NASA's 2017 Outlook


For the last 58 years, NASA has been responsible for leading space exploration efforts and research that helps us better understand Earth and the universe beyond. The four different areas that NASA works within are aeronautics, human exploration and operations, science, and space technology. With missions completed at the international space station, and new discoveries relating to Mars, 2016 was a successful year for NASA. This new year, 2017, is filled with more exciting missions and projects.

To gain more knowledge of exoplanets, planets beyond our solar system, NASA is launching a new telescope. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, TESS, is expected to discover thousands of planets by monitoring stars' brightness drops. The brightness of a star drops as a planet transits in front of it. TESS will identify planet sizes and focus will be placed on small planets with bright host stars. This will help to characterize these planets and learn about their environment. TESS will fulfill its primary mission during two years.

This year will also mark the close of a chapter for the Cassini spacecraft. Cassini was sent to explore Saturn in 1997 and has explored the planet and its moons since 2104. Thanks to all the data that Cassini sent back to Earth, many insights have been gained to help the future of of planetary exploration. Coming to its end, Cassini is expected to dive 20 times through the outer ring of Saturn and eventually crash into the giant planet.

Not to be left behind in the curiosity of our solar system, there are also a lot of great things planned for Mars. Humans being able to travel to Mars is closer to becoming a reality. NASA's Orion spacecraft is going to serve as the exploration vehicle. Part of this journey is a mission to redirect an asteroid. The first segment will be a robot which will be sent to redirect the asteroid to an orbit around the moon. Once in this orbit, astronauts will explore it and collect samples. This mission will help NASA with the new technologies needed for a human mission to Mars. Mars is believed to be an important source for scientific discovery and human exploration.

Important to any human mission to space, is the International Space Station. NASA is studying astronauts who have been at the space station for 6 months, or more, in order to learn what is needed for humans to thrive on long missions. The unmanned spacecraft, Cygnus, will be conducting it's ninth flight to the International Space Station to bring supplies. This is expected to happen in July 2017. Earlier in the year, Expedition 51 crew members will launch to the International Space Station. The environment on the space station makes research possible that is not possible on Earth.

A phenomenon that will be visible in North America in 2017 will be a total solar eclipse. NASA will be monitoring this eclipse, which is not expected to happen again in 375 years. Many spacecrafts from ground, air, and space will be observing the eclipse.

Closer to home, NASA will also continue to study and monitor climate change. This will include launching missions to track sea levels and installing instruments on the International Space Station to observe the Earth. Other missions, such as ASCENDS, will provide accurate global CO2 data and help in the ability of predicting changes in climate cycles.

In 2017 NASA will continue to place focus on the future of humanity. Whether in space exploration for possibilities beyond Earth, or with research conducive to preserving Earth, NASA continues to be a leader. With the many missions in place, 2017 is sure to be another year filled with breakthroughs for NASA.
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