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MPS Projects and Research Teams

Planets and Comets

Projects are listed from latest to earliest. Future, current, and past projects.

EuroPlaNet EuroPlaNet: European Planetology Network
Theory group
Launched on January 1st 2005, the European Union-funded project will provide an important added value to the European Planetology Community and the science produced by the international planetary missions. During four years, EuroPlaNet will strengthen the networking of the European Planetary Sciences community by promoting the exchanges between its different partners and providing a support to the planetary exploration missions.
Project description
EuroPlaNet home page
PPG PPG: Planetary Plasmas
Theory group
Research in planetary plasmas studies particles and magnetic fields in the environment of the planets. This includes all physical processes between planetary atmospheres and interplanetary space.
Project description
KKISS KKISS: Small Bodies in the Solar System
Theory group
The research project aims at the characterization of the physical properties of small bodies in the solar system, i.e. their sizes, shapes, albedo, temperatures, colours and surface composition as well as the production of gas and dust in case the bodies show activity like comets do.
Project description
Planetary Dynamics Planetary Dynamics: Planetary Dynamics
Theory group
The group studies the interior dynamics of planets employing large scale computer simulations. The research mainly concentrates on dynamo mechanisms, convection in the rocky mantle of the terrestrial planets, and the flow in the atmospheres of the outer planets.
Project description
Exomars Exomars: The Aurora flagship mission for finding life on Mars
Planned Launch: 2018
This mission calls for the development of a Mars orbiter, a descent module and a Mars rover. The Mars orbiter will have to be capable of reaching Mars and putting itself into orbit around the planet. On board will be a Mars rover within a descent module. After their release and landing on the surface of Mars, the orbiter will transfer itself into a more suitable orbit where it will be able to operate as a data relay satellite. Initially it will act as a data relay for the ExoMars rover but its life may be extended to serve future missions.
Participation: MOMA: Martian Organic Molecule Analyzer, SEIS: SEISmometer Technology Study
Project description
Exomars home page
BepiColombo BepiColombo: Mission to Mercury
Planned Launch: August 2013
The BepiColombo Mission to planet Mercury is a joint project between the European Space Agency ESA and the Japanese counterpart JAXA to be launched in 2013 and orbiting Mercury from 2018 onwards. The project named after Guiseppe (Bepi) Colombo consists of two spacecraft: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) provided by ESA and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO) provided by JAXA providing for the first time two-point measurements in the vicinity of the closest planet in our solar system.
Participation: BELA: BepiColombo Laser Altimeter, SERENA: Search for Exospheric Refilling and Emitted Natural Abundances Experiment, MIXS: Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer, MPPE-MSA: Mercury Plasma Particle Experiment - Mass Spectrum Analyzer
Project description
BepiColombo home page
Herschel Herschel: Herschel Space Observatory
Launch: May 14, 2009
Herschel, short for the "Herschel Space Observatory", is the fourth cornerstone mission in the ESA science programme. It will perform photometry and spectroscopy. It will have a radiatively cooled 3.5m diameter telescope, and a science payload complement of three instruments housed inside a superfluid helium cryostat. Herschel is designed to observe the "cool universe"; it has the potential of discovering the earliest epoch proto-galaxies, revealing cosmologically evolving AGN/starburst symbiosis, and unravelling the mechanisms governing the formation of stars and planetary systems, such as our own.
Participation: HIFI: Heterodyne Instrument for the Far-Infrared
Project description
Herschel home page
Chandrayaan Chandrayaan: India's first mission to moon
Launch: October 22, 2008
Chandrayaan-1 was carried by Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C11) from the second launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SHAR), Sriharikota. Sriharikota is located in Andhrapardesh, the centre is 80 km north of Chennai in South India. The Chandrayaan-1 mission was aimed at high-resolution remote sensing of the Moon in visible, near Infrared, low energy X-ray and high-energy X-ray regions.
Participation: SIR-2: Spectrometer InfraRed onboard India's first lunar Mission Chandrayaan
Project description
Chandrayaan home page
DAWN-FC DAWN-FC: Framing Camera
Launch: Sep 27, 2007
The Framing Camera is the scientific imaging system of the Dawn Mission to the two complementary protoplanets 1 Ceres and 4 Vesta. The spacecraft will be launched in May 2006 on a Delta launcher from Cape Canaveral.
Project description
DAWN-FC home page
Phoenix Phoenix: A NASA Mission to the Polar Regions of Mars
Launch: Aug 4, 2007
The Phoenix spacecraft was successfully launched on Aug. 4, 2007 and landed on May 25, 2008 in the Martian arctic region. It shall analyze near-surface water ice that is expected at the landing site. The Primary Mission lasts 90 sols and is followed by the Polar Climate Phase (60 sols). The mission will end late in 2008 due to lack of solar power.
Participation: RAC: Robotic Arm Camera, MECA-OM: Microscopy and Electrical Conductivity Analyzer - Optical Microscope
Project description
Phoenix home page
Venus-Express Venus-Express: Europe's mission to Venus
Launch: Nov 9, 2005
Venus Express will be ESA's first mission to Earth's nearest planetary neighbour, Venus. Venus draws twice as close to our planet as Mars ever does. In terms of size and mass, Venus is Earth's twin and yet it has evolved in a radically different manner, with a surface temperature hotter than a kitchen oven and a choking mixture of noxious gases for an atmosphere. Venus Express will make unique studies of this atmosphere.
