Yesterday NASA held a media briefing which discussed the fate of the sleeping Opportunity rover on Mars. Now, moving forward, the space agency is conducting new plans for more space exploration. NASA’s new mission is going to focus on the origins of the universe as we know it, and is also going to study how common it is to find the building blocks of life in the universe, the space agency announced via the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
The SPHEREx mission (Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer) is estimated to last two years and involves a $242 million project (with launch costs not yet included). NASA scheduled the mission to launch in 2023.
“I’m really excited about this new mission,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a news release. “Not only does it expand the United States’ powerful fleet of space-based missions dedicated to uncovering the mysteries of the universe, it is a critical part of a balanced science program that includes missions of various sizes.”
NASA’s new mission will see SPHEREx explore the night sky in different specters, including optical and near-infrared light, which will be greatly used for revealing various secrets and mysteries about the universe. SPHEREx, scientists believe, is going to provide useful info originating from more than 300 million galaxies, as well as gather information from 100 million stars in the Milky Way galaxy.
“This amazing mission will be a treasure trove of unique data for astronomers,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “It will deliver an unprecedented galactic map containing ‘fingerprints’ from the first moments in the universe’s history. And we’ll have new clues to one of the greatest mysteries in science: What made the universe expand so quickly less than a nanosecond after the big bang?”
There are many things about the origins of the universe that SPHEREx will explore. NASA’s new mission will search for water and organic molecules in the Milky Way galaxy, with both materials being essential for life as we know it on Earth. The mission will also explore stellar nurseries where stars come into existence from gas and dust. The mission will also survey for disks around the stars which could hint at the formation of new planets.
SPHEREx is going to survey the whole sky every six months using the technologies used in satellites and the Mars spacecraft. The mission’s goal is to create a detailed map of the night sky, sporting 96 different color bands. The mission will also be useful for finding targets for future missions which could be conducted by the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.
James Bock of Caltech in Pasadena is going to work in collaboration with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to design the payload for the mission, while JPL is going to be in charge of the mission which explores the origins of the universe.