NASA SPHEREx mission aims to investigate the origins and evolution of the universe

NASA has announced that it has selected a new space mission with a target launch for 2023. The new mission is called SPHEREx, which stands for Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer. The mission is planned to last two years and is funded at $242 million.

That mission cost doesn't include the cost to launch the spacecraft. SPHEREx will survey the heavens in both optical and near-infrared light. The latter is light not visible to the human eye but is a tool for scientists to use in answering questions about the universe.

Data gathered by the spacecraft will be used by astronomers to learn about the over 300 million galaxies and over 100 million stars in the Milky Way. The spacecraft will also search for the essentials for life as we know it, water and organic molecules, in regions of the galaxy where stars and planets might be forming.

SPHEREx will survey the entire sky every six months using tech adapted from satellites and Mars spacecraft. A map of the sky will be created in 96 different color bands and will allow the map created to far exceed the color resolution of all previous all-sky maps.

SPHEREx will identify targets for study by future missions, such as an additional study with the James Webb Space Telescope and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Telescope. This mission was chosen out of nine proposals sent in with that set chopped to a pair of projects that were selected for further study in 2017. SPHEREx was chosen as the winner in that final round of competition.