A summary of missions and mission concepts that are being developed for flight within the next 10-20 years is provided here along with links to other relevant online resources.
Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope – Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets (WFIRST-AFTA)
The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope was the highest-ranked large space mission concept in the U.S. 2010 Decadal Survey. Its primary scientific goals are to determine the nature of the “dark energy” that is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate, conduct a statistical census of planetary systems in the Milky Way galaxy by performing a microlensing survey, and conduct a deep near-infrared survey of the cosmos. When NASA acquired access to an unused 2.4m telescope provided to them by the National Reconnaissance Office, an additional scientific goal for WFIRST was made possible – the ability to characterize nearby Jupiter-sized planets using an onboard high-performance coronagraph. WFIRST is not yet an official NASA mission but is expected to enter its development phase sometime in the middle of this decade with a potential launch in the 2022-2023 timeframe.
PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of Stars (PLATO)
PLATO has been selected as a European Space Agency (ESA) mission for the 2024 launch opportunity in ESA's Cosmic Vision program. Like TESS, PLATO’s objective is to find and study a large number of extrasolar planetary systems, with emphasis on the properties of terrestrial planets in the habitable zone around Sun-like stars.
Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope (ATLAST)
The Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope is a concept for an 8m-16m space telescope that will allow us to perform some of the most challenging observations to answer some of our most compelling astrophysical questions, including “Is there life elsewhere in the galaxy?” ATLAST will be able to obtain spectra for tens of Earth-like planets orbiting nearby solar-like stars. It will have the sensitivity and precision to detect “biosignatures,” such as the presence of molecular oxygen and liquid water, in the atmospheres of such planets.