More than a year since its first dive into the quirky space tourism promotional racket, NASA has produced another tranche of retro posters that look just brilliant.
Inspired by science-fiction posters of old, NASA takes in the likes of Ceres, Enceladus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, drumming up interest in their various missions around our solar system.
You might remember that, last summer, Elon Musk’s SpaceX released a few retro posters to promote space tourism, a kind of ‘wow look what we could one day achieve’ stunt that looked really, really cool.
Now NASA has taken it to a new level, with 14 posters now created for our pleasure – each with an explainer of what the agency is up to, with some trips far more likely than you may think.
It all began with Voyager (I and II), the king of all space missions. Decades ago, Voyager took advantage of a once-every-175-year alignment of the outer planets for a grand tour of the solar system.
Both spacecraft did the hard yards, paving the way for modern, photographically-astounding missions like Galileo to Jupiter and Cassini to Saturn.
Today, both Voyager spacecraft continue to return valuable science information from the far reaches of our solar system.
Mars remains the primary location for both NASA’s science and society’s imagination. The Red Planet is so close, yet so far, with missions like Mars Pathfinder, Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars Science Laboratory and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, among many others, providing important information to expand our understanding of the habitability of Mars.
“This poster imagines a future day when we have achieved our vision of human exploration of Mars and takes a nostalgic look back at the great imagined milestones of Mars exploration that will someday be celebrated as ‘historic sites’,” according to JPL.
Venus, our nearest planet in the other direction (assuming those solar system posters in my primary school were accurate) is another area of big interest.
NASA notes James Cook’s trek to the South Pacific to watch Venus and Mercury cross the face of the sun. “Spacecraft now allow us the luxury to study these cosmic crossings at times of our choosing from unique locales across our solar system.”
Of course, Earth can’t be forgotten, what with all your gallivanting around the solar system.
Ceres is the closest dwarf planet to the Sun, and something NASA has been tracking for quite a while.
Jupiter, while not in the news enough – largely thanks to its attention-seeking neighbours Mars and Saturn – is a particularly fascinating body. The Jovian cloudscape boasts the most spectacular light show in the solar system, “with northern and southern lights to dazzle even the most jaded space traveller”.
NASA estimates that Jupiter’s auroras are hundreds of times more powerful than Earth’s. So sit back and enjoy.
Jupiter’s moons, though, have received a fair bit of fanfare. Like Europa, “a fascinating destination for future exploration”, according to NASA.
The Cassini mission kicked off the swarm of interest in Saturn’s moon Enceladus, with NASA’s subsequent investigations finding evidence of oceans beneath the surface.
This was the first finding outside of Earth ever, “making this tiny Saturnian moon one of the leading locations in the search for possible life beyond Earth”.
Another victim of Cassini’s voyeurism, Saturn’s larger Titan moon “has a thick atmosphere, organic-rich chemistry and a surface shaped by rivers and lakes of liquid ethane and methane”. A perpetual haze, if you will.
51 Pegasi b
The first exoplanet discovered by scientists (although the title ‘first’ seems up for debate), was 51 Pegasi b back in 1995. Half the size of Jupiter and spending just 4.2 days orbiting its sun, this discovery changed the game.
“Today, powerful observatories like NASA’s Kepler space telescope will continue the hunt of distant planets.”
And the rest
Last December, of course, NASA kicked things off with HD 40307g, which is in between a ‘Super-Earth’ and ‘mini-Neptune’:
Kepler-16b, which, like ‘Tatooine’, orbits two stars:
Kepler-186f – the first Earth-size planet discovered in the potentially ‘habitable zone’ around another star:
And PSO J318.5-22, a ‘free-floating’ planet: