In Pictures: 21 critical future NASA missions

NASA space plans include trips to Mars, Jupiter, Pluto and the Sun as well as climate change operations

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Studying Mercury: NASA's Mercury planet exploration team in December said it created a critical tool for the first orbital observations of the planet – a global map of Mercury that will help scientists pinpoint craters, faults, and other features that will be essential for the space agency's extensive 2011 mission. NASA's satellite MESSENGER (The MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) will become the first spacecraft to actually orbit Mercury -- about 730 times -- beaming back pictures and never-before-available pictures and information on the planet.

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In Pictures: 21 critical future NASA missions

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