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Space Missions

Space missions are designed to explore the unknown and learn more about the universe around us. Whether it's an orbiter mapping the moon, a robot explorer in the solar system, or a probe to the stars, learn more about space exploration missions.
  1. Mars Explorer Rovers: A 10-year Lookback (0)
  2. Apollo Missions (9)
  3. The Constellation Project (3)
  4. Clementine Mission (1)
  5. Explorer Missions (5)
  6. Hubble Space Telescope (1)
  7. Luna (USSR) (2)
  8. Lunar Orbiter Missions (1)
  9. Lunar Prospector (1)
  10. Mariner Missions (7)
  11. MESSENGER (2)
  12. Pioneer (5)
  13. Project Mercury (3)
  14. Ranger Missions (9)
  15. SOHO Mission (1)
  16. Space Shuttle Missions (26)
  17. Sputnik (3)
  18. Stardust (1)
  19. Surveyor (1)
  20. Ulysses Mission (1)
  21. Viking Missions (2)
  22. Voyager Missions (2)

Water on Mars
A look at why planetary scientists are interested in finding water on Mars and other system bodies.

The Mars Exploration Rovers
A quick look back at ten years of Mars exploration by the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) Spirit and Opportunity.

NASA's next planned unmanned space flight
NASA is embarking on a new path to space discovery and have announced their intentions to advance our understanding of our solar system. The next series of unmanned space missions could include missions to Venus, the Moon or even a passing asteroid.

Pictures From the Mars Rover Spirit
NASA's twin robot geologists, the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, launched from Earth on June 10 and July 7, 2003. Their mission was to search of answers about the history of water on Mars. They landed on Mars January 3 and January 24 PST, 2004. As geologists, the rovers are have goals of searching for and characterizing a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to past wat…

Suisei
Designed to study Comet P/Halley, Suisei was part of an internatinal fleet of six Halley's comet explorers called the Halley Armada. Suisei received its name (meaning Comet in Japanese) after launch. It was the second of two Japanese probes launched toward Halley during the 1986 encounter. On March 8, 1986, at 13:06 UT, SUISEI approached 151,000 km in the side of the Sun away from halley's Comet, returning ultraviolet images of the 20-million-kilometer hydrogen gas coma.

Giotto
Designed to study Comet P/Halley, Giotto was the first deep space probe launched by the European Space Agency (ESA). Originally put forward as part of a joint NASA/ESA comet mission, the United States eventually pulled out. There was little leeway for delays if the ESA planned to continue alone. If the opportunity was missed, the next chance at Halley's Comet would be 75 years later.

Sakigake
The Sakigake mission received its name after launch and was originally called MS-T5. Sakigake was the first deep space spacecraft launched by any country apart from the Soviet Union and the United States (the two German Helios probes had been launched by NASA).

BepiColombo
One of the Cornerstone series of missions from the European Space Agency (ESA), BepiColombo's visit to Mercury is still in the planning stages. Currently, BepiColombo involves 2 components: Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). BepiColombo has several objectives.

Vega 2
Vega 2 - The Vega project was an ambitious deep space Soviet mission with three major goals: to place advanced lander modules on the surface of Venus, to deploy balloons (two each) in the Venusian atmosphere, and, by using Venusian gravity, to fly the remaining buses past the Comet Halley. Vega 2 was the second of a set of twin missions. Discover Vega 2 mission to Venus.

Returning to the Moon
In the 1960s, during the heyday of the Apollo Program, NASA had other plans to explore the moon. In 1969, they presented the Integrated Manned Space Flight Program for 1970-1980. Budget cuts killed the plans. The recently proposed new initiative for a return to the moon and an eventual mission to Mars may be the answer to the prayers for lunar scientists.

Return to the Moon
More than 30 years after the last person left the moon, are we on the verge of returning? Discover the plans of two commercial ventures.

