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Solar System: 10 Things to Know This Week

Solar System: 10 Things to Know This Week

State of the Solar System: 10 quick updates
from around our galactic neighborhood.

1. Powered by the Sun

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Fifty-nine years ago, Vanguard 1 launched to
demonstrate a new spacecraft technology – solar power. We’ve been going farther
and for longer ever since.

+More
on Vanguard 1

2. Mapping Mercury

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A big week in history for exploration of the
innermost planet. On March 16, 1975, our Mariner 10 made its third and final
flyby of Mercury. One day and 36 years later, MESSENGER became the first
spacecraft to orbit Mercury. Next up: ESA’s BepiColumbo, undergoing testing
now, is set to launch for Mercury in 2018.

+Missions to Mercury

3. Return to Venus

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U.S. and Russian scientists are discussing a
planned revival of the successful Venera program that revealed much about Venus
in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Meanwhile, Japan’s Akatsuki orbiter continues to
study our sister planet.

+More
on Venera-D

4. Rocket Power

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Back on Earth 91 years ago (March 16, 1926),
inventor and dreamer Robet Goddard changed the world forever with the first
test of a liquid-fueled rocket. We’ve been going farther and faster ever since.

+More
on Goddard

5. Moon Watch

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Our Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has
been sending a steady stream of high-resolution images back to Earth for more
than seven years.

+More
on LRO

6. Busy Mars

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There are currently five orbiters (Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey, MAVEN, ESA’s Mars Express and India’s
Mars Orbiter Mission) and two rovers (Curiosity and Opportunity) exploring
Mars, making it second only to Earth in the number of robotic spacecraft
studying its secrets.

+Meet the Mars Fleet

7. Vote for Jupiter

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Polls close today (March 20) so vote not to
point a real spacecraft camera at Jupiter during the mission’s 5th
perijove pass.

+Vote now

8. Science to the Last Second

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In a little less than six months, our Cassini
orbiter will plunge into Saturn as a spectacular finale to its 19-year mission –
but not before it embarks on a completely new mission into unexplored space
between Saturn and its mighty rings.

+More on Cassini’s Grand Finale

9. By George?

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Happy belated birthday to Uranus, discovered
on March 13, 1781 by William Herschel. The English astronomer wanted to name
his discovery – the first planet discovered in recorded history – “Georgium
Sidus” after England’s King George III. But he was overruled, and astronomer stuck
with traditional mythological names – creating an opportunity for 263 years of
student jokes at the expense of the ice giant planet’s name.

+More
on Uranus

10. Go Farther

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The round trip light time from Voyager 1 to
Earth is more than 38 hours. Voyager 1 is almost 13 billion miles from our home
planet.

+More
on Voyager

Discover more lists of 10 things to know about our solar system HERE.

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