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Future Missions to the Mysterious Ice Giant Planets: Uranus and Neptune

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The ice giants Uranus and Neptune are the most distant planets in the Solar System, and we have only had a “snapshot” of each ice giant and its moons courtesy of the Voyager 2 spacecraft flybys in the 1980s.

In this talk, I will outline what little we know about these distant systems, and make the science case for future exploration of both Uranus and Neptune. I will describe the current status of ongoing international planning of future exploratory spacecraft missions that will address the science questions, involving collaboration between the USA National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the European Space Agency. We are aiming for launch in about 2030 and arrival at either Uranus or Neptune in about 2040, so this large project will support the careers of emerging generations of planetary scientists.

About the speaker: Adam Masters is a space and planetary scientist with the Space & Atmospheric Physics Group at Imperial. His research focuses on explaining how energy flows through the Solar System via magnetic fields and charged particle motion in space, as well as understanding how different bodies in the Solar System generate magnetic fields in their interiors. His research programme is underpinned by his involvement in spacecraft missions, such as the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan that ended in September 2017, the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer mission currently being built for launch, and ongoing high-level planning of future missions to Uranus and Neptune.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Physics Society series.

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