In Pictures: 21 critical future NASA missions

NASA space plans include trips to Mars, Jupiter, Pluto and the Sun as well as climate change operations

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Here comes the sun: The Solar Orbiter isn't a NASA mission but rather a European Space Agency mission that will partially use NASA technology. According to NASA, the Solar Orbiter will get close-up views of the Sun's polar regions and its back-side and will tune its orbit to the direction of the Sun's rotation as to allow the spacecraft to observe one specific area for much longer than currently possible. This will provide better insight on the evolution of sunspots, active regions, coronal holes and other solar features and phenomenon, NASA said. It is expected to launch this year.

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In Pictures: 21 critical future NASA missions

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