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Solar System: 5 Things to Know This Week

Solar System: 5 Things to Know This Week

From Mars to the asteroid belt to Saturn, our hardworking space robots are exploring the solar system. These mechanical emissaries orbit distant worlds or rove across alien landscapes, going places that are too remote or too dangerous for people (for now).

We often show off the pictures that these spacecraft send home, but this week we’re turning that around: here are some of the best pictures of the space robots, taken by other robots (or themselves), in deep space.

1. So Selfless with the Selfies


The Mars Curiosity rover makes breathtaking panoramas of the Martian landscape — and looks good doing it. This mission is famous for the remarkable self portraits of its robotic geologist in action. See more Martian selfies HERE. You can also try this draggable 360 panorama HERE. Find out how the rover team makes these images HERE.

2. Two Spaceships Passing in the Moonlight


In a feat of timing on Jan. 14, 2014, our Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter caught a snapshot of LADEE, another robotic spacecraft that was orbiting the moon at the time. LADEE zoomed past at a distance of only about five miles below.

3. Bon Voyage, Galileo


The history-making Galileo mission to Jupiter set sail from the cargo bay of another spacecraft, Space Shuttle Atlantis, on Oct. 18, 1989. Get ready for Juno, which is the next spacecraft to arrive at Jupiter in July.

4. Cometary Close-Up


Using a camera on the Philae lander, the Rosetta spacecraft snapped an extraordinary self portrait at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from a distance of about 10 miles. The image captures the side of Rosetta and one of its 14-meter-long solar wings, with the comet in the background. Learn more about Rosetta HERE.

5. Man and Machine


This snapshot captures a remarkable moment in the history of exploration: the one and only time a human met up in space with a robotic forerunner on location. The Surveyor 3 lander helped pave the way for the astronaut footsteps that came a few years later. See the story of Apollo 12 and this unique encounter HERE.

Want to learn more? Read our full list of the 10 things to know this week about the solar system HERE.

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