Rocket and Space Shuttle Launch Schedule
Shuttle Launch Schedule for NASA for 2008. Discover when the next space shuttle or rocket will be launched by NASA during 2008. If you want to watch a shuttle launch before the program ends, check out this calender to find out when the next shuttle launch is scheduled.

Launch Schedule 101
NASA launches involve many elements: the payloads that give missions their names, the rockets that will carry them into space, launch dates and times, and where the launch will take place. Launch Schedule 101 explains how all of this information is arranged and answers common questions about the NASA launch schedule.

SpaceShip One Pictures Gallery
On October 4, 2004, SpaceShip One rocketed into history, becoming the first private manned spacecraft to exceed an altitude of 328,000 feet twice within the span of a 14 day period, thus claiming the $10 million Ansari X-Prize. Blasting to an altitude of 364,000 feet aboard SpaceShip One, pilot Binnie remarked, "It looks great," as he accelerated SpaceShip One towards mach 3. After reaching the l…

Space Exploration Missions by Decade
It's hard to believe that we have been launching spacecraft since the 1950s and there are plans to continue exploring well into the future. Many of the early spacecreaft were quite primitive, especially compared to what is in store for the future. Let's take a closer look at some of the missions, with more information to come in the future. Here are most space exploration missins by the decade th…

Vega 1
The Vega project was an ambitious deep space Soviet mission with three major goals: to place advanced lander modules on the surface of Venus, to deploy balloons (two each) in the Venusian atmosphere, and, by using Venusian gravity, to fly the remaining buses past the Comet Halley. It was a cooperative effort among the Soviet Union and Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, and the Federal Republic of Germany.

Redstone Rockets
The Redstone rocket was developed by Dr. Werhner von Braun and a group of US rocketry specialists. On January 31, 1958, a modified four-stage Redstone rocket, known as Jupiter-C, lifted the first American satellite, Explorer I, into orbit. A Redstone rocket also launched the Mercury capsules on their sub-orbital flights in 1961, inaugurating America's human spaceflight program.

Beagle 2 Mission Information
Beagle 2's main mission was to search for signs of life - past or present - in the Martian soil. It was also equipped to look for signs of water and study Mars' geology and atmosphere. Beagle 2 was equipped with a robot sampling arm and a small "mole" (Planetary Undersurface Tool, or PLUTO) which can be deployed by the arm and was capable of moving across the surface at a rate of about 1 cm every 5 seconds using a compressed spring mechanism.

Deep Space 2 Mission Information
The Deep Space 2 microprobes weighed only 6.5 kg (14.3 pounds). They were named Amundsen and Scott (right) in honor of the first explorers to reach Earth's South Pole in 1911. The probes were designed to survive and impact of up to 644 kp/h (400 mph). The Deep Space 2 (DS2) project was a New Millenium mission consisting of two probes which were to penetrate the surface of Mars near the south polar layered terrain and send back data on the sub-surface properties.

Fobos 1 Mission Information
Fobos 1, and its companion spacecraft Fobos 2, were the next-generation in the Venera-type planetary missions, succeeding those last used during the Vega 1 and 2 missions to comet P/Halley. Each spacecraft, with a newly designed bus, carried twenty-four experiments provided by thirteen countries and the European Space Agency.

International Sun-Earth Explorer 3 - International Cometary Explorer
The International Sun-Earth Explorer 3's was the 3rd of a trio of spacecraft sent into space to study interplanetary space. Among its accomplishments was being the first spacecraft orbit at a libration point as well as the first to detect the solar wind approaching Earth. Later, it was renamed International Cometary Explorer and sent to study comet Giacbini-Zinner and comet Halley. It was the first spacecraft to fly past a comet, flying through the tail of comet Giacobini-Zinner.

Mars Astrobiology Field Lab Rover (AFL) Mission Information
The Mars Astrobiology Field Laboratory (AFL) will provide a major advance in astrobiology. The mission will perform mutually confirming tests and measurements of biosignatures for past and present habitation.

