NASA's Solar System exploration addresses some of humanity's most fundamental questions:
How and when did life form on Earth?
Does life exist elsewhere in the Solar System or in the Universe?
How did the Solar System evolve over time?
What can the other planets teach us about Earth?
Jupiter's Family Portrait
NASA has defined three Quests for knowledge which establish our fundamental goals for the missions to the Solar System, including Galileo.
Quest 1: Chart Our Destiny in the Solar System
Understand the Solar System forces that affect the future habitability of Earth
Global Climate Change - study giant planets
as weather laboratories
Find extraterrestrial resources of human interest
Assess space frontiers suitable for future human exploration
Quest 2: Explain the Formation and Evolution of the Solar System and the Earth Within It
Understand the Origin of the solar nebula and the forces that formed Earth and the other planets.
Because of their large gravity and low temperatures, the atmosphere of the gas giants,
, contain material left over from the time of formation of the Solar System
Determine the evolutionary processes that led to the diversity of the Solar System bodies and the uniqueness of Earth.
Study tectonics and volcanism, including
Jupiter's moon Io
Study the formation of atmospheres -
Jupiter has a highly active atmosphere
Study the long term impact histories from meteorites and comets
Investigate the processes of crustal formation of
Use the other objects of our Solar System as natural science laboratories
Look at large-scale atmospheric phenomenon,
How does the composition of the gas giants
such as Jupiter
vary with depth?
What drives the global circulation of the gas giant atmospheres?
Study magnetic fields, plasmas, and dynamos
How does matter behave under extreme conditions?
has intense temperatures and pressures
Quest 3: Seek the Origin of Life and Its Existence Beyond Earth
Understand the sources and reservoirs of water and organics:
Ice and water in the outer Solar System including
A complete organics inventory
Jupiter Belt Zone Boundary
Determine the planetary conditions required for the emergence of life:
Search for evidence of life elsewhere in our Solar System
Chemical signatures: what to look for and where to look:
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Last updated 10/01/01.