All Missions & Projects - Solar System Exploration Division ( 690 )

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Arctic Mars Analogue Svalbard Expedition (AMASE)

AMASE has established Svalbard as a test bed for life-detection technology that will be used on future NASA and ESA 'Search for Life' mission to Mars.

Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory

The Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory is dedicated to the study of organic compounds derived from Stardust and future sample return missions, meteorites, lab simulations of Mars, interstellar, proto-planetary, and cometary ices and grains, and instrument development.
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Atmospheric Pressure Sounder

The long-term goal of this activity is to demonstrate the feasibility of a laser sounder instrument capable of measuring the surface-pressure field for the entire air column from satellite-to-ground with global coverage. The earth's surface pressure is a vital component of a variety of important scientific measurements, which are being undertaken at Goddard. Accurate knowledge of the surface pressure can enable calibration of 2-D measurements of CO2 content in the atmosphere and greatly improve the fidelity of surface water redistribution measurements from time-varying gravity fields. It is also important in weather prediction and atmospheric modeling.
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Autonomous Nanotechnology Swarm (ANTS)

The Autonomic NanoTechnology Swarm (ANTS) is a generic mission architecture consisting of miniaturized, autonomous, self-similar, reconfigurable, addressable components forming structures. The components/structures have wide spatial distribution and multi-level organization.

Cassini Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS)

The Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) is collecting data to determine the composition and structure of positive ions and neutral particles in the upper atmosphere of Titan and the magnetosphere of Saturn. It is also measuring the positive ion and neutral environments of Saturn's rings and icy moons.

Cassini RPWS Investigation

The objective of the RPWS investigation is to study radio and plasma waves in the vicinity of Saturn and during the flight to Saturn. This objective includes studies of radio emissions, plasma waves, lightning, dust impacts, plasma densities and temperatures, and plasma density fluctuations. Regions investigated include Saturn's magnetosphere; Titan's ionosphere; the solar wind; Jupiter's magnetosphere; and Earth, Venus, and the asteroids.

Cloud Physics Lidar (CPL)

The Cloud Physics Lidar (CPL) is a backscatter lidar designed to operate simultaneously at three wavelengths: 1064, 532, and 355 nm. The purpose of the CPL is to provide multi-wavelength measurements of cirrus, subvisual cirrus, and aerosols with high temporal and spatial resolution. From the fundamental measurement, various data products are derived, including: time-height cross-section images; cloud and aerosol layer boundaries; optical depth for clouds, aerosol layers, and planetary boundary layer (PBL); and extinction profiles.
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CO2 Boundary Layer Profiler

The CO2 Boundary Layer Profiler is a ground-based prototype Differential Absorption Lidar. DIAL's measurement technique uses the change in signal strength between a wavelength strongly absorbed by CO2 and one not absorbed at all to make range resolved measurements of CO2.

CO2 Sounder for the ASCENDS Mission (CO2 Sounder)

The NASA Goddard CO2 Sounder lidar is a candidate for NASA's ASCENDS Earth Science Mission, which will use a lidar to measure the mixing ratio of atmospheric CO2 from orbit. The CO2 Sounder lidar approach is being developed through laboratory testing and airborne demonstrations, and has been demonstrated from aircraft in 3 campaigns since the fall of 2008. The ASCENDS mission is scheduled to launch in 2019.
A rendering of the CAESAR spacecraft (credit: NASA)

Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return (CAESAR)

CAESAR seeks to return a sample from 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a comet that was successfully explored by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, to determine its origin and history.
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Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS)

The Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) is an instrument on the Cassini spacecraft, now orbiting Saturn. CIRS records infrared spectra of Saturn, its satellites, and its rings. The CIRS scientific team studies the temperature structure, dynamics, and composition of the atmosphere of Saturn and Titan. The team also studies the thermal structure of Saturn's rings, and the nature of warm structures on icy satellites such as Enceladus. CIRS is sensitive to wavelengths from 7 to 1000 micrometers, using several different detectors. The full CIRS scientific team is international in scope, with co-investigators located in the U.S., England, France, Germany, and Italy. Michael Flasar of Goddard's Planetary Systems Laboratory is the Principal Investigator.
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Cosmic Ice Laboratory

Our research group specializes in studying the spectra, the chemistry, and the physical properties of ices relevant to comets, icy satellites and planets, and the coatings of dust grains in the interstellar medium.
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Dragonfly is a rotorcraft lander mission proposed to the New Frontiers Program that is designed to take advantage of Titan's environment to be able to sample materials and determine the surface composition in different geologic settings. This revolutionary mission concept would provide the capability to explore diverse locations to characterize the habitability of Titan's environment, to investigate how far prebiotic chemistry has progressed, and even to search for chemical signatures that could be indicative of water-based and/or hydrocarbon-based life.
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Artist rendering of Dragonfly flying over Mars

Dragonfly - DraMS (Dragonfly Mass spectrometer) (DraMS)

