I’ve finally got round to reading my Journal of British Interplanetary Society – the Sept/Oct 2010 issue.
One of the articles is about Uranus Mission Concept options. The mission, if it gets off the ground, is scheduled to be launched sometime in 2020 to 2023. Its tier one objectives are:
1) Determine the atmospheric zonal winds, composition, and structure at high spatial resolution, as well as the temporal evolution of atmospheric dynamics;
2) Understand the base structure of the planet’s magnetosphere as well as high-order structure and temporal evolution of the planet’s interior dynamo.
Nothing about the moons in that lot. Phew!
But one of the tier two objectives is to make remote sensing observations of the large satellites. Is this going to affect my novel, Miranda? Well, they suggest it’ll take the probe 13 years to get to Uranus… so the earliest it’ll get results back from it is 2033. Double phew! It means my Miranda novel won’t get dated so quickly… if it gets published that is.
But what really saddens me about the probe is the serious lack of new tech. The only two areas where research is needed are ultraflex solar arrays (6.7 metres in diameter), which are significantly larger than current arrays, and Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG) which is already being developed by NASA for other missions and will be ready to be deployed in 2014. Otherwise the probe looks very reminiscent of Voyagers 1 and 2, only somehow more compact and clunkier. Oh where oh where has the elegance of engineering gone to?