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5 Future Robotic Expeditions and What They Could Reveal [Slide Show]

Some are already on their way and some are still in the works, but here is what we may see from unmanned exploration of space in the coming years

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MESSENGER:

The Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging (MESSENGER) craft took flight five years ago and in 2011 will become the first probe to orbit Mercury. The closest planet to the sun, Mercury is difficult to study from Earth, and before the first of MESSENGER's flybys of the planet, less than half of its surface had even been photographed.....[ More ]

DAWN:

Launched in 2007, NASA's Dawn probe is on its way to a pair of encounters in the asteroid belt, where it will investigate the asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres. Those objects are two of the largest leftovers from the planetary formation process billions of years ago.....[ More ]

ROSETTA:

The European Space Agency launched its Rosetta spacecraft in 2004 on a 10-year journey to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Once there, the probe will drop a harpoon-anchored lander to investigate the comet's nucleus, while lingering nearby in a cometary orbit, studying how the icy body changes as it makes its way around the sun.....[ More ]

MARS SCIENCE LABORATORY:

NASA's next-generation Mars rover is a behemoth, both in terms of physical size and budget . Its launch, which had been planned for this year, was postponed in late 2008 , pushing estimates of its cost up to $2.3 billion.....[ More ]

NEW HORIZONS:

The New Horizons probe, launched by NASA in 2006, is on its way to humankind's first close-up encounter with Pluto. To reach its distant destination, New Horizons left Earth at blinding speed, passing lunar distance in about nine hours and reaching Jupiter in just over a year.....[ More ]

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