NASA has recently selected four missions to further explore celestial collisions and debris left behind, and to monitor how flares emitted by nearby stars affect the atmospheres of orbiting planets, and to reveal the mysteries of the universe in depth, according to NASA’s website. NASA plans to select two of these missions in 2021 under the Explorer Program, which will be launched in 2025.
These four tasks include two “Small Explorers” (SMEX) tasks and two Opportunity Missions (MOEs). In addition to launch costs, SMEX and MO missions have cost caps of $145 million and $75 million, respectively.
The two SMEX missions are the Atmospheric Physics and Evolutionary Characterization Mission (ESCAPE) of Polar Ultraviolet Stars (ESCAPE) and the Compton Spectrometer and Imaging Instrument (COSI), each of which will receive $2 million in funding for a nine-month conceptual study.
ESCAPE will study nearby stars to observe their rapid and intense ultraviolet flares to determine the chances of them stripping the atmospheres of rocky planets orbiting the stars, which affect the planet’s living environment, said Kevin Frans of the University of Colorado Boulder. COSI will scan the Milky Way to measure gamma rays from radioactive elements during a stellar explosion, mapping the history of star death and element altruism. It will also measure polarization and improve our understanding of how distant high-energy cosmic eruptions produce gamma rays, said Mission principal John Tomsk of the University of California, Berkeley.
The two MO missions are the Gravitational Wave Ultraviolet Counterpart Imager (GUCIM) and the Large Area Explosive Spin Instrument (LEAP), each of which will receive $500,000 in funding for a nine-month conceptual study.
THE GUCIM WILL CONSIST OF TWO SMALL, SEPARATE SATELLITES, EACH SCANNING THE SKY IN DIFFERENT ULTRAVIOLET BANDS, DETECTING TWO NEUTRON STARS OR A NEUTRON STAR AND A BLACK HOLE, AND PRODUCING THE LIGHT FROM HOT GASES IN A GRAVITATIONAL WAVE EXPLOSION. The mission will map the sky under ultraviolet light and find other bright objects, such as exploding stars, and the mission’s lead researcher is Stephen Chenko of the Goddard Space Flight Center. LEAP will be installed on the International Space Station to study high-energy jets emitted during the period of the death of a giant star or neutron star, lead researcher Mark McConnell of the University of New Hampshire.