Text Size

Goddard Year In Review: Planetary Science
These stories, images and videos represent some of the 2011 highlights in the field of planetary science. All the content showcased here bears some connection to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Goddard-Managed Comet Hopper Mission Selected for Further Study (05.11.11)

NASA selected the Comet Hopper mission to continue in its mission concept phase. Comet Hopper, tentatively planned for 2016, would study the evolution of comet 46P/Wirtanen by landing on it multiple times and observing its changes as it interacts with the sun.

› The Full Story

Graphic artist concept of Comet Hopper.

conceptual image of OSIRIS-REx

NASA Selects OSIRIS-REx as Next New Frontiers Mission (05.25.11)

NASA has selected Goddard to manage this asteroid-bound mission, scheduled for launch in 2016. The destination asteroid, 1999 RQ36, is a time capsule from the early solar system rich with organic compounds that may have seeded life on Earth. OSIRIS-REx will return a sample to Earth in 2023. "OSIRIS-REx will also provide the knowledge that will guide humanity in deflecting any future asteroid that could collide with Earth, allowing humanity to avoid the fate of the dinosaurs," says Dr. Michael Drake, Director of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

› The Full Story

MAVEN Mission Completes Major Milestone (07.22.11)

Mars presents intriguing questions to scientists: How did the Red Planet become so desolate? Did Mars once look like Earth? How has it changed? The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN), set to launch in 2013, will explore the planet's atmosphere in search of answers. In July, MAVEN reached a critical milestone when it successfully completed its Mission Critical Design Review (CDR). (Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)
› The Full Story (07.22.11)

Juno to Show Jupiter's Magnetic Field in High-Def (08.01.11)

When it comes to magnetic fields, Jupiter is the ultimate muscle car. It's endowed with the biggest, brawniest field of any planet in the solar system, powered by a monster engine under the hood. Figuring out how this mighty engine, or dynamo, works is one goal of NASA's Juno mission, which began its five-year, 400-million-mile voyage to Jupiter in August 2011. The magnetic field studies will be the job of Juno's twin magnetometers, designed and built at Goddard.

› The Full Story
› NASA's Juno Spacecraft Launches to Jupiter (08.05.11)

NASA's Juno spacecraft is shown in orbit above Jupiter's colorful clouds in this artist's rendering

DNA Building Blocks Can Be Made in Space (08.08.11)

NASA-funded researchers have evidence that some building blocks of DNA, the molecule that carries the genetic instructions for life, found in meteorites were likely created in space. The research gives support to the theory that a "kit" of ready-made parts created in space and delivered to Earth by meteorite and comet impacts assisted the origin of life. (Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)
› The Full Story
› Download this and related videos from NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio

NASA Spacecraft Images Offer Sharper Views of Apollo Landing Sites (09.06.11)

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter captured the sharpest images ever taken from space of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites. Images show the twists and turns of the paths made when the astronauts explored the lunar surface. This interactive shows two images of the Apollo 12 landing site. Click and drag on the white slider bar to wipe from one to the other. The left image was released September 6; the right image is a zoom-in on an LRO image released in 2009. LRO was moved into a lower orbit to capture the new image. The images do not line up perfectly because of differences in lighting conditions, angle of the LRO Camera, and other variables. Image brightness and contrast have been altered to highlight surface details. (Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/ASU)
› More images and the full story
› Related story: A Race Against Time to Find Apollo 14's Lost Voyagers

Venus Express infrared view of vortex over Venus' south pole at different times

Venusian Weather Anything but Boring (09.27.11)

Weather on Venus has a reputation for being consistently bad. But new research may indicate there's no consistency about it. An international team has detected strange things going on in data from telescopic observations of Venus in infrared light at about 68 miles (110 kilometers) above the planet's surface.

› The Full Story

LRO Camera Team Releases High Resolution Global Topographic Map of Moon (11.16.11)

The science team that oversees the imaging system on board NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has released the highest resolution near-global topographic map of the moon ever created. This new topographic map shows the surface shape and features over nearly the entire moon. Due to instrumental limitations of previous missions, a global map of the moon's topography at high resolution has not existed until now.

› The Full Story
› Related Story: LRO Showing Us the Moon as Never Before
topographical map of the moon

An artist's concept illustrates what the Mars rover Curiosity will look like on Mars.

NASA Launches Most Capable and Robust Rover to Mars (11.26.11)

NASA began a historic voyage to Mars with the Nov. 26 launch of the Mars Science Laboratory, which carries a car-sized rover named Curiosity. During a nearly two-year prime mission after landing in August 2012, the rover will investigate whether Mars's Gale Crater region has ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life, including the chemical ingredients for life. Helping its investigation will be SAM, a suite of instruments assembled at Goddard.

› The Full Story
› About SAM

LRO Observes Final Lunar Eclipse of the Year (12.09.11)

LRO took the opportunity presented by lunar eclipses in June and December to take some detailed temperature readings of the moon. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter recorded how quickly targeted areas on the moon's day side cooled off during the eclipses. The degree of cooling is dependent on factors such as how rocky the surface is, how densely packed the soil is, and its mineral composition. By studying the lunar surface during the eclipse, scientists can learn even more about our nearest celestial neighbor.

› The Full Story

photograph of 2003 lunar eclipse

This gallery showcases NASA imagery and video pertaining to planetary science.