Feature Stories

  • Sending a Messenger to Mercury
    Visiting an inner planet like Mercury exposes a spacecraft to eleven times the solar intensity compared to Earth. But the early August launch of the MESSENGER probe will look for cometary water-ice in any shaded areas, until it eventually crashes and plants its flag.
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  • Mars Echoes of Earthtones
    As the Spirit rover gets its bearings after a one-mile trek to Columbia Hills, the landscape has transformed from flat plains to exposed vertical faces. To a geologist, finding such layering offers a history lesson in which element dominated its ancient past.
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  • Moving Forward By Moving Backward
    To manage on five out of six wheels, the Spirit rover has found backing up to be more efficient than driving forward. The net result however continues to impress mission scientists as they back their way into the Columbia Hills.
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  • Morning Star, Ripped from the Headlines
    The biggest event on the internet for June 2004 was not a sports or political event. The big story was a specialized eclipse that did not even dim the afternoon brightness here on Earth. What was the big deal about Venus?
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  • The Search for More Earths
    When astronomers first realized that the stars in the sky were like our Sun, only more distant, they wondered if those stars had planets too. And if they have planets, is there life? Intelligent life? There's an answer - yes or no - but we
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  • Aura Around Earth
    Overcoming technical launch challenges, a three-ton satellite named Aura, the third large satellite in NASA's Earth Observing System, is set to launch this week on a mission to study the upper atmosphere.
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  • Oxygen in Saturn’s E Ring
    While en route to Saturn, Cassini detected a sudden, massive buildup of oxygen in the planet's E ring. Where did all that oxygen come from? No-one knows for sure. But now that Cassini's gotten a little closer to the ringed world, scientists are hopeful that
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  • Titan’s Strange Surface
    New images and spectroscopic data of the surface of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, have puzzled NASA scientists. Light areas once thought to be pure water ice are instead regions likely contaminated by organic materials.
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  • Titanic Thinking in Pictures
    Robotic missions have returned images from the surfaces of Venus, Mars and even asteroids, but when the Huygens probe tries to capture topography from Saturn's largest moon, Titan, the landscape may rival science fiction in the descriptions of how exotic another world might look.
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  • World Reacts to Ringworld’s Camera
    Cassini transmitted its first closeup views of the mysterious Saturnian rings after its successful orbital insertion on June 30th. Planetary watchers hope to resolve a two decade old debate on how the rings form both circular and radial bands (or 'spokes') at the same time.
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  • Close-up Look at Saturn’s Rings
    Cassini has sent back its first close-up images of Saturn's rings, and mission scientists are already busy re-evaluating old theories - and struggling to come up with some new ones. The images confirm that Saturn's rings are endlessly complex and dynamic, truly one of the
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  • Weather May Disrupt Receipt of Cassini Signals
    Everything looks good for Cassini to perform a successful maneuver that will bring it into orbit around Saturn late tonight. Everything, that is, except the weather. High winds in Canberra, Australia, and a chance of rain in Spain, although they won´t affect the success of
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  • Cassini Sails Flawlessly into Saturn’s Orbit
    The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft performed a flawless 96-minute engine burn Wednesday night and sailed into orbit around Saturn. During the next four years, Cassini will circle Saturn more than 75 times, conducting a detailed study of the planet and its moons and rings.
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  • Cassini Closes In on Saturn
    Cassini is poised to provide the most comprehensive set of images and other scientific data ever collected on the giant ringed planet Saturn.
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  • Bigger than the Grand Canyon
    About a third of the size of Earth, Mars has both the solar system's largest volcano and canyons. The likelihood of exploring the canyon called Valles Marineris robotically is slim, given its ruggedness. When viewed by the recent Mars Express orbiter, one can appreciate the
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