May 1, 2013
“Probe” comes from Latin probare, which is also the root of our word “prove.” By the early 15th century it had come to refer (says etymology.com) to an “instrument for exploring wounds” and also to “an examination.” It’s nice to know that “proving” has come to involve “examining.”
We have come increasingly to use “probe” to refer to satellites, spacecraft and odd wheeled vehicles that are exploring the world beyond planet earth — our solar system and the universe beyond. Today, NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day gives us an accounting of the various probes we have in use:
In the upper right hand part of the picture are the probes in use on and around the planets nearer to us. In the lower left part of the picture are the probes in use on more distant planets. APOD provides a fuller explanation here.