As one of the most well-known organisations in the world, NASA is looked upon by millions – even billions – to deliver clarity on the universe we live within. Their statements are taken with complete faith and trust that this is 100% the case. People with interest in the planets beyond our own will turn to NASA for information about just about anything.
However, their recent decision to develop a probe that can be sent far beyond the reaches of current probe limits has got people very excited. They intend to try and send a probe as far as the distance between the Earth and the Sun. While the likes of the Voyagers 1 and 2 have brought back some very intriguing information from interstellar space, they have not gone beyond a certain point. NASA, then, is looking to find a partnership to try and push beyond these limits and see more of the universe up-close.
Dubbed the Interstellar Probe, experts at the John Hopkins Applied Physics Lab said that this would be able to reach “where humanity has never reached before”.
While some might laugh at the movie-like language, this could legitimately be a big moment in the development of legitimate learning of the universe that we reside within. Indeed, the aim is to try and snap a photo of our heliosphere from outside – giving us a unique image of what the solar system actually looks like.
The work was put forward by Dr. Elena Provornikova, who has been at the head of a four-year plan to set out objectives for such a mission. They have worked on a plan that understands the instruments needed to find success, and also potential trajectories to be used as part of the mission. They believe that the mission will build on a similar objective that was laid out in 1999 but never came to any meaningful movement.
However, some are looking to pour cold water on the optimism for one reason: cost. The costs are still being worked out, with the cost of such a project sure to be massive. However, some hope that we could see genuine progress of an interstellar probe within around one decade.
It would, though, take the probe years after that to even reach the locations intended. This, then, is the most ambitious project that has ever been undertaken with regards to visiting space. Currently, Voyager 1 sits around the distance between the Earth and the Sun away from our planet; this probe is expected to go far enough to make our trips to Mars in the past look like a quick jaunt to the store in comparison.
While the Voyagers might one day reach such locations, it is likely that humanity will have lost contact with the probes. The interstellar probe, by comparison, is being designed with the intent of ensuring that once it reaches the outer reaches of its mission that we can still create contact and receive back analysis and feedback from its discoveries.