PLANETARY MISSION UPDATES
Launched in 2006, New Horizons is the first spacecraft sent to study Pluto and its moons. A year into its journey, the spacecraft entered the Jovian system. New Horizons captured this image of Jupiter and its moons Io and Ganymede on January 24, 2007. Ganymede's shadow appears on Jupiter's northern hemisphere.
On February 28, the spacecraft performed a flyby of the gas giant. Using the planet's gravity, New Horizons gained the extra speed needed to reach Pluto in 2015. During the flyby, mission scientists began testing the spacecraft's science instruments. Over the next few months, New Horizons will make hundreds of observations of Jupiter and its four largest moons.
Image courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
|Lakes on Titan
The Cassini spacecraft obtained this radar image during a flyby of Saturn's moon Titan on February 22, 2007. The dark, irregularly shaped area may be a large lake of liquid methane and/or ethane. The island (white arrow) in the middle of the lake is about 150 kilometers (93 miles) across, almost the size of Kodiak Island in Alaska or the Big Island of Hawaii.
Image courtesy of NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
|Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter- The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) began orbiting Mars in September 2006. For one Martian year (nearly two Earth years) its high-resolution imager HiRISE will study the planet's surface, and the sounding radar SHARAD will map geologic deposits beneath the surface.
Two scientists from the National Air and Space Museum's Center for Earth and Planetary Studies are involved with the mission. Dr. John Grant is a HiRISE co-investigator, and Dr. Bruce Campbell is on the SHARAD science team.
This image was captured by HiRISE on November 8, 2006. It reveals the presence of a delta within Eberswalde Crater. Composed of coarse-grained rocks and sediments, the delta appears to have been formed by water that once flowed into the crater.
Image courtesy of NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory-Caltech/University of Arizona
|MRO Sees Pathfinder
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's high-resolution imager HiRISE captured this image (left) on December 21, 2006. The close-up (outlined in blue) reveals the location of NASA's 1997 Mars Pathfinder Lander. Its backshell and parachute are also visible.
Mars Pathfinder arrived at the red planet on July 4, 1997, landing on an ancient flood plain called "Ares Vallis." The mission consisted of a stationary lander and a rover named Sojourner. By the end of the three-month mission, the rover had taken over 500 images of the surrounding rocks. Communications with the lander ceased on September 27, 1997. Cold Martian nights were believed to have caused terminal battery failure.
Images courtesy of NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory-Caltech/University of Arizona
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