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Astronomers Make the Science Case For a Mission To Neptune and Uranus 134

Posted by samzenpus
from the to-the-stars dept.
KentuckyFC writes "The only planets never to have been the subjects of bespoke space missions from Earth are Neptune and Uranus. Now European astronomers are planning to put that straight with a mission called Odinus, which involves twin spacecraft making the journey in 2034. Their justification is that the mission will help explain how the Solar System formed, how it ended up in the configuration we see today and may also explain why 'hot' Neptune-class planets are common around other stars. They also have to overcome the common misconception that Neptune and Uranus are just smaller, less interesting versions of Jupiter and Saturn. Nothing could be further from the truth. For a start, Neptune and Uranus and made of entirely different stuff--mostly ices such as water, ammonia and methane compared with hydrogen and helium for Jupiter and Saturn. That raises the question of how they formed and how they got to the distant reaches of the Solar System. However it happened, Uranus ended up lying on its side, probably because of a cataclysmic collision. And Neptune's largest moon Triton orbits in the opposite direction to its parent's rotation, the only moon in the Solar System to do this. How come? Another question still unanswered is who's going to pay for all this. The team are pinning their hopes on the European Space Agency which has already expressed interest. But would an international collaboration be a better option?"
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Astronomers Make the Science Case For a Mission To Neptune and Uranus

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  • Uh... no. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 17, 2014 @01:22PM (#46268817)

    Space research represents very little of our national budget about 0.48%. I think the random acts of violent aggression in the world has cost us far more, and continues to do so.

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday February 17, 2014 @01:23PM (#46268825) Homepage Journal

    I'm opposed to food stamp cuts, but there are orders of magnitude difference in the costs here. NASA is incredibly cheap, as far as national programs are concerned, and years of budget cuts there haven't done anyone any good. I'd be willing to wager a fair amount that satellite imaging, communication, weather monitoring, and mapping have done more good with respect to helping starving people than the equivalent amount spent directly on food would have.

    Did we have any idea of the possible benefits the space race would yield when we started it? I doubt it. Scientific knowledge doesn't go away when you acquire it, and it's literally impossible to say what utility this research could have.

    Now... if you want to talk about the value of corporate crop subsidies versus food stamps, then we can be talking the same ballpark for prices and relative human cost.

  • by bberens (965711) on Monday February 17, 2014 @02:40PM (#46269629)
    I stopped reading your post right here.

    This is about the gathering of knowledge purely for the sake of science.

    That seems like a good enough reason as any.

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