Exploring the Solar System

Exploration Basics

What is the purpose of sending spacecraft to distant objects?

Although telescopes on Earth and in Earth’s orbit are wonderful instruments for scientific discovery, there is a huge amount of information that cannot be collected from Earth’s vicinity. We cannot, for example, use active methods (like hammering, drilling, or even just touching) to get detailed knowledge about a planet’s surface or a moon rock. Many surface or atmospheric details are too small for even the largest terrestrial or Earth-orbiting telescopes to resolve. Sometimes, too, the view to a distant object is obscured, so detailed observation is only possible close up.

Spacecraft sent to distant objects also serve another vitally important role: They let humans test and develop advanced technologies that benefit all of humanity. In so doing, they further the human urge to learn, explore, and achieve new things.


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