NASA has approved missions to search for life on distant planets – they will examine candidates for potentially inhabited exoplanets, as well as study the consequences of the death of large stars. Two of the four missions will be launched before 2025, the space agency said.
Missions called ESCAPE, COSI, GUCI, and LEAP are planned under Explorer. Their main task is to observe the stars and planets in the Milky Way and other galaxies.
ESCAPE and COSI are small research missions. The first will study ultraviolet flares on the stars closest to the Earth – it is believed that such events can deprive the atmosphere of the star itself and the planets located next to it.
COSI will track gamma-ray bursts during supernova explosions resulting from the decay of atoms of radioactive elements. The space agency plans that these data will better understand the evolution of chemical elements in the universe.
GUCI will track the outbreaks of ultraviolet radiation that occur when two neutron stars merge. In addition, the mission will help ground-based vehicles, such as the LIGO/Virgo observatories, search for the gravitational waves generated by these events. LEAP is a device that will be installed on board the ISS and will be able to measure the polarization of radiation generated by the largest stars in the Universe shortly before death.
“Each of these missions will help us make breakthroughs in the newest and “hottest” areas of astrophysics. Given their great scientific returns and low cost, Explorer missions will be able to fill in the gaps that currently exist in our flotilla of space telescopes”.