A pair of enhanced images of Uranus from the Keck telescope on Hawaii are among the best from the Earth.
Credit: Lawrence Sromovsky, University of Wisconsin-Madison/ W. M. Keck Observatory

Scientists seek a return mission to Uranus

By Paul Sutherland 02 January 2013

“It is 27 years since Voyager 2 paid its fleeting visit to Uranus. We really need close-up studies to see what has changed.”
Chris Arridge, Mullard Space Science Laboratory

(Sen) – While spacecraft continue to study the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, some space scientists are clamouring for missions to the neglected planets of the Solar System.

A NASA probe, New Horizons, is currently racing towards an ex-planet, Pluto, to speed past and tell us more about that world and its Kuiper Belt relatives. But ice giants Uranus and Neptune have not been properly studied from space since the Voyager missions of the 1980s.

There are no plans currently to return to the most distant planet Neptune. However, NASA has made a Uranus mission the third highest priority for planetary exploration in the 2020s, after another martian rover and further study of Jupiter.

The US financial crisis has put many future missions on hold due to budgetary restraints. But planetary scientists are pressing for such a mission to fly as soon as possible, especially after a similar proposal for a European mision, Uranus Pathfinder, was passed over in 2011.

Read more: Scientists seek a return mission to Uranus — SEN.

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