Human beings have touched only one world other than our own — the Moon. But we have eyes and ears throughout the solar system — and even beyond it — with more set to be sent out this year.
Several probes are studying the Sun. Parker Solar Probe has already flown closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history, and it’s moving closer on each orbit. Eventually, it’ll skim about four million miles above the surface of our star.
One mission is headed to Mercury, the Sun’s closest planet. And one is orbiting Venus, the second planet. Other missions are headed for asteroids, or bringing pieces of an asteroid to Earth. A craft is orbiting Jupiter, the largest planet. And several are well beyond the realm of the planets. Voyagers 1 and 2, in fact, have left the solar system and are exploring interstellar space.
Most of our eyes and ears are at the Moon and Mars. Several orbiters and landers are operating at the Moon, and more are scheduled to head that way soon. That includes Artemis I, a test run of the spacecraft and rocket designed to send American astronauts back to the Moon. On the way, the mission will deploy about 10 small satellites to study the Moon, Sun, asteroids, and more.
About a dozen craft are operating at Mars — in orbit, sitting on the surface, or driving across it. They were dispatched by the United States, Europe, China, India, and the United Arab Emirates — craft sent by one planet to study another.
Script by Damond Benningfield