Exploration of Uranus
In 1986, NASA’s Voyager 2 interplanetary probe encountered Uranus. This flyby remains the only investigation of the planet carried out from a short distance, and no other visits are currently planned. Launched in 1977, Voyager 2 made its closest approach to Uranus on January 24, 1986, coming within 81,500 kilometers of the planet’s cloud tops, before continuing its journey to Neptune. Voyager 2 studied the structure and chemical composition of Uranus’s atmosphere, including the planet’s unique weather, caused by its axial tilt of 97.77°. It made the first detailed investigations of its five largest moons, and discovered 10 new moons. It examined all nine of the system’s known rings, discovering two new ones. It also studied the magnetic field, its irregular structure, its tilt and its unique corkscrew magnetotail caused by Uranus’s sideways orientation.
A Uranus orbiter and probe has been recommended by NASA’s decadal survey; the proposal envisages launch during 2020–2023 and a 13-year cruise to Uranus.