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Earth

Cradle of Life As We Know It

Earth is the only place we know of in the universe that harbors life. Ours is the largest terrestrial planet in the solar system. Our rocky, volcanic world is coated in a thin veneer of liquid water, living things, and translucent atmosphere, whose complicated interactions make Earth's surface into a place of constant change. We humans have only had fifty years of perspective on Earth as a planet, of seeing it as a "pale blue dot" floating in the black vacuum of space.

With that perspective, we know precious and unique our planet is. We know, too, that we are having measurable effects on the complex interactions of ocean, land, life, water, and air, changing our climate. But predicting the future of our climate is hard. Understanding how Earth's systems work by studying the way they operate on other worlds is a major goal of planetary exploration. Mars, Venus, and Titan all have (or had) active geology, hydrology, and weather -- but, as far as we know, they don't have life. Is Earth really that unique? Are we truly alone in the universe? We won't know unless we keep searching.

News from Earth

Conversations with an interplanetary spacecraft: "Hi, Juno!"

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/12/17 09:37 CST | 6 comments

Juno's Earth flyby represented the first opportunity for many of the science instruments to be used on a planetary target. There were terrific photos of Earth and the Moon, plus a cool project to see if Juno could detect intelligent life on Earth.

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Chang'e 3 departs for the Moon, with amazing images and video

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/12/02 12:18 CST | 3 comments

On December 1 at 17:30 UTC, Chang'e 3 launched atop a Long March 3B rocket on a direct lunar transfer trajectory. It is scheduled to enter orbit December 6 and land December 14. The rocket was equipped with cameras that recorded thrilling video of the launch and final departure of the probe.

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First image from India's Mars Orbiter Mission

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/11/20 11:17 CST | 6 comments

Here, for your enjoyment, is the first image of Earth taken by the mission's Mars Colour Camera.

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Earth's Place in Space

A Pale Blue Dot

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.

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Pictures of Earth by Planetary Spacecraft

Many solar system explorers take dramatic photos of Earth as they depart, or fly by; some even have photographed Earth from the vantage point of another planet.

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The state of Earth observation, January 2012

As of November 2011, the Earth Observing Handbook counts 109 active missions to study the Earth as a planet, with 112 more approved and planned for the future. Jason Davis provides an overview of key current and upcoming earth-observing missions.

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