In the Tharsis volcanic region, almost the size of Europe, the Martian highlands have arched up into a shield several thousand metres in height as a consequence of volcanic processes. Quite a few unusual topographic features can be observed there.
It is a freighter, storage facility and propulsion system all in one - and an important link between the astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) and their base on Earth. The third European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) space transporter was launched on 23 March 2012 at 05:34 CET (01:34 local time) on board an Ariane 5ES rocket, from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana.
Ice and snow can be colourful – at least when seen through the 'eyes' of the German Aerospace Center's (DLR) TerraSAR-X radar satellite. The radar signals are able to penetrate the snow cover to a depth of one metre – and the subsurface reflects the pulse in different ways.
Ius Chasma is one of the main graben in Valles Marineris, one of the largest known canyon systems in the Solar System. Over a length of 940 kilometres, Ius Chasma forms the northern boundary between the western half of this enormous valley system and the Martian highlands.
How has our ozone layer changed in the last 10 years? How do trace gases like nitrous oxides, carbon dioxide and methane influence our climate? How do environmental protection measures work? These were the questions that German researchers sought to address.
Is there life under the icy crust of Enceladus? If Europe's plans for a future mission to Enceladus do become reality, German researchers would like to study this water source for traces of life.
It is not entirely clear when exactly the last major asteroid impact on Earth occurred. But there are plenty of examples of impact craters, such as the Nördlinger Ries in Bavaria.
Amateur astronomers who on occasion observe Mars through the eyepiece of their telescopes are quite familiar with the region of Syrtis Major; when observing conditions are good, it can be easily identified as a dark spot on Mars.
After a year in service, the German Earth observation satellite TanDEM-X, together with its twin satellite, TerraSAR-X, have completely mapped the entire land surface of Earth for the first time. The data is being used to create the world's first single-source, high-precision, 3D digital elevation model of Earth.
Tempe Terra is located at the northeastern edge of the Tharsis volcanic region and forms the transition zone between the southern highlands and the northern lowlands.
NASA's Dawn spacecraft has been in its lowest orbit around asteroid Vesta since mid-December 2011. During November the orbit was gradually lowered to an altitude of 210 kilometres above the asteroid's surface.
Phlegra Montes is a mountainous massif on Mars that extends for several hundreds of kilometres from the northeastern part of the Elysium volcanic region (between 30 and 50 degrees north) to deep into the northern lowlands.
No asteroid or rocky planet looks quite like the asteroid Vesta, which the US Dawn spacecraft has been orbiting since July 2011; countless craters, furrows and slopes define the landscape of this celestial body. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has produced a 3D film from the imagery recorded by the cameras on board the spacecraft.
The US 'Curiosity' rover began its journey to Mars at 16:02 CET on 26 November on board an Atlas V 541 / Centaur launcher that lifted off from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
On 8 November at 21:16 CET (02:16 on 9 November, local time) the Russian Phobos-Grunt (Phobos Soil) spacecraft began its journey to Mars on board a Zenit-2 rocket that lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
520 days without sunlight, fresh air or direct contact with the outside world - the six test subjects on the Mars500 mission have had to forego plenty of things while 'travelling' to Mars and back to Earth in their virtual spacecraft.
The volcanoes on Mars are true giants. As well as being home to the largest volcano in our Solar System, the 24-kilometre-high Olympus Mons, and its three neighbouring shield volcanoes Arsia, Pavonis and Ascraeus, there are a number of less-frequently observed volcano complexes on the Tharsis bulge near the Martian equator that also reach impressive heights. With a base measuring 155 by 125 kilometres, the 8000-metre Tharsis Tholus may only be a ‘mid-range’ volcano, but when measured against terrestrial standards, this volcano is truly gigantic. The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) operated by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) on board ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft acquired images of Tharsis Tholus over the course of several orbits, which have been combined to form a mosaic image with a resolution of 14 metres per pixel. The images show an area located at 13 degrees north and 268 degrees east.
Viewed from above, the US 'Burning Man' festival resembles a spider web. In October and September 2011, the TerraSAR-X radar satellite, operated by DLR, acquired some impressive images of the festival and its setup process.
On 31 October at 22:58 CET (on 1 November at 05:58 local time), the Chinese spaceship Shenzhou-8 was launched on board a Long March rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Inner Mongolia.
To this day, continental drift has been responsible for changes to Earth’s surface. Venus, on the other hand, displays a motionless crust, but this was not always the case. Using simulations, planetary researchers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) have now discovered that, in the past, the surface of Venus was probably quite hot, and consequently dynamic.