I emailed the the individuals who authored this proposal: THE CASE FOR A NEPTUNE ORBITER/MULTI-PROBE MISSION. Heidi Hammel wrote me back an excellent email outlining current issues regarding a mission to an Ice Giant, and how you and I can give nudges to the appropriate people. Here is an annotated version:
There are two missions I hope to see launched in my lifetime. One is the James Webb Space Telescope (on track for a 2018 launch), and the other is a mission to an Ice Giant.
An ice giant mission was ranked third in the planetary exploration Decadal Survey “Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022“, after a Mars Sample Return mission and a Europa mission.
In spite of all the great work in robotic planetary exploration in recent years, that part of the NASA budget was cut in the most recent budget request. Thus, NASA has still not allocated money for the necessary development studies for an ice giant mission.
Commercial companies are not interested in missions that take a decade to plan and a decade to execute, since Return On Investment is too low for an effective business plan.
JAXA has not looked to the outer solar system yet.
The best way for you to help would be for you to write, and encourage others to write, to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee members and ask them to restore NASA’s Planetary Science Division Budget and to support the James Webb Space Telescope (which will do the support work for the planetary missions of the future, just as Hubble does now for current missions). Ask that NASA Science Mission Directorate be given the funds to do large robotic missions, since these are the ones that will push the boundaries of our knowledge.
If you want to see an ice giant mission, say so. Ask for it. Here is some helpful contact info from the American Astronomical Society.
At the time, I was ignorant of who Heidi was; I wrote her back, thanking her for the info, and asked what I should call her in this Blog entry. She replied with: “My current title is Vice President of AURA (Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy). I was Chair of the Giant Planets Panel for the recent planetary exploration Decadal Survey.” She’s also happens to be the Vice President of the Planetary Society.
Oh MY! Wow! Well… I’ll be taking her word for it, then…
NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft flew past the planet Uranus in 1986 and Neptune in 1989. It is the ONLY spacecraft to have visited those planets. The Ice Giants are unique planets in our solar system; valuable information about how our solar system formed waits to be found by investigating them.
We NEED to go back.
Let’s DO this!