Mars Climate Orbiter Mission Information
Mars Climate Orbiter was the second probe in NASA's Mars Surveyor program and was designed to function as an interplanetary weather satellite and a communications relay for Mars Polar Lander. The orbiter carried two science instruments: a copy of an atmospheric sounder on the Mars Observer spacecraft lost in 1993, and a new, lightweight color imager combining wide- and medium-angle cameras.

Mars Express Mission Information
Mars Express is carrying a sample of Ferrari red paint (right) to the Red Planet. Mars Express is the European Space Agency's first visit to another planet. Mars Express used 427 kg (941 pounds) of fuel to put it in orbit the Red Planet. Mars Express is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission to Mars. It consisted of an orbiter, the Mars Express Orbiter, and a lander, Beagle 2.

Mars Global Surveyor Mission Information
Mars Global Surveyor was the first successful mission to the Red Planet in two decades. The Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) was designed to orbit Mars over a two year period and collect data on the surface morphology, topography, composition, gravity, atmospheric dynamics, and magnetic field. This data will be used to investigate the surface processes, geology, distribution of material, internal properties, evolution of the magnetic field, and the weather and climate of Mars.

Mars Observer Mission Information
Seventeen years after the successful Viking 1 and Viking 2 missions, Mars Observer, the first of the Observer series of planetary missions, was designed to study the geoscience and climate of Mars. It was designed to carry out a high-resolution photography mission of the Red Planet over the course of a Martian year (687 days) from a 378 x 350-kilometer polar orbit.

Mars Odyssey Mission Information
The 2001 Mars Odyssey is the remaining part of the Mars Surveyor 2001 Project, which originally consisted of two separately launched missions, The Mars Surveyor 2001 Orbiter and the Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander. The lander spacecraft was cancelled as part of the reorganization of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA. The orbiter, renamed the 2001 Mars Odyssey, will nominally orbit Mars for three years.

Mars Orbiter Mission Information
Tentatively scheduled for a 2011 launch, this mission is still under development.

Mars Pathfinder Mission Information
The rover was named in honor of Sojourner Truth (right), a 19th century abolitionist and champion of women's rights. The name was suggested by Valerie Ambroise, 12, of Bridgeport, CT. Other suggestions included Sacagawea, Athena and Thumbelina. Sojourner rover operated for 84 days - 12 times longer than its designed lifetime of seven days. The Mars Pathfinder was the second of NASA's low-cost planetary Discovery missions to be launched.

Mars Planetary Evolution and Meteorology (Multi-Lander) Network Mission Info
Tentatively scheduled for a 2020 launch, this mission is still under development.

Mars Polar Lander Mission Information
The Mars Surveyor '98 program is comprised of two spacecraft launched separately, the Mars Climate Orbiter and the Mars Polar Lander. The two missions were designed to study the Martian weather, climate, and water and carbon dioxide budget, in order to understand the reservoirs, behavior, and atmospheric role of volatiles and to search for evidence of long-term and episodic climate changes. The last telemetry from Mars Polar Lander was sent just prior to atmospheric entry on 3 December 1999.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Information
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is designed to orbit Mars over a full martian year and gather data with six scientific instruments, including a high-resolution imager. The science objectives of the mission are to: characterize the present climate of Mars and its physical mechanisms of seasonal and interannual climate change; determine the nature of complex layered terrain on Mars and identify water-related landforms.

Mars Sample Return Lander Mission Information
In the second decade of the century, NASA plans additional science orbiters, rovers and landers, and the first mission to return samples of Martian rock and soil to Earth. Current plans call for the first sample return mission to be launched in 2014, and a second in 2016. Options that would significantly increase the rate of mission launch and/or accelerate the schedule of exploration are under study, including launching the first sample return mission as early as 2011.

Mars Science Laboratory Mission Information
Mars Science Laboratory will be a long-range, long-duration mobile lab. Its mission will be to continue the study of Martian geology from the surface and pave the way for a possible future sample return. The lab will be delivered to Mars on the first of a new generation of smart landers.

