Space is really, really big. In order to contend with it, the future of space exploration also needs to be equally vast and forward-thinking. That's why NASA has fifteen projects in development in order to help us unlock its infinite secrets as well as our own home planet.
While many of these projects involve exploring space, even more are being undertaken with the goal of understanding the ecosystems of Earth. Projects are being designed to measure our oceans, the atmosphere, and even natural disasters. After all, the more we know about our home, the more we'll have an easier time living in it. Mars is also getting plenty of attention, with several rovers in development to look for potential life as well as study the red planet's crust so we can know more about how it was formed.
So if you're curious what the future of space travel looks like, check out the list below!
ARRM Will Help Humans Get to Mars
NASA is planning the Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission to investigate an asteroid that is near the Earth. The plan is to extract a big boulder from its body, then redirect it into a stable orbit around the moon. After that, an astronaut crew from the new Orion craft will dock with the ARRM and spacewalk over the boulder for five days while conducting tests. The proposed mission will hopefully launch by late 2021 and the information we glean from it will be used to help plan a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.
CAL Is Making a Quantum Leap for Sensors
The Cold Atom Laboratory is an expansion of the International Space Station designed to observe quantum phenomena that would be impossible to study on Earth. The CAL is also supposedly going to be testing the use of laser-cooled atoms for quantum sensors. The module is almost ready to go and will be installed on the ISS in April 2017.
DSAC Will Guide Our Way Through the Heavens
The Deep Space Atomic Clock is a mercury-ion clock that is incredibly tiny and precise. It’ll be launched into Earth orbit in 2016 to test its ability to be a tool for spacecraft navigation system and expanded GPS systems. The device is meant to aid with long-distance navigation (especially in space travel) and is reportedly 50 times more accurate than the models used today.
ECOSTRESS Will Examine Plants in Space to Teach Us About Plants on Earth
If you can excuse the mouthful, ECOSTRESS stands for ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station. It'll launch in April 2018 and it’s designed to look at plants as they lose water through tiny pores in their leaves. Yup, they’re studying the sweating of plants (also known as transpiration) on the International Space Station in order to get a better understanding of how they can better keep plants alive on Earth. Hopefully, that’ll lead to better agricultural care and more accurate measures of drought damage.