Exploring our solar system to unlock mysteries and advance the human condition
From space probes traversing deep into the solar system to powerful space telescopes looking back in time to capture dramatic images of celestial wonder, humanity has expressed a deep and abiding drive to understand the universe better.
By studying planets, asteroids and stars, scientists and researchers can glean clues and insights yielding greater understanding of the universe and sparking technological developments enhancing life on Earth.
Studying Mars and Jupiter
While the past boasts a startling list of space exploration accomplishments, the future holds still greater promise.
Continuing its support of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, Lockheed Martin built the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft, which launched aboard an Atlas V rocket Nov. 18, 2013.
MAVEN is on its way to Mars, where it will arrive in September to begin its mission of studying the red planet’s upper atmosphere and to gain clues as to what happened to earlier surface water.
Another Mars mission will be the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) spacecraft. Targeted for a 2016 launch, InSight will take the first-ever interior measurements of Mars to offer researchers insight to the evolution of terrestrial planets.
Along with Mars, scientists and researcher will have a new opportunity to gain greater clues about Jupiter when the Juno spacecraft arrives at the planet in July 2016.
Launched Aug. 5, 2011, Juno is on a five-year voyage and will provide information to help enhance understanding of Jupiter’s origins and development.
“Studying planets like Mars and Jupiter benefits humanity in so many ways,” said Crocker. “By gathering data on atmosphere, climate, composition and formation, we can learn about processes at work over time that help us better understand phenomena affecting life on Earth.”
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission will be the first spacecraft mission dedicated to surveying the upper atmosphere of Mars.
Going to an asteroid
Solar system exploration isn’t confined to planets. It includes asteroids, too.
The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft will launch in 2016 and rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu in 2018. It will spend a year collecting samples, then will launch a capsule returning the samples to Earth in 2023.
“OSIRIS-REx is a mission to unravel the earliest stages of solar system history,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx with the University of Arizona. “Sample return from asteroid Bennu promises insight into the origin of life and habitable environments on the early Earth. In addition, OSIRIS-REx is a forward-looking mission that supports future asteroid exploration and impact-hazard-mitigation missions.”
Asteroids and the OSIRIS-REx Mission
Scheduled for launch in 2016, OSIRIS-REx will return the first samples ever taken from a special type of asteroid that scientists believe holds clues to the origin of the solar system.
Extending our gaze deeper into space
Since launching in 1990, the Lockheed Martin-built Hubble Space Telescope has delivered breathtaking space imagery of the solar system and distant stars and galaxies while dramatically expanding scientific knowledge.
Lockheed Martin has been working with the University of Arizona to develop the Near-Infrared Camera, or NIRCam, which will serve as the primary imaging instrument for the James Webb Space Telescope. With NIRCam, Webb will peer even deeper into space and further back into time.
Soaking up the Sun
To better understand the solar system requires better understanding the sun. By studying the sun, scientists can gather data leading to insights about solar activity and how it affects life on Earth.
Lockheed Martin designed and built the Interface Region Spectrograph, or IRIS, spacecraft, which launched in June 2013. IRIS is operational and will continue to gather images that will help researchers understand the genesis of solar storms.
Young astronaut hopefuls, renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and Lockheed Martin engineers who are building our nation's new Orion spacecraft all share their perspectives on the importance of exploring our universe.
April 28, 2014