Rotating Question Curious About Astronomy? Ask an Astronomer

Could we send a manned mission to the outer planets?

Is it possible to NASA send the man to planets like Jupiter or Saturn? How long it would take? Do they have conditions for prospects of life?

Manned missions to any of the outer planets would be extrememly challenging. The planets themselves are known as gas giants because they are extremely big and have no solid surface! Humans would therefore not be able to land on them as there is nothing to land on! Flying in the upper atmosphere might be technically possible with a specially designed craft, but I think that it is safe to say that that is many years in our future.

These planets do have a lot of very interesting moons as well. Along with many small asteroid sized moons Jupiter has the four Gallilean satellites (Io, Ganymede, Callisto and Europa) and Saturn has Titan. These moons might be places that humans will one day walk on, maybe even live on and would be extremely interesting destinations, both as bases to study the planets they orbit and in their own right. Most of the discussions of possible ET life in the outer solar system focus on these moons, particularly Europa and Titan - which would make them popular destinations I'm sure.

I am not aware of any NASA (or any other space agency) plans to even research sending humans to the outer planets. That is likely to remain the case until we (by this I mean the human race) have successfully sent humans to Mars and back to the Moon. There is unlikely to be any public support to fund planning for such mission until it has been shown that we can send people to closer planets first.

Using current technology it would take several years for a space craft to reach the outer planets. Current plans put a trip to Mars, out closest neighbouring planet at 9 months there, 9 months back, and the outer planets are many times further than that.

August 2002, Karen Masters (more by Karen Masters) (Like this Answer)

Still Curious?

Get More 'Curious?' with Our New PODCAST:

Related questions:

More questions about Space Exploration and Astronauts: Previous | Next

How to ask a question:

If you have a follow-up question concerning the above subject, submit it here. If you have a question about another area of astronomy, find the topic you're interested in from the archive on our site menu, or go here for help.

Table 'curious.Referrers' doesn't existTable 'curious.Referrers' doesn't exist

This page has been accessed 21156 times since November 23, 2002.
Last modified: June 4, 2003 3:46:55 PM

Legal questions? See our copyright, disclaimer and privacy policy.
Ask an Astronomer is hosted by the Astronomy Department at Cornell University and is produced with PHP and MySQL.

Warning: Your browser is misbehaving! This page might look ugly. (Details)