Participation: ASPERA-4: Analyzer of Space Plasmas and EneRgetic Atoms onboard VenusExpress, VMC: The Venus-Express Monitoring Camera
Project description
Venus-Express home page
SMART-1 SMART-1: Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology
Launch: Sep 27, 2003 / Lunar impact: Sep 3, 2006
SMART-1 is the first of ESA's Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology. It travelled to the Moon using solar-electric propulsion and carrying a battery of miniaturised instruments. As well as testing new technology, SMART-1 did the first comprehensive inventory of key chemical elements in the lunar surface. It also investigated the theory that the Moon was formed following the violent collision of a smaller planet with Earth, four and a half thousand million years ago.
Participation: SIR: Spectrometer InfraRed onboard ESA's SMART-1 Mission to the moon
Project description
SMART-1 home page
SOFIA SOFIA: Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy
Planned Launch: 2010
SOFIA is an airborne observatory that will study the universe in the infrared spectrum. The high sensitivity provided by SOFIA and the spectral resolution obtained with the CTS (Chirp Transform Spectrometer) combine in a unique tool in order to address a wide range of topics of modern astrophysics, from questions about comets, planetary atmospheres and the interstellar medium in the galaxy to investigations related to the early Universe.
Participation: GREAT-CTS: High resolution spectrometry at 14 Km altitude
Project description
SOFIA home page
ROSETTA ROSETTA: Cometary mission to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Launch: March 2, 2004
Rosetta is an European Space Agency (ESA) cornerstone mission designed to rendezvous with comet "67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko" in 2014. After a long cruise phase, the satellite will rendez-vous with comet "67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko" and orbit it, while taking scientific measurements. A Surface Science Package (SSP) on the Rosetta Lander (Philae) will be landed on the comet surface to take in-situ measurements. During the cruise phase, the satellite will be given gravity assist manoeuvres once by Mars and twice by the Earth. The satellite will also take measurements in fly-bys of two asteroids.
Participation: OSIRIS: Camaras, CONSERT: Radiowave Transmission Experiment (Orbiter and Lander), MIRO: Microwave Instrument, ROSINA-RTOF: Particle Instrument, Philae: Module that will land on the comet, COSAC: Evolved Gas Analyser (Lander), COSIMA: In-situ Dust Analysis System
Project description
ROSETTA home page
Mars-Express Mars-Express: Europe's mission to Mars
Launch: Jun 2, 2003 / Mission End: May 2009
Mars Express is an ESA project to Mars. It will carry a payload capable of conducting the most thorough search of the red planet yet for liquid water, which is essential for life as we know it. The mission consists of an orbiter and a lander called Beagle 2.
Participation: ASPERA-3: Charged and neutral particle spectrometer, MARSIS: Subsurface Sounding Radar/Altimeter, BEAGLE-2: Microscope camera, HRSC: High/Super Resolution Stereo Imager
Project description
Mars-Express home page
Mars-DFG Mars-DFG: Mars and the terrestrial planets
DFG-Schwerpunktprogramm 1115: "Mars and the terrestrial planets".
Participation: Simulator: Mars Climate Simulator, MAOAM: Mars Atmospheric Observation And Modelling, REGOLITH: Regolith on atmosphereless bodies
Project description
CASSINI CASSINI: Mission to Saturn
Launch: Oct 15, 1997
A joint endeavor of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency, Cassini is sending a sophisticated robotic spacecraft to orbit the ringed planet and study the Saturnian system in detail over a four-year period. Onbord Cassini is a scientific probe called Huygens that will be released from the main spacecraft to parachute through the atmosphere to the surface of Saturn's largest and most interesting moon, Titan, which is shrouded by an opaque atmosphere.
Participation: MIMI-LEMMS: Particle Instrument on the orbiter, UVIS-HDAC: UV sensor on the orbiter, DISR: Camera on the Huygens probe
Project description
CASSINI home page
CLUSTER CLUSTER: Mission to the magnetosphere, 4 satellites
Launch: Jul 16, 2000
Cluster is a project of the European Space Agency (ESA) consisting of 4 identical spacecraft investigating the dynamics of the Earth's magnetosphere, at distances between 4 and 19 Earth radii. The Institute is participating in two of the 11 experments on board.
Participation: RAPID: Imaging spectrometer for energetic ions and electrons, CIS: Ion spectrometer
Project description
CLUSTER home page
GALILEO GALILEO: Mission to Jupiter
Launch: Oct 18, 1989
Galileo is the first man-made spacecraft that is in orbit around an outer planet in our solar system. It consists of the orbiter itself and a small atmospheric probe that plunged into Jupiter in December 1995. Since then the orbiter has completed many flybys of Jupiter's major moons, reaping a variety of science discoveries.
Participation: LRD: Lightning Detector on the probe, EPD: Particle Instrument on the orbiter
Project description
GALILEO home page
GIOTTO GIOTTO: ESA cometary mission, flew to comets Halley and Grigg-Skjellerup
1986 - 1992
In 1980, a group of 19 scientists suggested to ESA that the return of comet Halley in 1986 offered a unique opportunity to investigation a comet from very close range. The mission was studied in the first half of 1980 and was approved in July 1980. The mission was named Giotto after the Italian painter, Giotto di Bondone, who depicted comet Halley as the 'Star of Bethlehem' in one of his frescoes in the Scrovegni chapel in Padua in 1304.
Participation: HMC: Multicolour camera
Project description
GIOTTO home page
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