Who : Avada
What : Planetary Missions
Spicy : Avada has a geeky post after a long time in her own words and we liked it. It is a post about the planetary missions which have been sent to the space from the earth. A very well researched post and a sure read.
Long time and no geeky post from my side! Let me start with one here.
Our ancestors observed the night sky and we had always wondered about moon. Now that we know there is nothing on moon, not even an atmosphere, we are kind of sure there is no life on moon. The next target for these days has been Mars, the only planet which “might” have life on it, other than Earth and we have seen lot of hype about the missions to mars like Mars Rover et al. And it is a confirmed news that humans are going to land on Mars in the beginning of the next decade.. Awesome, isn’t it? Let me dedicate this post to the Apollo 11 mission (when man first landed on moon), which completed 40 years of moon landing recently!!!
“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”, as Neil Armstrong rightfully said.
Everyone has heard about the moon and mars missions, but are you guys aware of other missions going on/older missions which gave fantastic information about other planets of our solar system?
Our lovely blue planet, the Earth, is the only home we know. Venus is too hot. Mars is too cold. But the Earth is just right, a heaven for humans. After all, we evolved here. But our congenial climate may be unstable. We are perturbing our poor planet in serious and contradictory ways. Is there any danger of driving the environment of the Earth toward the planetary Hell of Venus or the global ice age of Mars? – By Carl Sagan, one of the greatest astronomers.
As everyone is aware of the space race between USSR and US, USSR sent Veneras to send probes to Venus. After some unsuccessful missions, Venera 4 onwards succeeded in doing some flybys around Venus, some of them sent probes and we got lot of information and realized that the Venus was a hot ball of SO2 gas. After this, US sent Pioneer Venus 1 and 2 to perform long-term observations of the Venusian atmosphere and surface features and also sent a probe to Venus, to perform some atmospheric experiments. After this, Magellan was sent by US which made a mapping of almost 98% of the Venus’ surface. That was the last expedition to Venus.
Jupiter and the other gas giants were still a mystery since people were kind of scared about hitting the asteriod belt that existed after Mars. Pioneer 10 and 11 sent by US, proved that it was possible to cross the belt and move ahead. Pioneer 10 studied only Jupiter and Pioneer 11 also made a visit to Saturn. Now they both are drifting away in space and have left solar system long back and are not in contact anymore. Hopefully, they will meet some aliens and they carry a plaque with some drawing so that the aliens can recognize who sent them.
Voyager is one mission by US that I am really excited about and I have been following this mission for a long time now. Voyager 1 and 2 helped us map out some of the areas where we never went. They were initially sent to investigate Jupiter and Saturn but they ended up exploring even Uranus, Neptune and their moons. They are now exploring regions where nothing from Earth has flown before. They are now at a point where the Sun’s dominance of the environment ends and the interstellar space begins. Is it not exciting? It will be so interesting to see what the interstellar space is like!
Galileo‘s 14-year odyssey helped us a lot in understanding Jupiter and its moons. We have yet another ongoing mission for Jupiter from NASA called Juno.
Coming to Saturn, I guess everyone has heard about the famous Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, which made some amazing discoveries about what the saturn’s rings are composed of. Huygens landed on Titan, the largest satellite of Saturn. Though, it completed its mission, it was made to stay back in order to witness the Saturnian equinox, which occured in August 2009 when the sun shone directly on the equator and began to illuminate the northern hemisphere and the rings’ northern face. A very interesting mission. We now, know that there are volcanoes on the moon Io, similar to those on Earth.
There is another mission called New Horizons sent by US which is all set to explore Pluto and its satellite Charon. Although the spacecraft has just crossed Saturn, lot of excitement is floating around about what it might find out.
The last but not the least planet, the one closest to the Sun, Mercury. Mariner series sent by US was the first to flyby Mercury and Venus. Now there is a new ongoing mission to explore Mercury, called Messenger, again by US. It has already done three flybys around Mercury and about 90% of its surface has been mapped.
Now that the planets and their satellites are done, the only things left in our Solar system are the asteroids and comets. We have even explored them. Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) by US again, was the first to land on an asteroid, Eros and did some useful exploration. Deep Impact by US was sent to explore the comet Tempel 1. It had an impactor which ejected a mass towards the comet and then recorded the impact effects. Similarly, Stardust from US did exploration of comet Wild 2. Glycine, a fundamental building block of life was found in samples of comet Wild 2 returned by Stardust which kind of proves the theory that Comets were responsible for the evolution of life on Earth. Currently, we have a Stardust NEXT mission going on and Dawn exploring Vesta and Ceres (prototype planets in the asteroid belt), EPOXI (comet Hartley 2), all of them by NASA.
As you can see, the only country constantly involved in the exploration of space is US. Initially, USSR did some breakthroughs too. But later on, it’s just US in the space race and some investment from European Space Agency like the Huygens probe and Italian space research. Japan sent some spacecrafts to explore comets, Mars and Moon, and China and India sent to Moon. It is very sad to see that the rest of the countries seem like they do not want to invest much for it. I wish that more and more countries would get into the space race and we make some astounding discoveries in future!!
Image sources: http://www.google.com