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If it wasn't for launch capabilities we would never have delved deep into the echo of the Big Bang nor lived out the adventures of Rosetta and Philae at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Nor would we have captured some of the Universe's most energetic phenomena, or be on our way to the innermost planet of the solar system. Some of ESA's biggest science missions only got off the ground—literally—thanks to the mighty Ariane 5, one of the most reliable launchers that gives access to space from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
ESA has been using the Ariane family of launch vehicles right back since Ariane 1, which launched the comet-chaser Giotto, ESA's first deep space mission, in 1985. Later, the astrometry satellite Hipparcos rode into space on an Ariane 4 in 1989 and the Infrared Space Observatory launched in 1995.
Ariane - Flights - XMM-Newton - Space - Years
One of the first Ariane 5 flights took XMM-Newton into space twenty years ago, in December 1999 (leftmost image). The X-ray space observatory is an impressive workhorse, enabling ground-breaking discoveries on a range of cosmic mysteries from enigmatic black holes to the evolution of galaxies across the Universe.
SMART-1, Europe's first mission to the moon, got its ride to space...
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