Future Missions

This year I noted an anomaly in one of my class assignments…

In my class, that just finished, as part of some of the short writing assignments, I ask the students to look at past, current and future space science missions, NASA or ESA, and to describe one of each to me : 1-2 pages at a level aimed at a science educated audience.

I usually get a nice set of diverse descriptions as people choose their favourites, but this year, for the future mission assignments, there was something strange.

About two thirds of the students chose NuSTAR for their description.

Now, NuSTAR is a nice little mission, I know many of the people involved.
But, why did so many students pick it to write about?

I fb’d it, as a curiousity, and one of our ex-students pointed out why:

google “future nasa missions”

It takes you to http://www.nasa.gov/missions/future/index.html

there is only one future NASA space science mission, NuSTAR.

The others listed are the International Space Station, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission and the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN)

I fear my students learned an interesting, and possibly valuable, lesson.

As did I.


  1. #1 Eric Lund
    December 20, 2011


    The Wikipedia page that turns up when you do that Google search mentions JWST and something called OSIRIS-REx (which I assume is a planetary mission; one of the R’s stands for “regolith”) instead of ISS and MAVEN. No mention on either page of RBSP, which is manifested for launch in August or September of next year, as you would see if you looked at the launch schedule which also turns up from the Google search (FD: I know several people who are involved in RBSP).

  2. #2 JohnD
    December 20, 2011

    The missions listed correlate directly with those missions slated to launch by the end of 2013. I suspect NASA is rightly hedging their bets on what will or will not get launched beyond that, and so this denotes a certain conservatism of thinking as well as a large uncertainty in the future political climate(!). I’d be really worried if they stopped things by the end of 2012…

  3. #3 Phil Condreay
    December 20, 2011

    Lesson: If you can google it, so can your professor.

  4. #4 Steinn Sigurdsson
    December 21, 2011

    Lesson: if you’re the professor, google it first, at the time of the assignment, not months earlier…

  5. #5 Nick
    January 2, 2012

    There are still plenty of future ESA missions for your students to choose and you did give them that option.

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