Space exploration

Craters on Mars

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Scientists believe that our Solar System formed about 4600 million years ago. Since then, its planets and moons have all developed in very different ways. To understand how the Solar System works and why Earth is so special, ESA’s science programme has started a series of complicated missions going deep into space:

XMM Newton

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  • Mars Express has found water on Mars and is mapping its surface
  • Venus Express is looking into the atmosphere of Venus to study the greenhouse effect that makes the temperature of its surface hot enough to melt lead
  • ESA’s Huygens probe landed on Titan, a giant moon of Saturn, to study its chemistry and geography. Underneath the orange clouds, it found a fascinating, icy world with landscapes similar to those on Earth
  • SMART-1 has looked at the surface of the Moon and given us information on how the Moon was formed and what it is made of
  • Rosetta is on its way to meet with a comet in 2014, which will help scientists to understand if it was comets that brought water and life to Earth
  • BepiColombo will explore Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, to learn how planets near stars are made and develop
  • ExoMars will be ESA’s first rover mission to explore the surface of another planet. A rover is a robotic machine that can move across the surface of a planet. It will try to find out if life ever existed on Mars
  • Space-based telescopes, like Hubble and ESA’s XMM-Newton and Integral, are looking at the Universe in different ways. They study how stars are born and change, and look at galaxies and strange objects in space, like black holes
  • In 2012, Gaia will begin to map over a thousand million stars in our Galaxy, telling us more about the Milky Way than we have ever known before

Last modified 21 July 2010

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