One of the most interesting aspects of space exploration - and one of the most intriguing for the public - is the exploration of the planets and their moons. Pictures from our Moon, spectacular images from the outer planets Jupiter, Saturn, Neptun and Uranus and the continual expansion of our knowledge about our planetary neighborhood - Venus and especially Mars - do fascinate humanity in the 21st century too. Our Blue Planet Earth is nowadays seen as integral part of the solar system - not as a special case of planetary development. Within the framework of comparative planetology this helps us understand our evolution and possible future dangers to our ecosystem (greenhouse effect, ice ages, thinning ozone layer).
The Space Research Institute (IWF) has been and still is participating in numerous planetary missions. It is especially notable that contacts had existed for decades equally well with the spacefaring nations in East and West: instruments from IWF have reached Venus with the Russian Venera and Vega probes and visited Mars with Phobos. On board of Cassini/Huygens (USA/Europe) IWF-built instruments have reached Saturn and its moon Titan. IWF is participating in the ongoing European Mars Express mission. In Venus Express, the first European mission to Venus, IWF participates as Principal Investigator institute. But also Mercury - nearest to the Sun - will reveal many of its mysteries to the BepiColombo mission. With the NASA mission Juno and the ESA mission JUICE IWF will also travel to Jupiter, the largest planet in our Solar system, and will continually stay at the leading edge of planetary exploration.