Today marks 26 years since NASA made its one and only visit to Neptune. And for years, planetary scientists have bemoaned a predicted 50-year gap between that flyby from Voyager 2 and its next mission.
NASA’s Jim Green took a step toward narrowing that gap today at the Outer Planets Assessment Group meeting in Laurel, Maryland. The agency’s head of planetary sciences announced that the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) will study a flagship mission to Uranus and/or Neptune.
If approved, the spacecraft would be the next big mission following Mars2020 and Europa Clipper (now Europa Multiple Flyby Mission). Green says the proposed flagship mission’s cost should be less than $2 billion. Past flagship missions include Cassini, Galileo, and Voyager.
Argo, the last proposed mission to Neptune, was grounded because NASA didn’t have enough plutonium to power all of its spacecraft, according to one of its designers.