Space Exploration

From Bwtm

This page is about the exploration of space.



Mission: explore asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres

Dawn delves into the unknown, drives new technology innovations, and achieves what's never been attempted before. As a mission belonging to NASA’s Discovery Program, Dawn has orbited one member of the main asteroid belt, Vesta, and is now heading to explore a second new world, dwarf planet Ceres.

Dawn's goal is to characterize the conditions and processes of its earliest history by investigating in detail two of the largest protoplanets remaining intact since their formation. Ceres and Vesta reside in the main asteroid belt, the extensive region between Mars and Jupiter, along with many other smaller bodies. Each followed a very different evolutionary path, constrained by the diversity of processes that operated during the first few million years of solar system evolution. When Dawn visits Ceres and Vesta, the spacecraft steps us back in solar system time.

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Asteroid Vesta • Clementine Color Ratio Animation

news update

2015: NASA’s Year of the Dwarf Planet. by TIM REYES on DECEMBER 29, 2014

New Horizons

Mission: first reconnaissance of the planet Pluto

Voyage to an Unexplored Planet and a New Realm. The New Horizons mission will help us understand worlds at the edge of our solar system by making the first reconnaissance of the planet Pluto and by venturing deeper into the distant, mysterious Kuiper Belt – a relic of solar system formation.

The Journey: New Horizons launched on Jan. 19, 2006; it swung past Jupiter for a gravity boost and scientific studies in February 2007, and will conduct a five-month-long reconnaissance flyby study of Pluto and its moons in summer 2015. Pluto closest approach is scheduled for July 14, 2015. As part of an extended mission, the spacecraft is expected to head farther into the Kuiper Belt to examine one or two of the ancient, icy mini-worlds in that vast region, at least a billion miles beyond Neptune’s orbit.

Sending a spacecraft on this long journey will help us answer basic questions about the surface properties, geology, interior makeup and atmospheres on these bodies.

This mission will complete the initial reconnaissance of the Solar System and help us understand worlds at the edge of it by making the first reconnaissance of the dwarf planet Pluto and by venturing deeper into the distant, mysterious Kuiper Belt – a relic of Solar System formation.

Countdown clock




papercraft model of the New Horizon spacecraft which is on a mission to explore Pluto-Charon and the Kuiper Belt.



OSIRIS-REx will launch in September 2016, encountering asteroid Bennu in October 2018. The spacecraft will operate at asteroid Bennu for over 400 days. This 14-year mission will return a sample that scientists will study for decades with ever more capable instruments and new techniques.



Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR)


Solar wind – that is, the stream of charged electrons and protons that are released from the upper atmosphere of the Sun – is a constant in our Solar System and generally not a concern for us Earthlings. However, on occasion a solar wind shock wave or Coronal Mass Ejection can occur, disrupting satellites, electronics systems, and even sending harmful radiation to the surface.

Little wonder then why NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have made a point of keeping satellites in orbit that can maintain real-time monitoring capabilities. The newest mission, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) is expected to launch later this month.

A collaborative effort between NASA, the NOAA, and the US Air Force, the DSCOVR mission was originally proposed in 1998 as a way of providing near-continuous monitoring of Earth. However, the $100 million satellite has since been re-purposed as a solar observatory.





Rosetta launched in 2004 and arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 6 August 2014. It is the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet, escort it as it orbits the Sun, and deploy a lander to its surface. Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta's Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by DLR, MPS, CNES and ASI.


Philae lander

Philae: Lost comet lander is found.

WHERE IS PHILAE? WHEN WILL IT WAKE UP? These are the two most popular questions currently being asked of the mission – especially on our social media channels – and ones that we will try to answer in this post, including inputs from the OSIRIS team, and from the Lander Control Centre at the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Philae's landing site in 3D

Results and Presentations

Ten new Rosetta images that reveal comet 67P in all its glory

Rosetta will prompt science images rethink.

Files to 'print your own' Rosetta comet.

Japan’s Akatsuki mission


Back in 2010, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the The Venus Climate Orbiter “Akatsuki” with the intention of learning more about the planet’s weather and surface conditions. Unfortunately, due to engine trouble, the probe failed to make it into the planet’s orbit. Since that time, it has remained in a heliocentric orbit, some 134 million kilometers from Venus, conducting scientific studies on the solar wind. However, JAXA is going to make one more attempt to slip the probe into Venus’ orbit before its fuel runs out. Since 2010, JAXA has been working to keep Akatsuki functioning so that they could give the spacecraft another try at entering Venus’ orbit.



