Space Missions: Civil Services Mentor Magazine - October - 2015

Space Missions

Regularly missions from one or the other institute of the world try to uncover mystery associated with the planets. There are various benefits which are associated with these missions. Major benefits include the uncovering the mystery of life and solving the big question how it all started. There are various other benefits which include economic benefits, security benefits as well as various other technological benefits as well. Various missions have been sent by NASA in the past and recently ISRO also joined this list with the sending of Mars orbiter mission. Important among these missions are:

Rosetta Mission

Rosetta mission which will orbit comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko made a landmark by becoming the first man-made object to land on a comet to trace the origins of life on earth. It was launched on 2 March 2004 from the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana on an Ariane 5 rocket and reached the comet on 6 August 2014 becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a comet. The spacecraft consists of the Rosetta orbiter, which features 12 instruments, and the Philae lander, with nine additional instruments. The Philae lander landed on the comets surface on 12 November 2014.


It is considered that the comets delivered enormous quantities of additional water to inner planets and it was only earth which could retain large amounts of water. So studying the composition of comets significantly increases our understanding of the origins of our planet and our solar system.

Second, comets are known to include organic molecules, and meteorites have been known to contain amino acids, the building blocks of life. More detailed analysis of comets will help answer questions about the origins of life on Earth.

Another reassuring aspect of this mission that has succeeded in finding a needle in an interplanetary “haystack” is that it increases our confidence in being able to meet and divert any asteroid or comet that might collide with Earth and wipe us all out.


NASA launched Juno in 2011 as part of its New Frontiers program. Juno’s mission is look at the material of the jupiter as well as how the planet was formed. Juno will also look for the relation between Jupiter and the solar system. Jupiter is key to understanding how this happened because it was likely the first planet to form. It is thus made of the same material as that nebula.

New Horizons

New Horizons launched in 2006, this mission was designed to reach Pluto. Pluto was one of the planets when the mission was launched. In 2007, the spacecraft used Jupiter’s gravity to sling it into space with a bit more speed, during this time New Horizons captured four months’ worth of Jupiter imagery and atmospheric data. New horizon has also taken the images of asteroid 132524 APL.


Cassini arrived in the Saturn system in May 2004 and started collecting data on the planet and its moons. Cassini also launched a probe into the Titan, satellite of the Saturn. This probe to Titan is known as Huygens; Huygens holds the record for the farthest distance we’ve safely landed a spacecraft. Cassini continued collecting data and stunning imagery of Saturn and its moons. In 2005, the spacecraft made a daring run at Enceladus and discovered that the Saturnian moon is venting geysers of water and ice into space. In 2008, Cassini’s mission was extended, and it collected samples from Enceladus’s geysers.

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