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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Sun spotter: NASA's 6,800 pound Solar Dynamics Observatory will this month hit its orbit around the Sun and start beaming back its first photos. The $808 million spacecraft will eventually send back what NASA called a prodigious rush of pictures about sunspots, solar flares and a variety of other never-before-seen solar events. The idea is to get a better idea of how the Sun works and let scientists better forecast the space weather to offer earlier warnings to protect astronauts and satellites, NASA said.

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In Pictures: 21 critical future NASA missions

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