EXPLORING THE PLANETS: The Tools of Exploration

For as long as there have been people on Earth, we have looked up at the sky and wondered about the Sun, Moon, stars, and occasional dramatic events we saw there. But it is only in the past 40 years that we developed the technical ability to leave our planet and actually visit other bodies in the universe.

After World War II, both the United States and the Soviet Union created programs to impove the design of rockets which would make space travel possible. What then followed was a race to travel into space with unmanned probes and manned spacecraft.

In this SpaceQuest you are going to tour the National Air and Space Museum to learn more about the Tools of Exploration of our Solar System.


Visit the links of each section of the tour and answer the questions.
During the last four decades, hundreds of satellites, probes and space shuttles have been launched, which have explored near-Earth space, travelled to the Moon, the Sun, and to all the planets except Pluto. And, with permanent space stations already in orbit around Earth and telescopes exploring more and more of our universe, space research is still continuing. Talk of future developments includes building a colony on Mars, searching for life in other galaxies, and other exciting programs.
EXPLORING THE PLANETS: The Tools of Exploration

Earth-Based Observations:

1. Name three types of Earth-based observations.
2. What can be learned with Radar Astronomy?
3. What is the importance of microwaves in Radio Astronomy?

7. What are two advantages of orbiters?

8. Select one of the following orbiters, visit its official website and prepare a brief report of the mission.
Mariner 9
Viking 1 and 2
Magellan (Orbital Radar Mapping)
Mars Global Surveyor


9. Prepare a table with information regarding the sites visited by each of the following instruments:
Mars Pathfinder

10. What makes a Rover an invaluable tool of exploration?
11. Name four Rovers and their destination.

Sample Return:

12. What was the goal of the STARSDUST mission?
Airborne and Orbital Telescopes:

4. Give one example of telescopes from an airplane and one example of telescopes from an orbit.

Probes and Fly-by-Spacecraft:

5. Prepare a table with the most relevant information learned by the exploration of each of the following instruments:
Luna 3
Mariner 4
Pioneer and Voyager

6. The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft reached the Saturnian region in July 2004.
Explain what Cassini's mission is about and how many orbits and flybys will it complete around Titan.