NASA has announced that it is extending the missions for a pair of spacecraft after an external review of their scientific productivity. The missions are Juno and InSight, both of which have increased the understanding of the solar system and resulted in scientists asking new sets of diverse questions. NASA says that an independent review panel comprised of experts with backgrounds in science, operations, and mission management has determined that both Juno and InSight have “produced exceptional science,” They have recommended to NASA both missions be continued.
Juno and its mission team have made important discoveries about the interior structure of Jupiter and the planet’s magnetic field and magnetosphere. The spacecraft and mission team also found that Jupiter’s atmospheric dynamics are far more complex than scientists previously believed. The scientific mission of Juno has been extended through September 2025 or the end of the spacecraft’s life.
The mission will continue observations of Jupiter and will expand investigations to the larger Jovian system, including its rings and large moons. Observations and flybys are planned of Jovian moons Ganymede, Europa, and Io. The InSight mission has been extended for two years and will run through December 2022. The spacecraft and team are operating the highly sensitive seismometer to expand the understanding of Mars and its crust and mantle.
InSight is currently searching for and identifying Marsquakes on the surface of the Red Planet. It’s also working to improve our scientific knowledge of Mars’ atmospheric dynamics, magnetic field, and interior structure. The extended mission will focus on producing long-duration, high-quality seismic data.
Continued operation of the weather station and burial of the seismic tether will contribute to the quality of the seismic data the spacecraft captures. NASA also hopes the extended mission may continue deployment, albeit at a low priority, of the spacecraft’s Heat Probe and Physical Properties Instrument, which currently remains close to the surface of Mars.