing it’s Space Exploration System by setting increasingly demanding goals and destinations for deep space flight (McKinney and Kinchlow). The Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket as a pair will be launched from the Kennedy Space Center during these missions, unmanned at first, but eventually carrying humans farther and farther into space, possibly even to flexible infrastructures located across the inner solar system (Dunbar). Soon, humans could be living and traveling throughout these bases to get to destinations that previous generations could only dream of. The James Webb Space Telescope was also created to build upon Hubble’s previous deep space discoveries and take pictures in infrared (McKinney and Kinchlow). Incredibly, this telescope consists of 19 mirrors, compared to Hubble’s one, and will provide extremely detailed images of the visible universe (Dunbar). The technology created in this field doesn’t just apply to space, but can also be used on Earth. Whether you care about space exploration or not, your life has been impacted by its research; a lot of technological advancements that are now used here to make people’s lives easier were first created as advancements for astronomical use. Robotics technology and new internet systems to improve deep space communications can also be used on our planet, even if it primarily designed for exploration (McKinney and Kinchlow). It’s important for people to understand where their technology comes from so they can choose to help create more if they want to. Being an astronaut isn’t the only way for people to contribute to astronomical advancements; working with almost any kind of technology can help minimize costs and dangers of future missions. Kids and teenagers especially should be learning about these opportunities as they will be the ones to act on them in the near future.In quarter two, I learned a lot about NASA’s future plans for Mars, asteroids, and technologies for deep space exploration, many of which are beginning to develop. For my quarter three research I want to find out more about what the impact of these missions will be on us as citizens of Earth. Just how many job opportunities will be created? What will they be? Are there any environmental impacts of the new technology, good or bad? I want to be able to show people how important the development of space exploration technology really is and encourage them to pursue careers dedicated to advancing this cause. My goal for next quarter is to learn exactly how everyone’s lives will or could be impacted by the technology I researched this quarter, including any benefits and possible dangers or travelling, for the people who will be going into space and and the people back on Earth alike.