FIGURE 2.1 The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Arecibo is used for radar observation of the Moon, Mars, Venus, Mercury, nearby asteroids, Saturn’s rings, and the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn. SOURCE: Courtesy of the NAIC-Arecibo Observatory, a facility of NSF.

(Chapter 10) are awarded through peer review of proposals submitted to a variety of research programs for analysis of ground- and space-based telescopic observations, theory and modeling, laboratory analyses, terrestrial fieldwork, and analysis of data from past and present missions.


Planetary science activities at NASA are strongly coupled to the agency’s other science programs in its Astrophysics, Heliophysics, and to a limited extent, Earth Science divisions. Each is addressed below in more detail.

NASA’s Astrophysics Division

The major science goals of the Astrophysics Division are to discover how the universe works, to explore how the universe began and evolved, and to search extrasolar planetary environments that might hold keys to life’s origins or might themselves even sustain life.2 Strong scientific synergy exists between the studies of extrasolar planets and studies of Earth’s planetary neighborhood. The former area of study provides planetary systems immense in the variety of their structures and stages of evolution: known exoplanets now range from super-Jupiters to super-Earths. The latter area of study affords the opportunity for detailed—often in situ—examination of the formation and evolution of one specific planetary system. A less obvious synergy is that space-based telescopes can support a host of user communities. The Hubble Space Telescope, for example, is a powerful observational

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