Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why isn’t anyone interested in Uranus?” you ask? Good question . . . timely too. (Besides, it beats having to answer the question: “Why does Summer’s Eve come in flavors?”)
There have been missions to Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Saturn and Venus. Spacecraft is even heading for the demoted, now non-planet Pluto. For some reason though no has really checked out Uranus yet.
Truth is, there are people who want to see Uranus. Leigh Fletcher, a University of Oxford planetary scientist, is one of them. He points out Uranus is odd in comparison to other heavenly bodies. He states it is “really weird”–for several reasons.
Fletcher is part of an international group of researchers that actually thinks “Uranus has been neglected for too long.” (Think about it. Can you remember the last time Uranus even had a brush by? It’s been years, right? 1986?)
This team of engineers and scientists come from the US, Europe, Japan and other countries. They’re proposing to spend a lot of money ($600m) to probe Uranus and find out why it’s “so odd.” Fletcher said: “Think of Uranus as the missing link.” He added that the purpose of the adventure being proposed is “to probe the internal structure of the planet (and) to sniff out the atmospheric composition” which would help them “put together the puzzle about how planets form.”
Still, to date there has not been much interest in exploring Uranus. Why? Experts say it’s “extremely difficult.”
Uranus is not exactly nearby. It’s actually 1.8 billion miles away from the Sun. It would probably be a long time before a probe could get to it-–possibly 15 years.
It would also be very dark. Sunlight is very weak that far away. Battery-powered, electrical powered and even solar-powered vehicles would not work. Exploring Uranus would actually require a “nuclear power source” which would be more difficult to create and run.
Communication–which would obviously be important when exploring Uranus–would also be an issue. How would astronauts communicate and relay data from a spacecraft at such a distance?
Finally, a significant amount of time is required in order to properly investigate Uranus. Experts believe it would require keeping everyone involved together for years. In fact, a source at the BBC believes it would be difficult to keep the “engineering and operations teams together in the decade or so between launch and arrival at (Uranus).”
Trying to check out Uranus can be daunting. While it might at first seem like a real possibility, past propositions by members of the ESA and NASA—including 2010’s Uranus Pathfinder—were rejected.
Why isn’t anyone interested in Uranus? Now you know.
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