Earth-based telescopic observations of the planets and satellites began in the early 17th century. Through the years these observations have enabled some of the general properties of the planets, such as sizes, densities and orbital characteristics, to be determined. Space probes have added substantially to this knowledge, particularly in regard to the outer planet satellites—some of which were unknown prior to their discovery on spacecraft images. In this chapter we will examine the general properties of the planets and satellites important for geologic analyses. We will also consider the types of space probes involved in Solar System exploration and discuss the means by which geologic data—primarily images—are acquired.
KeywordsLunar Surface Terrestrial Planet Lunar Orbiter Geologic Exploration Outer Planet
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