Exploring the solar system at JPL


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Spacecraft managed by JPL for NASA have visited all the planets in our solar system. This daunting accomplishment began when the JPL-built Mariner 2 spacecraft flew over Venus in 1962. Since then, many NASA space missions have explored the other planets and some of their many moons, as well as asteroids and comets. .

These missions have brought us spectacular and diverse discoveries, including volcanoes, canyons, geysers, colossal storms, and evidence of liquid oceans on other worlds.

The venerable twin spacecraft Voyager played a pivotal role in uncovering the secrets of the solar system. Built at JPL and launched in 1977, they have flown over and imaged Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Their discoveries added many chapters to astronomy books. Iconic Voyager images include a ‘family portrait’ of planets and a retrospective view of Earth in the form of a ‘pale blue dot’. The Voyagers are now in interstellar space, the space between the stars. And in case they encounter other beings, the two spacecraft carry instructions to play on board a “Golden Record” of human greetings, sounds, music and images.

Savory surprises in the solar system

It seems there is a surprise around every corner of the solar system. The thrill and benefits of discovering these delicacies are limitless, except for the great travel distances, technology, resources and harsh conditions of space. That’s why we maximize the findings from each mission to strategize where to go next.

For example, the Galileo mission found evidence of an ocean below the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa in the 1990s. Then, in 2005, another JPL-managed mission, Cassini, spotted jets of steam. of water escaping from the frozen moon Enceladus of Saturn. Scientists have determined that it could also have an underground ocean. As a result of these revelations, the Frozen Worlds have become a prime candidate for further exploration as possible hosts for a life form. A future mission in preparation, Europa Clipper, will take a close look at this promising jovial destination. And researchers are now also studying the possibility that other places, including asteroids and comets, may contain ice and maybe even liquid water.

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