Exploring the Solar System: from Mapping to Prospecting

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GEOmedia Special Issue in English n. 3 2019

by Fabrizio Bernardini

Solar System exploration is changing, opening the field to prospectors and then miners after a long phase of mapping. This is a process we have already seen many times on our planet, but for the first time in human history we are witnessing a revolution that hold the keys to a new frontier outside the boundaries of our planet.

There has been a first revolution when hu- mankind started explo- ring the solar system sending automated emissaries, also known as deep space probes, to the Moon first and then the other main celestial bodies that orbit the Sun. After the first at- tempts at the very dawn of the space age, attempts which pro- duced grainy images and few precious amounts of data, we had a steady increase in the re- turn of science data, with larger missions until we sent flagship missions to orbit Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, with landers on the Moon, Mars, Titan. And then, other orbiters around Venus, Mercury and even to comets and asteroids: many missions that helped characterize our Solar System from Mercury and way beyond Pluto.