Featured Missions & Projects - Solar System Exploration Division (690)
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is an unmanned spacecraft designed to create a comprehensive atlas of the moon's physical features, radiation environment, temperatures, and resources. The mission places special emphasis on the moon's polar regions, where permanently shadowed craters may contain significant amounts of water ice that future human explorers might be able to exploit. LRO launched on June 18, 2009.
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission will be the first orbiter devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. Research suggests suggests that Mars once had a thicker atmosphere and was warm enough for liquid water to flow on the surface. MAVEN's instruments will explore Mars' upper atmosphere, ionosphere, and interactions with the sun and solar wind to determine the role played by loss of atmospheric gas to space in the evolution of the Martian climate through time. The Planetary Environments Laboratory at Goddard Space Flight Center will develop an instrument for MAVEN, the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer. The mission is slated for launch in 2013.
OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security--Regolith Explorer) will launch in 2016. It will travel to a near-Earth carbonaceous asteroid (101955) 1999 RQ36, study it in detail and bring back a sample (at least 60 grams or 2.1 ounces) to Earth in 2023. This sample will help us investigate planet formation and the origin of life, and the data collected at the asteroid will also aid our understanding of asteroids that can impact Earth (RQ36 is a potentially hazardous object with a 1-in-1,800 chance of impacting Earth in the year 2182). OSIRIS-REx is lead by PI Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona and managed by GSFC.
The NSSDC provides master catalogs, data standards, and other information services. It oversees the preservation of NASA space science data for the next generation of researchers. The Center ensures access to existing and future NASA space science archives.
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