What would the future look like if people were regularly visiting to other planets and moons? These travel posters give a glimpse into that imaginative future. Take a look and choose your destination:
The Grand Tour
Our Voyager mission took advantage of a once-every-175-year alignment of the outer planets for a grand tour of the solar system. The twin spacecraft revealed details about Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – using each planet’s gravity to send them on to the next destination.
Our Mars Exploration Program seeks to understand whether Mars was, is, or can be a habitable world. This poster imagines a future day when we have achieved our vision of human exploration of the Red Planet and takes a nostalgic look back at the great imagined milestones of Mars exploration that will someday be celebrated as “historic sites.”
There’s no place like home. Warm, wet and with an atmosphere that’s just right, Earth is the only place we know of with life – and lots of it. Our Earth science missions monitor our home planet and how it’s changing so it can continue to provide a safe haven as we reach deeper into the cosmos.
The rare science opportunity of planetary transits has long inspired bold voyages to exotic vantage points – journeys such as James Cook’s trek to the South Pacific to watch Venus and Mercury cross the face of the sun in 1769. Spacecraft now allow us the luxury to study these cosmic crossings at times of our choosing from unique locales across our solar system.
Ceres is the closest dwarf planet to the sun. It is the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, with an equatorial diameter of about 965 kilometers. After being studied with telescopes for more than two centuries, Ceres became the first dwarf planet to be explored by a spacecraft, when our Dawn probe arrived in orbit in March 2015. Dawn’s ongoing detailed observations are revealing intriguing insights into the nature of this mysterious world of ice and rock.
The Jovian cloudscape boasts the most spectacular light show in the solar system, with northern and southern lights to dazzle even the most jaded space traveler. Jupiter’s auroras are hundreds of times more powerful than Earth’s, and they form a glowing ring around each pole that’s bigger than our home planet.
The discovery of Enceladus’ icy jets and their role in creating Saturn’s E-ring is one of the top findings of the Cassini mission to Saturn. Further Cassini discoveries revealed strong evidence of a global ocean and the first signs of potential hydrothermal activity beyond Earth – making this tiny Saturnian moon one of the leading locations in the search for possible life beyond Earth.
Frigid and alien, yet similar to our own planet billions of years ago, Saturn’s largest moon, Titan has a thick atmosphere, organic-rich chemistry and surface shaped by rivers and lakes of liquid ethane and methane. Our Cassini orbiter was designed to peer through Titan’s perpetual haze and unravel the mysteries of this planet-like moon.
Astonishing geology and the potential to host the conditions for simple life making Jupiter’s moon Europa a fascinating destination for future exploration. Beneath its icy surface, Europa is believed to conceal a global ocean of salty liquid water twice the volume of Earth’s oceans. Tugging and flexing from Jupiter’s gravity generates enough heat to keep the ocean from freezing.
Learn all about the end of the Rosetta Mission and more about the weather on Mars, the Moon’s colorful palette.
1. Rosetta’s Last Dance
The Rosetta mission was one of firsts: the first to orbit a comet and the first to dispatch a lander to a comet’s surface. Rosetta transformed our understanding of these ancient wanderers, and this week, mission controllers will command the spacecraft to execute a series of maneuvers to bring it out of orbit around Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Watch live on Sept. 30 from 6:15-8 a.m. EDT, the Rosetta mission’s 12-year odyssey in space reaches its conclusion. Rosetta will descend to make a planned impact on the comet’s surface with its instruments recording science data during descent.
2. Hubble Spots Possible Water Plumes Erupting on Jupiter’s Moon Europa
On Monday, Sept. 26, our scientists announced what may be
water vapor plumes erupting off the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa, based on data from the Hubble Space Telescope.
This finding bolsters other Hubble observations suggesting the icy moon
erupts with high altitude water vapor plumes.
Scientists have found an “impossible” ice cloud on Saturn’s moon Titan. The puzzling appearance of an ice cloud prompted our researchers to suggest that a different process than previously thought could be forming clouds on Titan. The process may be similar to one seen over Earth’s poles. Today, the Cassini spacecraft will perform a targeted Titan flyby, skimming just 1,079 miles (1,736 kilometers) above its hazy surface. Several of Cassini’s instruments will be watching for clouds and other phenomena in the atmosphere, as well as taking measurements of the surface.
Earth’s moon is a colorless world of grays and whites, right? Not really. As seen in these images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, some landscapes on the moon reveal a whole range of color. One such place is the mountainous complex of ancient lava flows known as the Lassell Massif, one of the moon’s so-called “red spots.”
A camera aboard our Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter monitors global weather patterns daily. The most recent report includes the remains of a large dust storm in the Noachis region, and smaller tempests spotted along the edge of the south polar ice cap and water-ice clouds over the volcano Arsia Mons.
The building blocks of life might be
hanging out on Titan, one of Saturn’s
moons. Cornell University scientists
believe they have proven that life only
requires the existence of one chemical:
hydrogen cyanide, which can be
found all over the universe and is the
most common hydrogen-containing
compound on Titan’s surface. Source