Mars Scout 2 Mission Information
This next generation Mars Scout could take one of many forms - an airplane, balloon or small lander. Scout missions are designed by the science community and will be shaped by discoveries of the current fleet of Mars spacecraft. The first Mars Scout is Phoenix, which is scheduled to launch for Mars in 2007.

Mars Scout 3 Mission Information
This next generation Mars Scout could take one of many forms - an airplane, balloon or small lander. Scout missions are designed by the science community and will be shaped by discoveries of the current fleet of Mars spacecraft. The first Mars Scout is Phoenix, which is scheduled to launch for Mars in 2007.

Nozomi Mission Information
Nozomi (right) was Japan's first mission to another planet. Nozomi means hope in Japanese. Before launch, it was known as Planet-B. The orbiter weighed 541 kg (1,193 pounds), including fuel. Intended to be Japan's first Mars orbiter, Nozomi was Japan's fourth "deep space" probe. Nozomi was to be inserted into a highly eccentric Mars orbit with a periapsis 300 km above the surface, an apoapsis of 15 Mars radii, and an inclination of 170 degrees with respect to the ecliptic plane.

Opportunity Mars Rover Mission Information
Opportunity traveled roughly 491 million km (305 million miles) on its journey to Mars. On the surface, the rover moves at a top speed of 5 cm (2 inches) per second. Opportunity's panoramic camera will reveal Mars at about the same height as an adult person. Both rovers carry a unique camera calibration target in the shape of a sundail. Opportunity found the strongest evidence yet that liquid water once existed on the surface of Mars. It is one of the two rovers launched to Mars in mid-2003.

Phoenix Mission Information
Phoenix is truly a mission risen from the ashes. The spacecraft has lived in a clean room since its launch was scrubbed due to the loss of the Mars Polar Lander in 1999. "Even though the northern plains are thought to be too cold now for water to exist as a liquid, periodic variations in the martian orbit allow a warmer climate to develop every 50,000 years," explains Mr. Peter H. Smith, the mission's principal investigator.

Space Exploration Missions by Decade
It's hard to believe that we have been launching spacecraft since the 1950s and there are plans to cintinue exploring well into the future. Many of the early spacecreaft were quite primitive, especially compared to what is in store for the future. Let's take a closer look at some of the missions, with more information to come in the future. Here are most space exploration missins by the decade they were active.

Spirit Mars Rover Mission Information
Spirit traveled about 500 million kilometers (311 million miles) on its journey to Mars. A day - or sol - on Mars is 24 hours, 39 min, 35 sec (1.027 Earth days). Spirit was expected to operate for at least 91 sols on Mars. It continues to operate. Spirit carried a memorial to the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia to the surface of Mars. The "Spirit" rover (Mars Exploration Rover A) is one of the two rovers launched to Mars in mid-2003.

The Boeing X-37 Space Plane
Contained within the plot of more than one television drama has been the concept of a secret military space shuttle. To the best of our knowledge none has existed. Until now.

Does the U.S. Military Have a Secret Space Shuttle?
The speculation of several television series, the concept of a secret military shuttle program is intriguing for sure. But is there any truth to it?

The Hundred-Year Starship
It sounds almost like something out of a science fiction novel, sending a brave group of astronauts hurtling into the cosmos aboard a space craft, never to return home. Their mission to create a new home on the desolate, harsh, red world that is Mars. Called the Hundred-Year Starship, a new plan calls for astronauts to travel the red planet,...

The Amazing Hubble Space Telescope
A look at the Hubble Space Telescope, its instruments, and overall mission.

Cosmic Beauty
A trip through just a few of Hubble Space Telescope's many beautiful space images.

Astronomers See "Cosmic Mirages"
A look at gravitational lensing, a natural phenomenon in space that is helping astronomers look at very distant obects.

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