Topics: Space Exploration - 1.2.i Neptune Missions

1.2.i Neptune Missions

Uranus missions

* Voyager 2

Voyager 2's closest approach to Neptune occurred on August 25, 1989. Since this was the last major planet the spacecraft could visit, it was decided to make a close flyby of the moon Triton, regardless of the consequences to the trajectory, similarly to what was done for Voyager 1's encounter with Saturn and its moon Titan. The images relayed back to Earth from Voyager 2 became the basis of a 1989 PBS all-night program, Neptune All Night.

A Voyager 2 image of Triton

During the encounter, signals from the spacecraft required 246 minutes to reach the Earth. Hence, for the most part, the Voyager 2 mission relied on pre-loaded commands for the Neptune encounter. The spacecraft performed a near-encounter with the moon Nereid before it came within 4400 km of Neptune's atmosphere on August 25, then passed close to the planet's largest moon Triton later the same day.

The spacecraft verified the existence of a magnetic field surrounding the planet and discovered that the field was offset from the centre and tilted in a manner similar to the field around Uranus. The question of the planet's rotation period was settled using measurements of radio emissions. Voyager 2 also showed that Neptune had a surprisingly active weather system. Six new moons were discovered, and the planet was shown to have more than one ring.

In 2003, there was a proposal to NASA's "Vision Missions Studies" to implement a "Neptune Orbiter with Probes" mission that does Cassini-level science without fission-based electric power or propulsion. The work is being done in conjunction with JPL and the California Institute of Technology.


1.2.i  Neptune Missions
Voyager 2 image of Triton