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Artwork showing deployment of IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun), a Japanese experimental spacecraft propelled by solar sail technology. Solar sails are large mirrored membranes moved by the pressure of photons (light) emitted from the Sun. The IKAROS probe is the first spacecraft to use solar sail technology as its main propulsion. It was launched in May 2010 by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and successfully completed its planned mission.

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Mars hopper spacecraft. Artwork of the landing and hopping phases of a Mars lander. Several proposed designs for spacecraft to explore Mars now use the hopper concept. This involves the lander arriving at the planet's surface using conventional aerobraking (parachute shown). Rockets would be used for a soft landing. Once landed, the rockets could be restarted using carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as a fuel. This would enable to lander to launch itself distances of around a kilometre for each hop. Examples of Mars hopper missions are Mars Reconnaissance Lander (announced 2011), and Mars Geyser Hopper (2016 landing).

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This image provided by NASA shows an artist's conception of the Aquarius/SAC-D spacecraft, a collaboration between NASA and Argentina's space agency, with participation from Brazil, Canada, France and Italy. Aquarius, the NASA-built primary instrument on the spacecraft, will take NASA's first space-based measurements of ocean surface salinity, a key missing variable in satellite observations of Earth that links ocean circulation, the global balance of freshwater and climate. (AP Photo/NASA)

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Illustration of a spacecraft encountering an asteroid.

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Illustration of the Voyager 2 encounter with Neptune and Triton, Neptune's largest satellite.

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Alien Craft Approaches Monolith

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Earth

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A conceptual image that shows a UFO landing at an airport.

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A conceptual image of a UFO approching Earth.

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Computer-generated conceptual image depicting the Earth in the aftermath of a comet strike.

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The ESSAIM demonstrator, launched by Ariane 5 in December 2004, is a system of several micro-satellites (hence the name ?swarm' in French) for analysis of the electro-magnetic environment of the Earth's surface developed for the French Ministry of Defence's procurement agency DGA. The system also comprises a ground control segment and a ground user segment for data processing. The mission's objective is to assess the operational capability of such a system, paving the way for the next generation. The ESSAIM satellites are based on the Myriade multipurpose micro-satellite product line developed jointly by EADS Astrium and the French Space Agency CNES since 1998. In partnership with Thales Syst?ames Aroports, EADS Astrium delivered the complete turnkey system, including personnel training, launch services and maintenance over the initial three-year period of the programme, which ran up to second half of 2008. The use of this system has since been extended by 2 years.

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This artist's concept depicts NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander a moment before its 2008 touchdown on the arctic plains of Mars. Pulsed rocket engines control the spacecraft's speed during the final seconds of descent.

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PHOTO: EAST NEWS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY Surface of Venus. Artwork of lava flows on the surface of the planet Venus. Venus is the second planet out from the Sun, but it is without a doubt the hottest. A "runaway greenhouse effect" traps most of the energy from the Sun, and temperatures on Venus are around 460 degrees celsius. The white clouds which cover the entire planet are made up of sulphuric acid particles, and the atmospheric pressure is almost 100 times that on Earth. The surface is geologically active with several large volcanoes. These produce more greenhouse gases, which further contribute to the hot environment.

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PHOTO: EAST NEWS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY Exoplanet. Computer artwork of the giant planet HR 8799b (centre) with a star in the distance (upper right). HR 8799b is outside our solar system (exoplanet) and was first discovered in 2007. It is young and hot, with a temperature of 815 degrees Celsius. It is slightly larger than Jupiter and may be at least seven times more massive. Data suggests the planet has water vapour in its atmosphere and is only partially cloud covered. It is not known if the planet has rings or moons.

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PHOTO: EAST NEWS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY Spaceship, conceptual image. Computer artwork of a spaceship travelling through space.

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PHOTO: EAST NEWS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY HALCA observatory, computer artwork. HALCA (Highly Advanced Laboratory for Communications and Astronomy) was a Japanese radio telescope satellite that was in Earth orbit from 1997 to 2005. It was used to study radio galaxies, quasars and pulsars.

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PHOTO: EAST NEWS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY Alien landscape. Computer artwork of mountains on an alien moon. In the sky, a planet can be seen transitting in front of its parent star. Earth-like planets capable of supporting life are found only in a star's habitable zone, a region around a star where the surface temperature of a planet is suitable for liquid water.

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PHOTO: EAST NEWS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY Alien spaceships leaving Earth. computer artwork.

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PHOTO: EAST NEWS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY Hubble Space Telescope (HST), computer artwork. The HST is a satellite in orbit around Earth that observes stars, galaxies and other astronomical objects.

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PHOTO: EAST NEWS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in Earth orbit, computer artwork. The HST is a satellite in orbit around Earth that observes stars, galaxies and other astronomical objects.

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