A Scientific Armada; Magnificent Cosmos; Scientific American Presents; by Beardsley; 4 Page(s)
A decade from now humanity's understanding of the solar system, no less the universe beyond, will have grown vastly more focused and detailed. During the next 10 years, roughly 50 scientific expeditions will blast off from Earth-a veritable armada of missions to visit planets, comets and asteroids, as well as to make sensitive observations of deep space from above Earth's occluding atmosphere. Researchers will very likely resolve some longstanding questions at the same time that they grapple with as yet undreamed of conundrums.
As many as nine spacecraft will intensively survey Mars during the next 10 years, including the Mars Global Surveyor now in orbit. If plans under consideration get the go-ahead, samples from the red planet will return to Earth for analysis sometime after 2005. Missions to Pluto and, perhaps, Mercury and Venus (though not currently scheduled) may advance onto the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's timetable.