Space science has helped us understand more about our solar system, but there's still a lot to learn about the mysteriously tilted planet of Uranus. Talks of sending a mission to the ice giant are being discussed by the European Space Agency (ESA) with NASA.
At NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, a team continues to explore the possibilities of sending an orbiter to Uranus. Because of NASA's current budget limitations, the proposal is being considered by the ESA. Dating back to 1986, NASA's Voyager 2 was able to successfully study the planet's moons, atmosphere, and ring system. Since then, a number of Uranus missions have been proposed. Unfortunately, none of them have been approved so far, mostly due to high costs of sending an orbiter rather than a flyby.
Ultimately, interest in the project may be starting up again because of Uranus's unique qualities. Externally, Uranus is but a blue sphere with little character compared to others like Jupiter or Saturn. On the inside, however, it holds some of the most mysterious properties that exist in planets.
Besides its unusual tilted orientation, Uranus also appears to be the only planet made up of three layers consisting of a rocky inner core, a watery mantle, and a gaseous outer atmosphere. This fact alone is incentive for us to further explore Uranus, scientists believe. What peaks astronomers' curiosity even more is the odd seasonal changes the planet undergoes. From night to day, winter turns into summer in just a day because of the rotational orientation of Uranus.
As such, an orbiter would allow for more in-depth analysis of all these properties and more. Beyond understanding more about this ice giant, the Uranus mission could even reveal more about its neighbors in the solar system. The trip itself is said to take anywhere from 10 to 15 years, not to mention the upscale cost of at least $1 billion. There hasn't been any word of the mission being confirmed, but the project is definitely not a dead end.