Planetary Science
07 Sep 2011



RAL Space has a strong, multi-faceted instrument programme in planetary science, which has included missions to the inner solar system planets, comets, the Saturnian system, the Moon and studies of exoplanets.

​​​​​Mars - The Red Planet

​​​​Mars - The Red Planet


Planetary science includes, in its loosest sense, studies of the Solar System planets, including their solid surfaces and cores, along with their atmospheres, ionospheres and magnetospheres (where appropriate), as well as studies of the Moon, of comets and asteroids, and of planets in other stellar systems (exoplanets). In recent years, this has included SMART-1 and Chandrayaan-1 (the Moon), Cassini and Huygens (Saturn orbiter and Titan lander), Rosetta (comet orbiter/lander), Ariel (exoplanets), ExoMars (Mars lander), Mars Express (Mars orbiter), robotics (lander technology), and sample return curation.  ​

​RAL-​led instruments aboard the ESA SMART-1 and Indian Chandrayaan-1 lunar missions provided unique spectral mapping of elements on the solar surface, using the fluorescence of solar-generated X-rays. In collaboration with the Open University, RAL instrumentation was carried aboard the ESA Huygens probe, which landed on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, and aboard the ESA Rosetta mission that orbited and landed on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The ESA Ariel mission, being developed at this time, involves a large international collaboration, with leadership from UCL and RAL, and is targeting infrared observations to provide detailed investigations of exoplanets. The ESA ExoMars lander mission includes detector systems from RAL and the ESA Mars Express mission was run through a joint science operations centre at RAL. In parallel with these missions, work continues at RAL on the development of planetary robotics technology and on plans for future sample curation facilities.

These missions continue to yield a wealth of science and help us to understand the Earth and the solar system as well as the planetary systems of other stars.

 Further information on current and recent RAL Space Planetary Science projects:


For more information please contact: RAL Space Enquiries