Planetary science is a multifaceted area of study that seeks to answer basic, but profoundly important, questions such as how planets form, how planets evolve over time, and why at least one planet harbors life. Research in planetary science includes understanding the beginnings of our Solar System through the formation and internal structure of the planets; understanding the various planetary environments in our Solar System and potential habitability of the planets and moons; and understanding processes of different planetary atmospheres and surfaces to better understand planetary evolution on Earth and beyond to newly found exoplanets. SwRI has been involved in several planetary science missions, most notably New Horizons, the Cassini-Huygens mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Juno mission, the European Space Agency’s BepiColombo and JUICE missions, and now the upcoming Europa mission. Earth-based observations of planets, e.g., with the Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility, complement these mission investigations.
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