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To improve the resolution from ground-based observatories and to capture light from distant, dim objects, telescopes are growing larger. Due to the correspondingly large cost of construction and operation, these massive telescopes are often supported financially by multinational consortia.
The second category of space and robotic exploration systems involves seeing the Universe through the eyes of a satellite. The advantage is that the satellite is able to capture images unaffected by the Earth’s atmosphere, enabling researchers to more accurately decipher the mysteries of the Universe.
Another type of space and robotic exploration systems involves samples and observations being collected by systems located on the surface of other bodies in the Solar System. Several missions are in development both by government and commercial entities.
Ground-based observatories are essential tools to aid astronomers in their study of objects that can be as close as our neighboring planets or billions of light years away. Scientists are always striving to study their subjects in detail, so they need to obtain the best possible images.
NASA’s Kepler spacecraft was launched in March 2009 aboard a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Kepler’s mission is to monitor the brightness of more than 100,000 stars in a single region of the sky for at least three years.
While ground-based telescopes and orbiting spacecraft can provide many kinds of new information, different insights are possible when physically present on other bodies in the Solar System. A number of spacecraft have touched down and explored the surface of other worlds, from the human Apollo landings more than 40 years ago to the robotic Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.