Kepler Space Telescope








Attention-span-challenged Mars rover reaches summit, snaps photo. NASA's Mars rover Opportunity provided striking photos of the Red Planet's landscape from the peak of 'Cape Tribulation.'

Venus Express

Europe’s Venus Express mission is at its end

MESSENGER spacecraft to orbit Mercury


To become the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury, MESSENGER followed a path through the inner solar system, including one flyby of Earth, two flybys of Venus, and three flybys of Mercury. This impressive journey yielded the first return of new spacecraft data from Mercury since the Mariner 10 mission more than 30 years ago. Here you can find details about that journey, the MESSENGER spacecraft, and the instrument payload.





Voyager 1 and its twin spacecraft, Voyager 2, embarked on a grand tour of the Solar System in the 1980s when an unusual alignment made it easy for a spacecraft to swing from one to the other. Both spacecraft observed Jupiter and Saturn, and Voyager 2 travelled on to study Uranus and Neptune as well. The spacecraft are believed to have at least several more years of life in them, depending on the strength of their nuclear generators on board. -

Pioneer 10

Pioneer 10 (originally designated Pioneer F) is an American space probe, weighing 258 kilograms, that completed the first mission to the planet Jupiter.[1] Thereafter, Pioneer 10 became the first spacecraft to achieve escape velocity from the Solar System. This space exploration project was conducted by the NASA Ames Research Center in California, and the space probe was manufactured by TRW.




Cassini–Huygens is an unmanned spacecraft sent to the planet Saturn. It is a flagship-class NASA–ESA–ASI robotic spacecraft sent to the Saturn system.[3] It has studied the planet and its many natural satellites since arriving there on June 30, 2004, also observing Jupiter and the heliosphere, and testing the theory of relativity. Launched in 1997 after nearly two decades of development, it includes a Saturn orbiter and an atmospheric probe/lander for the moon Titan called Huygens, which entered and landed on Titan in 2005. Cassini is the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter orbit, and its mission is ongoing as of 2014. The two-part spacecraft is named after astronomers Giovanni Cassini and Christiaan Huygens.–Huygens

Huygens was an atmospheric entry probe that landed successfully on Saturn's moon Titan in 2005. Built and operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), it was part of the Cassini–Huygens mission and became the first spacecraft ever to land on Titan. The probe was named after the Dutch 17th-century astronomer Christiaan Huygens,[1] who discovered Titan in 1655.

Spacecraft design

Power supply

Cassini orbiter is powered by three radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), which use heat from the natural decay of about 33 kg (73 lb) of plutonium-238 (in the form of plutonium dioxide) to generate direct current electricity via thermoelectrics. The RTGs on the Cassini mission have the same design as those used on the New Horizons, Galileo, and Ulysses space probes, and they were designed to have very long operational lifetimes. At the end of the nominal 11-year Cassini mission, they will still be able to produce 600 to 700 watts of electrical power.



This true color mosaic of Jupiter was constructed from images taken by the narrow angle camera onboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft starting at 5:31 Universal time on December 29, 2000, as the spacecraft neared Jupiter during its flyby of the giant planet. It is the most detailed global color portrait of Jupiter ever produced; the smallest visible features are ~ 60 km (37 miles) across. The mosaic is composed of 27 images: nine images were required to cover the entire planet in a tic-tac-toe pattern, and each of those locations was imaged in red, green, and blue to provide true color. Although Cassini's camera can see more colors than humans can, Jupiter here looks the way that the human eye would see it.

Hubble Telescope

Hubble Top 100

Earth Observation

Sentinel-1A radar imaging satellite


Sentinel-1A is a European radar imaging satellite launched in 2014.



SMAP environmental research satellite


Soil Moisture Active Passive is an American environmental research satellite. Part of the first tier of missions recommended for NASA by the Earth Science Decadal Survey, it is scheduled for launch in 29 January 2015.



Air Force X-37B spaceplane

Air Force spaceplane returns to Earth after 780-day mission. An unpiloted Air Force X-37B spaceplane, one of two winged orbiters used to carry out classified research, made a surprise landing at the Kennedy Space Center early Sunday to close out a record 780-day mission. It was the fifth flight in the secretive Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) program, pushing total time aloft to 2,865 days. via @CBSNews


Exoplanet Travel Series