A central element of the payload is a highly capable mass spectrometer instrument, with front-end sample processing able to handle highmolecular-weight materials and samples of prebiotic interest. The system has elements from the highly successful SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) instrument on Curiosity, which has pyrolysis and gas chromatographic analysis capabilities, and also draws on developments for the ExoMars/MOMA (Mars Organic Material Analyser).
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Extrasolar Planet Observations and Characterization (EPOCh)

The EPOCh investigation observed Earth, the Moon, and Mars to characterize them as analogs for possible extrasolar planets. This project recorded images over time of the entire disc of Earth and Mars over 24-hour periods using seven colors of visible light and near-infrared wavelengths (1-4.5 microns). The Moon was observed over a few hours during one of the Earth observations. This unique data set is enabling explorations of the properties of distant earth-like planets to prepare for efforts some day to directly detect and understand such objects.

Future Exploration Science Working Group (FESWG)

FESWG (Future Exploration Science Working Group) is a committee of Goddard scientists and engineers promoting the exchange of information about current meetings and proposal and teaming opportunities related to future NASA exploration efforts.

Galileo Probe Mass Spectrometer (GPMS)

The Galileo probed entered Jupiter's atmosphere on December 7, 1995. The Galileo Probe Mass Spectrometer (GPMS) was one of six instruments on the Probe and was the primary Probe instrument to measure chemical and isotopic composition of the atmosphere of Jupiter.

Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer

The Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer (GRNS) is an instrument aboard the MESSENGER spacecraft, a NASA mission to conduct the first orbital study of Mercury. The purpose of the GRNS is to provide information about the elements that make up Mercury's surface crust. More exactly, it will provide information about the uppermost tens of centimeters of the crust. This instrument measures the numbers and energies of gamma rays and neutrons that reach the MESSENGER probe as it passes near the planet.

Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS)

GLAS (the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System) is the first laser-ranging (lidar) instrument for continuous global observations of Earth. From aboard the Ice Cloud and Elevation Satellite (ICESat) spacecraft, it makes unique atmospheric observations, including measuring ice-sheet topography, cloud and atmospheric properties, and the height and thickness of radiatively important cloud layers needed for accurate short term climate and weather prediction.

Heterodyne Instrument for Planetary Wind And Composition (HIPWAC)

Goddard's Heterodyne Instrument for Planetary Wind And Composition (HIPWAC) is used at ground-based facilities, often at the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan Subaru Telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. With HIPWAC, scientists probe planetary atmospheres for chemical and dynamical information at exceptionally high spectral resolution. HIPWAC has made valuable observations of a variety of solar system bodies, including Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Titan, Neptune, and Venus.
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High-power Laser and Amplifier Lidar Transmitters

Fiber lasers and fiber-amplifiers are truly an enabling technology for NASA's space flight remote sensing applications. Fiber lasers and fiber-amplifiers are light, compact and efficient, however work is still required on power-scaling and pulse-energies for NASA-specific applications, such as altimetry and atmospheric spectroscopy. Fiber lasers and amplifiers offer numerous advantages for both near-term and future deployment on instruments on Earth Science Remote Sensing orbiting satellites.

Huygens Gas Chromatograph - Mass Spectrometer (GCMS)

The GCMS was a key instrument on the Huygens probe which landed on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan on January 14, 2005. GCMS is a quadrupole mass filter with a secondary electron multiplier detection system and a gas sampling system providing direct atmospheric composition measurements and batch sampling through three Gas Chromatograph (GC) columns.

Infrared Photon Detectors

The Laser Remote Sensing Laboratory at NASA's GOddard Space flight Center is developing near-infrared photon-counting detectors for the CO2 sounders on ASCENDS and for multi-beam swath mapping laser altimeters for the Lidar Surface Topography (LIST) mission.


The JUNO magnetic field's investigation will provide measurements of the Jovian magnetic field over a wide dynamic range. The fundamental objectives of this investigation are to map the magnetic field, determine the dynamics of Jupiter's interior, and determine the three-dimensional structure of the polar magnetosphere and its auroras. Juno was inserted into orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016.

Laser Sounder for Measuring Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations from Orbit

We are developing a laser-based sounding approach for remotely measuring the global concentration of atmospheric CO2 from a satellite. In our method, CO2 abundance is measured by using a three-channel nadir viewing lidar in a 550 km altitude dawn dusk orbit. The CO2 measurement is made utilizing the strong laser echoes from the surface as the lasers are rapidly tuned on and off a selected CO2 line in the overtone band near 1570 nm. A similar technique is used simultaneously on a second channel to measure the surface pressure by utilizing a line in the oxygen A band near 770 nm. The dry-air mixing ratio can be calculated from the ratio of CO2 to O2, that can be measured using a similar technique applied to a line in the O2 absorption band at 770 nm. A third channel operating at 1064 nm is used to detect and screen measurements influenced by cloud and aerosols in the path.
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