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Future Missions

We are actively involved in developing new mission ideas and working on missions in their planning and preparation phases.

ExoMars is a joint ESA-NASA mission and the first in ESA's Auroral programme of missions to explore Mars.

Science objectives

Exomars aims to characterise the biological environment of Mars in preapration for robotic and eventually human exploration. MSSL are leading the PanCam camera team. The PanCam will provide multi-wavelength images of the Martian surface to address geological and atmospheric science goals.

Further information

Exomars homepage at ESA

The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) is an ambitious European Space Agency mission to Ganymede and the Jupiter system.

JUICE is scheduled to be launched in 2022, and to arrive at Jupiter in 2030. It will then orbit the planet, during which time it will study Jupiter itself and its magnetosphere, and will encounter the active icy moon Europa, and Callisto, before entering orbit around Ganymede in 2032. Ganymede is the largest moon in the solar system, and is the only moon known to possess a global magnetic field.

MSSL is providing hardware for the mission's Particle Environment Package (PEP), led by the Stas Barabash of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics in Kiruna. We also have science co-investigator roles on the spacecraft's J-MAG magnetometer instrument, led by Prof. Michele Dougherty, Imperial College London, and the JANUS camera, led by P. Palumbo of Università degli Studi di Napoli, Italy.

Further information

JUICE pages at ESA

Caroline poster

Where does the Earth’s water come from? Caroline, named after prodigious

18th-century comet-finder Caroline Herschel, was a proposal for a spacecraft mission to attempt to answer this most fundamental of scientific questions.

The Caroline mission’s aim would be to deliver to Earth a sample of material from a main belt comet (MBC). MBCs are a rare type of body: asteroids that follow near-circular orbits in the main asteroid belt, but which behave as comet during part of their paths around the Sun. It’s believed that these objects have experienced impacts by other minor bodies in the relatively recent past, uncovering water ice, and that gas is expelled from the ice when exposed to sunlight, carrying with it dust that forms a comet-like coma and tail.

It is widely believed that much of Earth’s water was delivered to our planet by impacts of icy bodies early in the solar system’s history. However, the ratio of deuterium to hydrogen in Earth’s oceans does not match that found in long-period comets. Main belt comets, however, may have a compositional “fingerprint” that better matches Earth’s water, but it seems the only way to determine this chemical signature is to travel to an MBC and sample the material there directly.

Caroline would have captured solid particles in the vicinity of an active MBC in a low density material called aerogel, and returned the sample to Earth for detailed analysis.

The Caroline proposal was submitted to ESA in 2010 as part of their call for medium-class mission proposals as part of the Cosmic Vision programme. The proposal was a joint effort of an international team based in the UK, Germany, and the United States. Although not shortlisted for further study, the extremely high value of the mission’s scientific aims have been noted, and will form the basis for future proposals to characterize the nature of MBCs and eventually solve the mystery of the origin of Earth’s water.

Uranus

Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun, the third largest and fourth most massive planet in the solar system. Uranus is an ice giant planet named after the Greek god Uranus. Sir William Herschel announced the discovery of Uranus on 13 March 1781. Uranus has a set of 27 natural satellites (moons), a system of rings, a highly asymmetric magnetic field, and orbits the Sun on its side with its poles pointing at the Sun during some parts of the uranian year. The names of the uranian natural satellites are taken from characters in the works of William Shakespeare (e.g., Titania, Oberon and Mab) and Alexander Pope (e.g., Ariel and Umbriel). The uranian system has only been visited once by a spacecraft, that was NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft on 24 January 1986.

What is Uranus Pathfinder?

UP glossy cover

Uranus Pathfinder was a mission concept that was submitted to the European Space Agency's M3 call for medium class missions. Unfortunately it was not successful

despite being highly rated.

The Uranus Pathfinder concept was for an orbiter of Uranus, launching in 2021 and arriving at Uranus in the 2037 time frame. The mission would perform the first detailed study of an ice giant planetary system which would fill the gaps in our understanding of the formation of the solar system, and the physical processes in the interiors and atmospheres of ice giants.

A short presentation is available here. The Uranus Pathfinder M3 mission proposal was also written up for publication and has been submitted to a special issue of the Experimental Astronomy journal. You can download the submitted version of this paper here.

Why an expensive space mission to Uranus?

All the major components of the solar system are being actively explored in situ by spacecraft apart from the ice giant planets Uranus and Neptune. Yet the ice giants are an important and essentially unknown part of the solar system, they have a unique place in planet formation, and are crucial in understanding exoplanetary systems

Who are the Team?

The Uranus Pathfinder project is led by Dr. Chris Arridge from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory in the UK and the whole project involves over 120 scientists from:

  • Argentina
  • Belgium
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Israel
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America

The Future of Ice Giant Exploration

The future of Ice Giant exploration is good. The NRC Planetary Decadal Survey 2013-2023 in the United States said that a Uranus mission offers “...outstanding scientific potential and a projected cost that is well matched to its anticipated science return..." and should be initiated in the next decade. There is a large European ice giant community, led by the Uranus Pathfinder consortium, to take advantage of such a Uranus flagship mission.

In Europe we are looking towards future mission opportunities within ESA and are also planning a future European Uranus workshop.


We welcome all feedback, comments and suggestions from the UK, European and world-wide community. Please register here to show your interest in this exciting mission.

Page last modified on 08 sep 11 22:58