For as long as there have been people on Earth, we have looked up at the sky and wondered about the Sun, Moon, stars, and occasional dramatic events we saw there. But it is only in the past 50+ years that we developed the technical ability to leave our planet and actually visit other bodies in the universe.
Since the early days of space exploration, Cornell astronomers have played major roles in NASA missions to explore the solar system and distant universe. This strong tradition, going back to Thomas Gold and the Apollo mission to the Moon, and Carl Sagan and the early exploration of Mars by Mariner 9 and Viking, continues today. The Infrared Spectrometer (IRS), a major instrument on the Infrared Telescope Facility (Spitzer Infrared Telescope Facility), was developed by a group at Cornell. The focal point for the analysis of data being collected by this instrument is the IRS Data Center located at Cornell. Cornell planetary scientists played big roles in the NEAR mission which culminated in the successful landing on asteroid 433 Eros in 2001, and were responsible for developing the Athena instrument package for the Mars Exploration Rovers: Spirit and Opportunity. Under Cornell leadership the rovers collected a wealth of observational data on the ancient climate of the planet.
Current Missions involving Cornell Researchers are:
- Mars Exploration Rovers