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Wall of gas divides
cosmic metropolis

...A new study from the Chandra X-ray Observatory unveils the star-forming factory NGC 604 as a divided neighbourhood...

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Supermassive black holes not guilty of shutting down star formation

...Galaxies cease star formation long before their supermassive black holes have the power to do the job themselves...

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C1XS takes first taste of lunar X-rays

...The UK-built C1XS instrument flying aboard the Chandrayaan-1 orbiter has successfully detected its first X-ray signature from the Moon...

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STS-120 day 2 highlights

Flight Day 2 of Discovery's mission focused on heat shield inspections. This movie shows the day's highlights.

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STS-120 day 1 highlights

The highlights from shuttle Discovery's launch day are packaged into this movie.

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STS-118: Highlights

The STS-118 crew, including Barbara Morgan, narrates its mission highlights film and answers questions in this post-flight presentation.

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STS-120: Rollout to pad

Space shuttle Discovery rolls out of the Vehicle Assembly Building and travels to launch pad 39A for its STS-120 mission.

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Dawn leaves Earth

NASA's Dawn space probe launches aboard a Delta 2-Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral to explore two worlds in the asteroid belt.

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Dawn: Launch preview

These briefings preview the launch and science objectives of NASA's Dawn asteroid orbiter.

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More video



Jupiter mission given

poll position

ASTRONOMY NOW

Posted: 19 February, 2009

NASA and ESA officials have decided to first go ahead with an ambitious mission to Jupiter and Europa, following up with another mission to visit Saturn’s moons Titan and Enceladus.

Both missions are destined to set the stage for the future of planetary science research and have been labelled as outer-planet flagship missions that could eventually answer questions about how our Solar System formed and whether habitable conditions exist elsewhere in the Solar System.

NASA and ESA will venture forth to the Jupiter system together. Image: NASA/ESA.

The missions are derived from the merger of separate NASA and ESA mission concepts. Proposals to NASA included a Europa orbiter and a Titan orbiter to revisit Saturn's moon. ESA’s missions, falling under the Cosmic Visions programme, were called Laplace and Tandem, again, two missions to explore Europa and Titan respectively. Laplace included a proposal to land on the surface of Europa, and Tandem would explore both Titan and Enceladus.

After studying the feasibility of both types of mission, NASA and ESA scientists and engineers concluded that the Europa mission would be given the poll position, but that the scientific merits of both missions could not be separated, so both missions should move forward for further study and implementation.

"The decision means a win, win situation for all parties involved," says Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "Although the Jupiter system mission has been chosen to proceed to an earlier flight opportunity, a Saturn system mission clearly remains a high priority for the science community."

Both agencies will need to undertake several more steps and detailed studies before officially moving forward. "This joint endeavour is a wonderful new exploration challenge and
will be a landmark of 21st Century planetary science," says David Southwood, ESA Director of Science and Robotic Exploration. "What I am especially sure of is that the cooperation across the Atlantic that we have had so far and we see in the future, between America and Europe, NASA and ESA, and in our respective science communities is absolutely right. Let's get to work."

Artist's impression of a possible future ESA/NASA mission to Saturn's system that would explore Titan and Enceladus. Image: NASA/ESA.

Both missions present new exploration challenges. The Europa Jupiter System Mission will use two robotic orbiters to
conduct unprecedented detailed studies of Jupiter and the Galilean Satellites: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. NASA and ESA will share the workload; NASA will take on the Jupiter Europa Orbiter and ESA will build another spacecraft, initially named Jupiter Ganymede Orbiter. The mission proposal will see the two spacecraft launch in 2020 on two separate launch vehicles from different launch sites. They will reach the Jupiter system in 2026 and spend at least three years exploring the worlds.

The Galilean Satellites provide a unique example of how four moons orbiting the same body can vary so greatly. Io, the innermost moon, is the most actively volcanic body in the Solar System. Europa is suspected to harbour an ocean under its icy shell, and Ganymede is also thought to have a deep underwater ocean, and is the only moon known to have its own internally-generated magnetic field. Callisto’s surface is heavily cratered and ancient, providing a record of events from the early history of the Solar System. All four moons would provide a unique insight into the evolution of the Jovian system.

The Titan Saturn System Mission would consist of a NASA orbiter and an ESA lander and research balloon, which will continue to be developed as NASA and ESA define their planetary exploration roadmaps for the next decades.

The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.
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Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.
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3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!
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