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The Winter 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist includes a variety of educational resources, ranging from astronomy to glaciers. Check out the other publications and classroom materials in our online store.
Image of Magellan orbiting Venus.
Click on image for full size
NASA/JPL

Magellan

On May 4, 1989, Magellan was carried into space by the Atlantis space shuttle, which launched it toward Venus. It arrived on Aug. 10, 1990 and inserted itself into a highly elliptical orbit around the north and south poles.

Over the next 3 years, Magellan used radar to penetrate the dense cloud cover surrounding Venus and map its surface. With every orbit it sent back strips of data, which were put together by scientists back on Earth into a 98% complete global map. Because Magellan viewed the Venusian surface from varying angles, 3-dimensional images of the planet's terrain were also possible.

After studying Venus' gravitational field for a year, Magellan then plunged into its atmosphere, testing a new technique for controlling surface descent, called aerobraking. Although it was crushed by the planet's pressure, scientists learned valuable information that would be used in future missions.


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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA