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Image Name Short Description Launch Date Target Acronym Destination Summary Keywords
Artist's Concept of Deep Impact Deep Impact Famous for its July 4, 2005 planned impact with comet Tempel 1 that generated a brilliant flash of light later discovered to be ice and dust debris ejecting from the fresh impact crater, the Deep Impact mission was the first attempt to peer beneath the surface of a comet. 01/12/2005 comet Tempel 1 comet Tempel 1 Famous for its July 4, 2005 planned impact with comet Tempel 1 that generated a brilliant flash of light later discovered to be ice and dust debris ejecting from the fresh impact crater, the Deep Impact mission was the first attempt to peer beneath the surface of a comet.

Deep Impact, which released an impactor on comet Tempel 1 to expose materials on its surface, revealed a number of new findings about comets and their composition, including evidence of water ice and organic materials. Researchers now believe that comets may have transported these compounds to Earth at one time, playing an essential role in the formation of the solar system and life on Earth.
comet missions, asteroids and comets, Asteroid Watch, comet Tempel 1, Deep Impact, Deep Impact mission, NASA's Deep Impact, space exploration, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Artist's concept of Deep Space 1 Deep Space 1 Originally designed to test a dozen new technologies including the use of an ion engine for spacecraft propulsion, Deep Space 1 far outstripped its primary mission goals by also successfully flying by the asteroid 9969 Braille and comet Borelly. 10/24/1998 asteroid 9969 Braille, comet Borrelly DS1 asteroid 9969 Braille, comet Borrelly Originally designed to test a dozen new technologies including the use of an ion engine for spacecraft propulsion, Deep Space 1 far outstripped its primary mission goals by also successfully flying by the asteroid 9969 Braille and comet Borelly. The flybys produced what are still considered some of the best images and data ever collected from an up-close encounter with an asteroid or comet.

The success of Deep Space 1 set the stage for future ion-propelled spacecraft missions, especially those making the technically difficult journey to asteroids or comets, such as NASA's Dawn mission.
comet missions, asteroid missions, comets and asteroids, Asteroid Watch, asteroid Braille, comet Borrelly, Deep Space 1, Deep Space mission, space exploration, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Comet Hartley 2 Gets a Visitor (Artist Concept) Deep Impact - EPOXI The EPOXI mission recycled the Deep Impact spacecraft, which had formerly visited comet Tempel 1, to visit a second comet, Hartley 2. 01/12/2005 comet Hartley 2 EPOXI comet Hartley 2 The EPOXI mission recycled the Deep Impact spacecraft, which had formerly visited comet Tempel 1, to visit a second comet, Hartley 2. The Nov. 4, 2010, flyby marked only the fifth time a comet had been visited by a spacecraft.

Images snapped by the spacecraft uncovered a number of new details about the hyperactive Hartley 2, including observable variations in the strength, behavior and composition of jets on the comet's surface.
comets, asteroids, comets and asteroids, asteroid missions, space missions, NASA missions, space exploration, EPOXI, comet Hartley 2, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
The First U.S. Satellite Explorer 1 Explorer 1 became the first successfully launched satellite by the United States when it was sent to space on January 31, 1958. 01/31/1958 Earth Explorer 1 became the first successfully launched satellite by the United States when it was sent to space on January 31, 1958. A quick response to the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik 1, Explorer 1's success marked the beginning of the U.S. Space Age.

The satellite, which was designed, built and operated by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, carried a cosmic ray detector, which lead to Explorer Principal Investigator Dr. James Van Allen's discovery of radiation belts around Earth held in place by the planet's magnetic field. The findings were later named Van Allen belts in honor of their discoverer.
space history, space exploration, Explorer 1, Van Allen, first satellite, first space mission, space age, NASA missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Explorer Spacecraft Explorer 2 Explorer 2 was the second satellite of the notable Explorer mission series that launched the United States into the Space Age, however, it did not reach the same success as its predecessor, Explorer 1. 03/05/1958 Earth Explorer 2 was the second satellite of the notable Explorer mission series that launched the United States into the Space Age, however, it did not reach the same success as its predecessor, Explorer 1. On launch day, the fourth stage of the Jupiter-C rocket carrying the satellite failed to ignite, and the mission was scrubbed.

The Explorer series consisted of more than fifty satellites launched over a period of about 15 years. In 1960, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which designed, built and operated the first five satellites of the series, turned the project over to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and turned its attention to planetary exploration with its Mariner, Ranger and Surveyor spacecraft projects.
space history, space exploration, Explorer 1, Explorer 2, first satellite, space mission, space age, NASA missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Explorer Spacecraft Explorer 3 Explorer 3 was the third satellite of the Explorer mission series and the first successful follow-on to Explorer 1, which made history when in January 1958 it became the United States' first space satellite. 03/26/1958 Earth Explorer 3 was the third satellite of the Explorer mission series and the first successful follow-on to Explorer 1, which made history when in January 1958 it became the United States' first space satellite. Like it's predecessor, Explorer 3 collected data confirming the theory that radiation belts trapped by Earth's magnetic field exist around the planet.

The Explorer series consisted of more than fifty satellites launched over a period of about 15 years. In 1960, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which designed, built and operated the first five satellites of the series, turned the project over to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and turned its attention to planetary exploration with its Mariner, Ranger and Surveyor spacecraft projects.
space history, space exploration, Explorer 1, Explorer 3, first satellite, space mission, space age, NASA missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Explorer Spacecraft Explorer 4 Explorer 4 was designed to further investigate the radiation belt around Earth, discovered during the Explorer 1 and 3 missions. 07/26/1958 Earth Explorer 4 was designed to further investigate the radiation belt around Earth, discovered during the Explorer 1 and 3 missions. The space satellite, which was part of the notbale Explorer mission series that launched the United States into the Space Age, made the first detailed measurements of charged particles (protons and electrons) trapped in the terrestrial radiation belts.

The Explorer series consisted of more than fifty satellites launched over a period of about 15 years. In 1960, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which designed, built and operated the first five satellites of the series, turned the project over to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and turned its attention to planetary exploration with its Mariner, Ranger and Surveyor spacecraft projects.
space history, space exploration, Explorer 1, Explorer 4, first satellite, space mission, space age, NASA missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Explorer Spacecraft Explorer 5 The Explorer 5 mission was the last of the original series of Explorer satellites designed, built and operated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 08/24/1958 Earth The Explorer 5 mission was the last of the original series of Explorer satellites designed, built and operated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. However, the mission was scrubbed when a collission between the rocket's booster and its second stage threw off the launch angle.

The Explorer series, which made history in January 1958 when Explorer 1 became the first U.S. space satellite, consisted of more than fifty satellites launched over a period of about 15 years. In 1960, after the launch of Explorer 5, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory turned the project over to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and turned its attention to planetary exploration with its Mariner, Ranger and Surveyor spacecraft projects.
space history, space exploration, Explorer 1, Explorer 5, first satellite, space mission, space age, NASA missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Artist's concept of Galaxy Evolution Explorer Galaxy Evolution Explorer The Galaxy Evolution Explorer, or GALEX, was an orbiting space telescope designed to observe the universe in ultraviolet wavelengths to measure the history of star formation in the universe. 04/28/2003 Universe GALEX The Galaxy Evolution Explorer, or GALEX, was an orbiting space telescope designed to observe the universe in ultraviolet wavelengths to measure the history of star formation in the universe.

In addition to paving the way for future ultraviolet missions, GALEX allowed astronomers to uncover mysteries about the early universe and how it evolved, as well as better characterize phenomena like black holes and dark matter. The mission was extended three times over a period of 10 years before it was decommissioned in June 2013.
universe, history of the universe, infrared telescope, NASA telescope, space telescope, stars and galaxies, origin of the solar system, space exploration, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Artist's concept of Galileo Galileo While its aim was to study Jupiter and its mysterious moons, which it did with much success, NASA's Galileo mission also became notable for discoveries during its journey to the gas giant. 10/18/1989 Jupiter, Venus, asteroid Gaspra, asteroid Ida Jupiter, Jupiter's moons (Ganymede, Callisto, Europa, Io, Amalthea), asteroid Gaspra, asteroid Ida, Venus While its aim was to study Jupiter and its mysterious moons, which it did with much success, NASA's Galileo mission also became notable for discoveries during its journey to the gas giant. It was the first spacecraft to visit an asteroid -- two in fact, Gaspra and Ida. Galileo provided the only direct observations of a comet colliding with a planet. And its flight past Venus in 1990 yielded fascinating infrared images of the planet's clouds.

After discoveries including evidence for the existence of a saltwater ocean beneath the Jovian moon Europa's icy surface, extensive volcanic processes on the moon Io and a magnetic field generated by the moon Ganymede, Galileo plunged into Jupiter's atmosphere on September 21, 2003 to prevent an unwanted impact with Europa.
Jupiter, Jupiter's moons, Europa, icy moon, Calisto, Io, pizza moon, Galileo mission, NASA history, JPL history, Galileo, space exploration, solar system, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Genesis Spacecraft Genesis Designed to gain a better understanding of our cosmic origins, the Genisis spacecraft was launched in August 2001 to collect solar wind samples and return them to Earth for study. 08/08/2001 Solar Wind Designed to gain a better understanding of our cosmic origins, the Genisis spacecraft was launched in August 2001 to collect solar wind samples and return them to Earth for study.

In 2004, after completing its sampling phase at the Legrange point 1, or L1, the spacecraft released its sample return capsule, which made an unplanned hard landing when its parachute failed to deploy. Still, it marked NASA's first sample return since the final Apollo lunar mission in 1972, and the first material collected beyond the moon. Using the sample, researchers have already found evidence that the Earth possibly formed from different solar nebula materials than those that created the sun.
sun, solar wind, solar flares, missions to the sun, NASA sun, NASA sun missions, JPL missions, solar system, solar system origin, history of the space, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
GRAIL Artist's Rendition Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, mission was designed to create the most accurate gravitational map of the moon to date, which when combined with topographic data, can provide insight into the moon's internal structure, composition and evolution. 09/10/2011 Moon GRAIL Moon The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, mission was designed to create the most accurate gravitational map of the moon to date, which when combined with topographic data, can provide insight into the moon's internal structure, composition and evolution.

Using the technique pioneered by NASA's Grace mission orbiting Earth, GRAIL mapped the moon's gravity by measuring the push and pull between twin spacecraft(Ebb & Flow) flying in tandem around the moon. The spacecraft collected data on the moon's far side by communicating with one another when the signal to Earth is obscured. It was the first time such a technique has ever been attempted on another world.

On December 17, 2012, the twin spacecraft of NASA's GRAIL mission completed their final rocket burns and impacted the moon at 2:28 p.m. PST (5:28 EST). The two probes hit a mountain near the lunar north pole, bringing their successful prime and extended science missions to an end. The two probes were sent purposely into the moon because they no longer have enough altitude or fuel to continue science operations.

NASA has named the site where the twin agency spacecraft impacted the moon in honor of the late astronaut Sally K. Ride, who was America's first woman in space and a member of the probes' mission team.
moon, Earth's moon, moon's gravity, gravity field, moon mission, moon spacecraft, mission to the moon, moon's core, NASA moon mission, GRAIL, GRAIL mission, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Artist's conception of the Hayabusa spacecraft Hayabusa The first mission to return a sample of material from the surface of a near-Earth object, the Japanese Hayabusa spacecraft, which also carried a mini-lander named MINERVA, was originally designed as a technology demonstration mission. 05/09/2003 asteroid Itokawa asteroid Itokawa The first mission to return a sample of material from the surface of a near-Earth object, the Japanese Hayabusa spacecraft, which also carried a mini-lander named MINERVA, was originally designed as a technology demonstration mission. One of the technologies it tested was an efficient ion propulsion system, which it used successfully during its two-year journey to asteroid Itokawa.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory assisted the Hayabusa mission by running some of the spacecraft-to-ground communications through its Deep Space Network of antennas, as well as providing the mission with navigators who worked with the Japanese navigation team to guide Hayabusa on the final leg of its journey home.
asteroid, asteroids and comets, asteroid missions, Japan mission, Japanese asteroid mission, JAXA, Hayabusa, asteroid sample, ion propulsion, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Herschel Space Observatory Herschel Space Observatory A space-based telescope designed to study some of the coldest and darkest regions of the universe using infrared light, Herschel was responsible for numerous findings about dark matter, galaxies and other cosmic mysteries. 05/14/2009 Universe A space-based telescope designed to study some of the coldest and darkest regions of the universe using infrared light, Herschel was responsible for numerous findings about dark matter, galaxies and other cosmic mysteries.

The telescope was decommissioned in April 2013 when it ran out of liquid coolant, as expected. However, astronomers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which contributed key technology to and analyzed data from the European Space Agency mission, are still looking over the data to unveil new discoveries.
universe, history of the universe, infrared telescope, Herschel, ESA, European Space Agency, space telescope, stars and galaxies, origin of the solar system, space exploration, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Infrared Astronomical Satellite Infrared Astronomical Satellite The Infrared Astronomical Satellite, or IRAS, was the first mission to put a telescope in space to survey the sky in infrared. 01/25/1983 Universe IRAS The Infrared Astronomical Satellite, or IRAS, was the first mission to put a telescope in space to survey the sky in infrared. It made a number of unexpected discoveries, including: six new comets, the core of our galaxy, and evidence of solid material around the stars Vega and Fomalhaut, which strongly suggested the existence of planetary systems around other stars.

The telescope was a joint project of NASA, the Netherlands Agency for Aerospace Programmes and the United Kingdom's Science and Engineering Research Council.
universe, infrared telescopes, NASA history, space history, space exploration, space telescope, Vega, cosmic dust, stars and galaxies, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Artist's concept of Jason 1 Jason 1 The Jason-1 Earth satellite, which for 11 years mapped sea level, wind speed and wave height for more than 95 percent of Earth's ice-free ocean, provided new insights into ocean circulation, tracked our rising seas and enabled more accurate weather, ocean and climate forecasts. 12/07/2001 Earth The Jason-1 Earth satellite, which for 11 years mapped sea level, wind speed and wave height for more than 95 percent of Earth's ice-free ocean, provided new insights into ocean circulation, tracked our rising seas and enabled more accurate weather, ocean and climate forecasts.

Jason 1 was decommissioned in July 2013 after the failure of its last remaining transmitter left it unable to send data to Earth.

Along with its predecessor, the NASA/CNES Topex/Poseidon mission, Jason-1 helped create a revolutionary 20-plus-year climate data record of global ocean surface topography. In 2008, a follow-on called the Ocean Surface and Topography Mission (OSTM/Jason 2) was launched to further Jason 1's studies and the U.S./European team is preparing to launch the next satellite in the series, Jason-3, in March 2015.
Earth mission, NASA Earth satellite mission, global warming, global climate change, NASA climate change, OSTM, Jason, Jason satellites, Earth oceans, sea level rise, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Magellan at Venus Magellan The Magellan spacecraft, which arrived at Venus in 1990, made the first global map of the surface of Venus as well as global maps of the planet's gravity field. 05/04/1989 Venus Venus The Magellan spacecraft, which arrived at Venus in 1990, made the first global map of the surface of Venus as well as global maps of the planet's gravity field. The mission produced surprising findings about Venus, including a relatively young planetary surface possibly formed by lava flows from planet-wide volcanic eruptions.

In October 1994, the Magellan spacecraft intentionally plunged to the surface of Venus to gather data on the planet's atmosphere before it ceased operations. It marked the first time an operating plantary spacecraft had been intentionally crashed.
Venus, planet Venus, solar system, planet missions, Venus mission, space mission, space exploration, Magellan, Magellan mission, Magellan spacecraft, map of Venus, gravity map of Venus, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Mariner Spacecraft Mariner 1 The first attempt by the United States to send a spacecraft to Venus, Mariner 1 was destroyed by the range safety officer about 290 seconds after launch when it veered off course. 07/22/1962 Venus Venus The first attempt by the United States to send a spacecraft to Venus, Mariner 1 was destroyed by the range safety officer about 290 seconds after launch when it veered off course.

The spacecraft was to fly by Venus and transmit scientific data, a goal that was soon after accomplished by the Mariner 2 spacecraft, which successfully ventured to the planet and measured its solar wind.
Venus, planet Venus, solar system, planet missions, Venus mission, Mariner 1, Mariner missions, space exploration, NASA history, JPL history, Mariner spacecraft, Mariner to Venus, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Mariner 2 (Artist's Concept) Mariner 2 Mariner 2 became the first successful mission to another planet when it flew by Venus on December 14, 1962. 08/27/1962 Venus Venus Mariner 2 became the first successful mission to another planet when it flew by Venus on December 14, 1962. The spacecraft made a number of discoveries about the planet and marked another first by measuring the solar wind, a constant stream of charged particles flying outward from the sun.

Five years later, Mariner 5 followed up on Mariner 2's study of Venus with a closer look at the planet's atmosphere.
Venus, planet Venus, solar system, planet missions, Venus mission, Mariner 2, Mariner missions, space exploration, NASA history, JPL history, Mariner spacecraft, Mariner to Venus, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Mariner Spacecraft Mariner 3 Mariner 3 was designed to fly by Mars and conduct other interplanetary experiments along the way. 11/05/1964 Mars Mars Mariner 3 was designed to fly by Mars and conduct other interplanetary experiments along the way. However, soon after its launch, the shroud encasing the spacecraft atop its rocket failed to open properly and the mission was unsuccessful.

Three weeks later, the Mariner 4 spacecraft launched successfully on an eight-month journey to the Red Planet and collected the first up-close photographs of another planet.
Mars, Mars missions, NASA history, Mariner spacecraft, Mariner missions, Mariner 3, Mariner to Mars, space exploration, Red Planet, mission to Mars, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Artist's concept of Mariner 4 Mariner 4 One of the great successes of the early American space program, the Mariner 4 mission journeyed to Mars -- making its closest approach on July 15, 1965 -- and took the first photos of another planet from space. 11/28/1964 Mars Mars One of the great successes of the early American space program, the Mariner 4 mission journeyed to Mars -- making its closest approach on July 15, 1965 -- and took the first photos of another planet from space.

In addition to providing key information about how to safely deliver future missions to the Martian surface, the spacecraft far outlasted its planned eight-month mission. It lasted about three years in solar orbit, continuing long-term studies of the solar wind and making coordinated measurements with the Mariner 5 spacecraft.
Mars, Mars missions, first space images, first photos in space, first Mars image, Mars images, Mariner 4, Mariner missions, mission to Mars, Martian mission, NASA history, JPL history, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Mariner Spacecraft Mariner 5 Originally built as a backup to the Mariner 4 spacecraft, which successfully journeyed to Mars in 1965, Mariner 5 was modified to fly by Venus and collect data on the planet's atmosphere, radiation and magnetic field. 06/14/1967 Venus Venus Originally built as a backup to the Mariner 4 spacecraft, which successfully journeyed to Mars in 1965, Mariner 5 was modified to fly by Venus and collect data on the planet's atmosphere, radiation and magnetic field.

The spacecraft's flight path following its Venus encounter brought it closer to the sun than any previous mission.
Venus, planet Venus, solar system, Venus missions, Mariner missions, mission to Venus, space missions, NASA history, JPL history, space exploration, Mariner 5, flyby, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Mariner Spacecraft Mariner 6 Along with its twin Mariner 7 spacecraft, Mariner 6 was designed to make a close flyby of Mars to study the surface for signs of life and develop technology for future missions. 02/25/1969 Mars Mars Along with its twin Mariner 7 spacecraft, Mariner 6 was designed to make a close flyby of Mars to study the surface for signs of life and develop technology for future missions. It took 24 near-encounter photos showing a chaotic and heavily cratered surface as well as the dark features long seen from Earth.

The Mariner 6 spacecraft also had the objective of providing experience and data for the Mariner 7 encounter five days later.
Mars, Mars missions, Mariner 6, Mariner 7, Mariner missions, mission to Mars, Martian mission, planet Mars, Red Planet, flyby, space exploration, NASA history, JPL history, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Mariner Spacecraft Mariner 7 The Mariner 7 spacecraft made a close flyby of Mars just five days after its twin spacecraft, Mariner 6, in 1969. 03/27/1969 Mars Mars The Mariner 7 spacecraft made a close flyby of Mars just five days after its twin spacecraft, Mariner 6, in 1969.

Although it had the same objective to study the suface and atmosphere of the Red Planet, Mariner 7 benefited from being the second to arrive at Mars. Scientists were able to use the spacecraft's reprogrammable command system to instruct it to take additional pictures of the Martian south pole, which had piqued their interest during Mariner 6's flyby. One photo even showed Mars' irregularly shaped moon, Phobos.
Mars, Mars missions, Mariner 6, Mariner 7, Mariner missions, mission to Mars, Martian mission, planet Mars, Red Planet, flyby, space exploration, NASA history, JPL history, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Mariner Spacecraft Mariner 8 (Mariner H) Designed to be the first American spacecraft to study the Red Planet from a Martian orbit, Mariner 8 (also called Mariner H) fell victim to a malfunction in the stage's flight-control system shortly after launch. 05/08/1971 Mars Mars Designed to be the first American spacecraft to study the Red Planet from a Martian orbit, Mariner 8 (also called Mariner H) fell victim to a malfunction in the stage's flight-control system shortly after launch.

However, Mariner 9, the second of the pair of spacecraft created under NASA's Mariner Mars 71 project, successfully took on Mariner 8's objective to map 70 percent of the Martian surface.
Mars, Mars missions, Mariner 8, Mariner H, Mariner 9, Mariner missions, mission to Mars, planet Mars, Red Planet, space exploration, Martian, life on Mars, NASA history, JPL history, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Mariner Spacecraft Mariner 9 (Mariner I) In 1971, the Mariner 9 spacecraft beat the Soviet Mars 2 to the Red Planet to become the first spacecraft to orbit another planet. 05/30/1971 Mars Mars In 1971, the Mariner 9 spacecraft beat the Soviet Mars 2 to the Red Planet to become the first spacecraft to orbit another planet. While in orbit, Mariner 9 mapped 85 percent of the Martian surface, an objective it inherited from the failed Mariner 8 mission, and collected valuable information about Mars' surface and atmosphere.

Of the more than 7,000 images it transmitted, some of the most significant were the first detailed views of the solar system's largest volcano, a canyon system that dwarfs the Grand Canyon and the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos.
Mars, Mars missions, orbiting Mars, first to orbit Mars, planet Mars, Red Planet, Mariner missions, Mariner 9, Mariner I, Mariner Mars 71, space exploration, Martian, JPL history, NASA history, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Artist's concept of Mariner 10 Mariner
9
10
The first mission to employ gravity assit, or using the gravity of a planet to alter a spacecraft's speed and trajectory to fly by its target planet, the Mariner 10 mission flew by both Venus and Mercury, snapping photos and collecting data. 11/03/1973 Mercury, Venus Mercury, Venus The first mission to employ gravity assit, or using the gravity of a planet to alter a spacecraft's speed and trajectory to fly by its target planet, the Mariner 10 mission flew by both Venus and Mercury, snapping photos and collecting data.

Also the first spacefract to visit Mercury, a feat that wouldn't happen again for more than 30 years, Mariner 10 data revealed a surprising magnetic field and a metallic core comprising about 80 percent of Mercury's mass.
Mercury, Venus, solar system, planets, Mariner missions, Mariner 10, early space missions, JPL history, NASA history, space exploration, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Mars Climate Orbiter Spacecraft Mars Climate Orbiter Designed to study Mars from orbit and serve as a communications relay for the Mars Polar Lander and Deep Space probes, the Mars Climate Orbiter was unsuccessful due to a navigation error caused by a failure to translate English units to metric. 12/11/1998 Mars Mars Designed to study Mars from orbit and serve as a communications relay for the Mars Polar Lander and Deep Space probes, the Mars Climate Orbiter was unsuccessful due to a navigation error caused by a failure to translate English units to metric.

Last contact with the spacecraft was on September 23, 1999, 9 months after launch, and an investigation found that the spacecraft burned up in Mars' atmosphere.
Mars, Mars missions, mission to Mars, Mars orbiter, Mars Climate Orbiter, planet Mars, Red Planet, space exploration, NASA missions, JPL missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Artist concept of Mars Exploration Rover Mars Exploration Rover - Spirit One of two rovers launched in 2003 to explore Mars and search for signs of past life, Spirit far outlasted her planned 90-day mission. 06/10/2003 Mars MER Gusev Crater, Mars One of two rovers launched in 2003 to explore Mars and search for signs of past life, Spirit far outlasted her planned 90-day mission. Among her myriad discoveries, Spirit found evidence that Mars was once much wetter than it is today and helped scientists better understand the Martian wind.

In May 2009, the rover became embedded in soft soil at a site called "Troy" with only five working wheels to aid in the rescue effort. After months of testing and carefully planned maneuvers, NASA ended efforts to free the rover and eventually ended the mission on May 25, 2011.

› Learn more about Spirit's twin rover, Opportunity
Mars, mission to Mars, Mars rover, Spirit rover, Mars rover Spirit, Mars Exploration Rovers, twin rovers, Mars robots, Mars spacecraft, space exploration, Spirit mission, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Mars Global Surveyor Mars Global Surveyor The Mars Global Surveyor orbiter, which operated on Mars for more than nine years, was designed to study the composition of Mars, map its topography and monitor weather paterns. 11/07/1996 Mars Mars The Mars Global Surveyor orbiter, which operated on Mars for more than nine years, was designed to study the composition of Mars, map its topography and monitor weather paterns. The orbiter made a number of discoveries about the Red Planet, including evidence of liquid water at or near the Martian surface.

Observations from the Mars Global Surveyor, especially its identifications of water-related minerals, were used to determine drive routes for the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity in 2010.
Mars, Mars missions, mission to Mars, Mars orbiter, longest on Mars, Martian missions, Martians, life on Mars, space exploration, NASA Mars missions, Mars Global Surveyor, solar system, space, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Mars Observer Spacecraft Mars Observer The Mars Observer was based on a commercial Earth-orbiting spacecraft and designed to study and take high-resolution photography of the Martian surface. 09/25/1992 Mars Mars The Mars Observer was based on a commercial Earth-orbiting spacecraft and designed to study and take high-resolution photography of the Martian surface. In 1992, it was to be the United States' first mission to the Red Planet in 17 years.

However, the mission ended prematurly on August 22, 1993 when contact with the spacecraft was lost just before it was to enter orbit around Mars.
Mars, Mars missions, mission to Mars, Mars orbiter, Mars Observer, Red Planet, study Mars, Martian mission, NASA missions, JPL missions, space exploration, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Mars Pathfinder / Sojourner Rover Mars Pathfinder / Sojourner Rover The Mars Pathfinder mission, designed to demonstrate a low-cost method for delivering a set of science instruments to the Red Planet, was the first wheeled vehicle to be used on any other planet in the solar system and served as the foundation for the Mars rovers of today. 12/04/1996 Mars Ares Vallis, Mars The Mars Pathfinder mission, designed to demonstrate a low-cost method for delivering a set of science instruments to the Red Planet, was the first wheeled vehicle to be used on any other planet in the solar system and served as the foundation for the Mars rovers of today.

The mission landed a rover -- Sojourner -- on the surface of Mars using an air bag landing system and innovative petal design, which have been used since in various incarnations to land other rovers on the Red Planet. Sojourner spent 83 days of a planned seven-day mission exploring the Martian terrain, snapping photographs and taking chemical, atmospheric and other measurements.
Mars, Mars missions, mission on Mars, Mars Pathfinder, Sojourner, rovers, Mars rover, Sojourner rover, space exploration, Red Planet, first rover, NASA missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Mars Polar Lander Spacecraft Mars Polar Lander / Deep Space 2 Designed to dig for water ice on Mars with a robotic arm, the Mars Polar Lander would have been the first-ever spacecraft to land on a polar region of the Red Planet. 01/03/1999 Mars South Pole, Mars Designed to dig for water ice on Mars with a robotic arm, the Mars Polar Lander would have been the first-ever spacecraft to land on a polar region of the Red Planet. It carried two probes called Deep Space 2 that were designed to impact the Martian surface and test new technologies.

Contact was lost with both the Mars Polar Lander and Deep Space 2 about a year after launch. An investigation found that it was mostly likely a false signal that the spacecraft had landed that shut down the main engines and caused the spacecraft to crash into the Martian surface.
Mars, Mars missions, mission to Mars, Deep Space 2, Deep Space probes, Mars lander, Mars Polar Lander, Mars poles, Red Planet, NASA missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Chandrayann-1 Spacecraft Moon Mineralogy Mapper The Moon Mineralogy Mapper, or M3, instrument flew aboard Chandrayaan-1, India's first mission to the moon, and provided the first mineralogical map of the lunar suface. 10/22/2008 Moon M3 Moon The Moon Mineralogy Mapper, or M3, instrument flew aboard Chandrayaan-1, India's first mission to the moon, and provided the first mineralogical map of the lunar suface.

In 2009, the Moon Mineralogy Mapper made one of its biggest discoveries when it found water molecules in the polar regions of the moon.
Moon, moon missions, mission to the moon, Chandrayaan, ISRO, Indian space agency, Moon mineralogy, Moon Mineralogy Mapper, lunar, lunar surface, lunar minerals, moon composition, lunar composition, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
NASA Scatterometer Collecting Data NASA Scatterometer Designed to gather data on the speed and direction of winds that cause ocean waves, the NASA Scatterometer instrument flew aboard Japan's Advanced Earth Observation Satellite, or ADEOS. 08/16/1996 Earth NSCAT Designed to gather data on the speed and direction of winds that cause ocean waves, the NASA Scatterometer instrument flew aboard Japan's Advanced Earth Observation Satellite, or ADEOS. The instrument yielded 268,000 measurements of ocean winds each day, covering more than 90 percent of Earth's ice-free seas.

Nine months after launch, ADEOS lost power, ending its and the NASA Scatterometer's mission. NASA approved a rapid replacement mission called the Quick Scatterometer to take the instrument's place.
Earth, Earth satellites, NASA satellite, NSCAT, scatterometer, global climate change, climate change, weather, NASA spacecraft, missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer Spacecraft Wide-field Infrared Explorer Designed as a four-month mission to study starburst galaxies, the Wide-Field Infrared Explorer, or WIRE, failed soon after launch due to a malfunction that caused the space telescope's coolant to be rapidly depleted. 03/05/1999 Universe WIRE Designed as a four-month mission to study starburst galaxies, the Wide-Field Infrared Explorer, or WIRE, failed soon after launch due to a malfunction that caused the space telescope's coolant to be rapidly depleted.

The Wide-Field Infrared Explorer did, however, reach Earth orbit and was instead used for astroseismology, which involved measuring the oscillations of nearby stars to examine their structure. Spacecraft operations were transferred to Bowie State University's Operations and Control Center until the space telescope re-entered Earth's atmosphere on May 10, 2011.
universe, universe missions, stars and galaxies, outer space, deep space, space telescopes, space missions, space exploration, NASA missions, JPL missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Hubble's Sees Clearly Now Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 Also known as "the camera that saved Hubble," the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, or WFPC2, served as the principal imaging instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope for 25-plus years, producing more than 135,000 of the most stunning photographs of the universe ever seen. 12/09/1993 Universe WFPC2 Also known as "the camera that saved Hubble," the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, or WFPC2, served as the principal imaging instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope for 25-plus years, producing more than 135,000 of the most stunning photographs of the universe ever seen.

The camera that saved Hubble was actually not the camera that originally launched with the space telescope in 1990. The original Wide Field and Planetary Camera was not able to focus correctly due to a tiny error in the curvature of Hubble's main mirror, so in December 1993 astronauts replaced the camera with a second-generation version, WFPC2. In May 2009, astronauts installed a more advanced Imaging system on Hubble and brought WFPC2 back to Earth, where it is on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington.
Hubble, Hubble Space Telescope, Hubble mission, camera that saved Hubble, WFPC2, Wide Field and Planetary Camera, Hubble camera, universe, images of the universe, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Viking Spacecraft Viking 1 The first spacecraft to successfully land on Mars, Viking 1 was part of a two-part mission to investigate the Red Planet and search for signs of life. 08/20/1975 Mars Chryse Planitia, Mars The first spacecraft to successfully land on Mars, Viking 1 was part of a two-part mission to investigate the Red Planet and search for signs of life. Viking 1 consisted of both an orbiter and a lander designed to take high-resolution images, and study the Martian surface and atmosphere.

Operating on Mars' Chryse Planitia for more than six years, Viking 1 performed the first Martian soil sample using its robotic arm and a special biological laboratory. While it found no traces of life, Viking 1 did help better characterize Mars as a cold planet with volcanic soil, a thin, dry carbon dioxide atmosphere and strking evidence for ancient river beds and vast flooding.
Mars, Mars missions, mission to Mars, Mars lander, Mars orbiter, Mars spacecraft, Red Planet, Viking 1, Viking 2, Viking orbiter, Viking lander, space exploration, NASA history, JPL history, space history, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Ulysses Spacecraft Ulysses The Ulysses spacecraft was designed as a five-year mission to study the never-before-examined north and south poles of the Sun. 10/06/1990 Sun Sun The Ulysses spacecraft was designed as a five-year mission to study the never-before-examined north and south poles of the Sun. Far outliving its planned mission lifetime by 13 years and collecting treasure troves of data on solar wind, interstellar dust and the three-dimensional character of solar radiation, Ulysses became one of the most prolific contributors to knowledge of the solar activity cycle.

The spacecraft also performed a number of technical feats including making an unprecedented gravity assist maneuver at Jupiter to hurl itself out of the elliptic plane and into its solar polar orbit.
sun, solar, sun's poles, Ulysses, sun mission, solar flares, sun spots, space exploration, mission to the sun, NASA mission, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Topex / Poseidon Spacecraft Topex / Poseidon An Earth satellite designed to measure ocean surface topography with unprecedented accuracy, Topex/Poseidon spent 13-plus years in orbit improving understanding of ocean circulation and its impact on global climate. 08/10/1992 Earth An Earth satellite designed to measure ocean surface topography with unprecedented accuracy, Topex/Poseidon spent 13-plus years in orbit improving understanding of ocean circulation and its impact on global climate. In addition to producing the first global views of seasonal current changes, it enabled scientists to forecast and better understand the El Nino phenomenon of the late 1990s.

Topex/Poseidon was a joint project between NASA and France's National Center for Space Studies, or CNES.
Earth, Earth studies, Earth mission, Earth science, La Nina, El Nino, Topex Poseidon, Earth satellites, climate change, climate studies, global warming, NASA missions, NASA Earth, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Surveyor Spacecraft Surveyor 1 Surveyor 1, the first of a series of seven robotic spacecraft sent to the moon to gather data in preparation for NASA's Apollo missions, was the first spacecraft to make a true soft landing on the moon. 05/30/1966 Moon Moon Surveyor 1, the first of a series of seven robotic spacecraft sent to the moon to gather data in preparation for NASA's Apollo missions, was the first spacecraft to make a true soft landing on the moon. As such, it was one of the great successes of NASA's early lunar and interplanetary program.

The soft landing was achieved using a retrorocket and a bank of three thrusters to slow the lander's speed from almost 6,000 miles per hour to just 3 miles per hour and safely touch down on the lunar surface. Over a period of about 30 days, Surveyor 1 transmitted more than 11,000 photographs as well as data on the moon's surface and temperature.
Moon, moon missions, Apollo missions, Apollo, space history, space exploration, mission to the moon, Surveyor missions, Surveyor 1, lunar missions, lunar samples, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Stardust-NExT (Artist Concept) Stardust-NExT Stardust-NExT was a follow-on mission that repurposed the Stardust spacecraft for a close re-encounter with comet Tempel 1 on Feb. 14, 2011. 02/07/1999 comet Tempel 1 comet Tempel 1 Stardust-NExT was a follow-on mission that repurposed the Stardust spacecraft for a close re-encounter with comet Tempel 1 on Feb. 14, 2011. Stardust-NExT's objective was to examine the area where Deep Impact, which visited Tempel 1 in 2005, had released an impactor on the surface of the comet.

The mission marked several firsts, including the first time a comet had been revisited by a spacecraft and the first time a comet had been studied before and after its close flyby of the sun.
comets, asteroids, Tempel 1, Temple 1, Wild 2, Stardust, Stardust NExT, comet missions, mission to comet, Stardust mission, comet sample, I heart comets, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Stardust Spacecraft (Artist Concept) Stardust Stardust was the first spacecraft to return a cometary sample and extraterrestrial material from outside the orbit of the moon to Earth. 02/07/1999 comet Wild-2 comet Wild-2 Stardust was the first spacecraft to return a cometary sample and extraterrestrial material from outside the orbit of the moon to Earth. In 2004, the Stardust spacecraft made a close flyby of comet Wild-2, collecting comet and interstellar dust in a substance called aerogel.

Two years later, the samples made it back to Earth in a return capsule that landed in the Utah desert. The Stardust mission samples indicated that some comets may have included materials ejected from the early sun and may have formed very differently than scientists had theorized.

The spacecraft, which was still operational, was later recycled for the Stardust-NExT mission, which flew by comet Tempel 1 on Feb. 14, 2011.
comets, asteroids, Wild 2, comet Wild 2, Stardust, Stardust NExT, comet missions, mission to comet, Stardust mission, comet sample, I heart comets, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Orbiting Carbon Observatory Orbiting Carbon Observatory The Orbiting Carbon Observatory, or OCO, was designed to make space-based observations of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere to better understand the characteristics of climate change. 02/24/2009 Earth OCO The Orbiting Carbon Observatory, or OCO, was designed to make space-based observations of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere to better understand the characteristics of climate change. However, the mission failed soon after launch when the launch vehicle's fairing did not separate from the spacecraft.

A replacement spacecraft, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2, is scheduled to launch July 1, 2014, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Earth, Earth missions, planet Earth, climate, climate change, NASA missions, spacecraft, space missions, space exploration, carbon, OCO, Orbiting Carbon Observatory, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Phoenix Phoenix Phoenix was a lander sent to the surface of Mars to search for evidence of past or present microbial life. 08/04/2007 Mars Green Valley, Vastitas Borealis, Mars Phoenix was a lander sent to the surface of Mars to search for evidence of past or present microbial life. Using a robotic arm, it could dig up to half a meter into the Red Planet to collect samples and return them to onboard instruments for analysis. Besides verifying the existence of water-ice in the Martian subsurface, Phoenix discovered traces of the chemical perchlorate, a possible energy source for microbes and a potentially valuable future resource for human explorers.

As planned, the Phoenix lander ended communications in November 2008, about six months after landing, when its solar panels ceased operating in the dark Martian winter.
Mars, Mars missions, mission to Mars, Martian, Red Planet, Lander, Rover, Mars lander, Phoenix Lander, Phoenix, Phoenix spacecraft, space exploration, planets, solar system, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Surveyor Spacecraft Surveyor 2 Surveyor 2 was designed as a follow-on to the highly successful Surveyor 1 mission and was the second of seven moon landers tasked with collecting lunar data in preparation for NASA's Apollo missions. 09/20/1966 Moon Moon Surveyor 2 was designed as a follow-on to the highly successful Surveyor 1 mission and was the second of seven moon landers tasked with collecting lunar data in preparation for NASA's Apollo missions.

However, during its coast to the moon, one of the spacecraft's three thrusters failed to ignite, throwing the spacecraft into a spin. The spacecraft lost control and crashed into the moon just southeast of Copernicus crater on September 23, 1966.
Moon, moon missions, Apollo missions, Apollo, space history, space exploration, mission to the moon, Surveyor missions, Surveyor 2, lunar missions, lunar samples, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Solar Mesosphere Explorer Solar Mesosphere Explorer The Solar Mesosphere Explorer was an Earth-orbiting spacecraft designed to investigate the processes that create and destroy the ozone in Earth's upper atmosphere, or mesosphere. 10/06/1981 Earth SME The Solar Mesosphere Explorer was an Earth-orbiting spacecraft designed to investigate the processes that create and destroy the ozone in Earth's upper atmosphere, or mesosphere. It returned data until April 4, 1989 and reentered Earth's atmosphere nearly a year later. Earth, atmosphere, Earth's atmosphere, planet Earth, ozone layer, global warming, climate change, Solar Mesosphere Explorer, SME, Earth missions, NASA missions, JPL missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Ranger 9 Ranger 9 Ranger 9 was the last of the Ranger series of spacecraft launched in the 1960s to explore the moon and was designed to image and impact the moon's crater Alphonsus, which was thought to be the site of recent lunar volcanic activity. 03/21/1965 Moon Crater Alphonsus, Moon Ranger 9 was the last of the Ranger series of spacecraft launched in the 1960s to explore the moon and was designed to image and impact the moon's crater Alphonsus, which was thought to be the site of recent lunar volcanic activity.

Unlike its predecessors, Ranger 9 pointed its cameras directly in its direction of travel, yielding stunning photographs of the lunar surface. Data from the mission dramatically improved scientists' understanding of the moon's mass and lead to the discovery that the moon's center of mass is displaced from its geometric center.
JPL history, NASA history, Ranger project, Ranger, Ranger missions, Ranger 9, moon missions, destination moon, Earth missions, historic space missions, first space missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Ranger 8 Ranger 8 Following on the success of the Ranger 7 mission, which was the first United States spacecraft to photograph the moon up close, Ranger 8 took more than 7,000 high-resolution images of the moon before impacting the lunar surface on February 20, 1965. 02/17/1965 Moon Mare Tranquillitatis, Moon Following on the success of the Ranger 7 mission, which was the first United States spacecraft to photograph the moon up close, Ranger 8 took more than 7,000 high-resolution images of the moon before impacting the lunar surface on February 20, 1965. The lander was part of the series of nine Ranger spacecraft launched in the early 1960s to explore the moon.

Ranger 8 impacted the moon only 24 kilometers from its target in the Sea of Tranquility, an area that was of particular interest to Apollo mission planners. Images from the mission, which detailed the kind of terrain and obstacles that a human explorer might encounter, paved the way for future human exploration of the moon.
JPL history, NASA history, Ranger project, Ranger, Ranger missions, Ranger 8, moon missions, destination moon, Earth missions, historic space missions, first space missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Ranger 7 Ranger 7 The Ranger 7 lunar lander was the first true success in the United States' early quest to explore the moon and heralded a new era of exploration that saw dramatically more mission successes than failures. 07/28/1964 Moon Mare Nubium, Moon The Ranger 7 lunar lander was the first true success in the United States' early quest to explore the moon and heralded a new era of exploration that saw dramatically more mission successes than failures. Like its predecessor, Ranger 7 was principally built to take high-resolution photographs of the moon before impacting the lunar surface.

On July 31, 1964, Ranger 7 approached the moon precisely on target and transmitted 4,316 images in the 15 minutes before it impacted the lunar surface on the northern rim of the Sea of Clouds. The images, which showed the lunar surface in stunning detail, were the harbinger of future human exploration of the moon.
JPL history, NASA history, Ranger project, Ranger, Ranger missions, Ranger 7, moon missions, destination moon, Earth missions, historic space missions, first space missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Ranger 6 Ranger 6 Ranger 6 was principally designed to transmit high-resolution photographs of the moon before impacting the lunar surface and was part of the series of nine Ranger spacecraft launched in the early 1960s to explore the moon. 01/30/1964 Moon Mare Tranquillitatis, Moon Ranger 6 was principally designed to transmit high-resolution photographs of the moon before impacting the lunar surface and was part of the series of nine Ranger spacecraft launched in the early 1960s to explore the moon. Unlike previous Ranger missions, Ranger 6's only instrument was an imaging system. The new design made it the first of a new, third generation of Ranger spacecraft called Block 3.

Ranger 6 did impact the moon on February 2, 1964, but the power supply for the camera system short-circuted three days earlier and no images were returned.
JPL history, NASA history, Ranger project, Ranger, Ranger missions, Ranger 6, moon missions, destination moon, Earth missions, historic space missions, first space missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Ranger 5 Ranger 5 The third attempt by the United States to land a spacecraft on the moon, Ranger 5 was designed to collect data on interplanetary space, photograph the moon up close and make a rough landing on the lunar surface. 10/18/1962 Moon Moon The third attempt by the United States to land a spacecraft on the moon, Ranger 5 was designed to collect data on interplanetary space, photograph the moon up close and make a rough landing on the lunar surface. The lander was part of the series of nine Ranger spacecraft launched in the early 1960s to explore the moon.

However, a malfunction with the spacecraft's batteries caused them to drain after about eight hours of flight, leaving Ranger 5 inoperable. The spacecraft missed the moon by 450.5 miles (725 kilometers) on October 21, 1962 and remains in heliocentric orbit.
JPL history, NASA history, Ranger project, Ranger, Ranger missions, Ranger 5, moon missions, destination moon, Earth missions, historic space missions, first space missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Pioneer 3 Pioneer 3 The Pioneer 3 mission was one of the first attempts by the United States to send a spacecraft to the moon. 12/06/1958 Moon Moon The Pioneer 3 mission was one of the first attempts by the United States to send a spacecraft to the moon. Because of a malfunction with the spacecraft's booster rocket, it lacked the velocity to make it beyond Earth orbit and fell back to Earth, burning up over Africa.

Pioneer 3 was, however, equipped with a Geiger counter to study interplanetary radiation and managed to discover and map the outer Van Allen radiation belt around Earth before its demise.
historic space missions, NASA history, space flight, space race, JPL history, Van Allen belt, Moon missions, destination moon, spacecraft to the moon, Pioneer, Pioneer 3, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Ranger Spacecraft Ranger 4 The Ranger 4 spacecraft, which was designed to collect data on interplanetary space, photograph the moon up close and make a rough landing on the lunar surface, was the first American spacecraft to reach another celestial body. 04/23/1962 Moon The Ranger 4 spacecraft, which was designed to collect data on interplanetary space, photograph the moon up close and make a rough landing on the lunar surface, was the first American spacecraft to reach another celestial body. The lander was part of the series of nine Ranger spacecraft launched in the early 1960s to explore the moon.

However, a failure in the spacecraft's onboard computer left Ranger 4's solar panels and navigation system undeployed and the spacecraft unable to carry out its science objectives. Ranger 4 crashed into the far side of the moon on April 26, 1962.
JPL history, NASA history, Ranger project, Ranger, Ranger missions, Ranger 4, moon missions, destination moon, Earth missions, historic space missions, first space missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
The Pioneer Missions Pioneer 4 The Pioneer 4 mission was the second of two early attempts by the United States to send a spacecraft to the moon. 03/03/1959 Moon Moon The Pioneer 4 mission was the second of two early attempts by the United States to send a spacecraft to the moon. Designed primarily to photograph the moon up close, Pioneer 4 did in fact fly past the moon, but at a much farther distance than planned. Because of the trajectory error, the camera sensor failed to trigger.

Pioneer 4 did provide extensive and valuable data on radiation and the tracking of space objects. After 82 hours of transmissions from Pioneer 4's tiny radio and and 655,000 miles of travel -- the farthest tracking distance for a human-made object at the time -- contact was lost on March 6, 1959.
historic space missions, NASA history, space flight, space race, JPL history, Van Allen belt, Moon missions, destination moon, spacecraft to the moon, Pioneer, Pioneer 4, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
The Planck Space Telescope Planck Designed to study ancient radiation from the big bang, the Planck space telescope was a European Space Agency mission that aimed to better understand the origin of the universe and the formation of galaxies. 05/14/2009 Universe Planck Designed to study ancient radiation from the big bang, the Planck space telescope was a European Space Agency mission that aimed to better understand the origin of the universe and the formation of galaxies. Planck produced its first all-sky image in 2010, and scientists are currently working to analyze and parse the various and complex elements. Analysis has already highlighted numerous star-forming clouds across the Milky Way galaxy as well as a previously invisible population of galaxies covered in dust billions of years old.

NASA had significant participation in the Planck mission, which used instruments from the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
universe, stars and galaxies, cosmic background, Planck, ESA, European Space Agency, map the sky, infrared, big bang, radiation, astronomy, space, origin, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Ranger Spacecraft Ranger 1 Ranger 1, the first of a series of nine spacecraft launched in the early 1960s to explore the moon, was a test spacecraft built as a prelude to future lunar missions. 08/23/1961 Earth Ranger 1, the first of a series of nine spacecraft launched in the early 1960s to explore the moon, was a test spacecraft built as a prelude to future lunar missions. It was designed to make a highly elliptical Earth orbit and carried several science instruments for studying cosmic rays, magnetic fields and energetic particles.

During launch, a rocket malfunction caused the spacecraft to get stranded in low-Earth orbit, and one week after launch, it burned up upon reentering Earth's atmosphere.
JPL history, NASA history, Ranger project, Ranger, Ranger missions, Ranger 1, moon missions, destination moon, Earth missions, historic space missions, first space missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Ranger Spacecraft Ranger 3 Ranger 3 was NASA's first attempt to land a spacecraft on the moon. 01/26/1962 Moon Moon Ranger 3 was NASA's first attempt to land a spacecraft on the moon. The spacecraft was designed to transmit up-close photos of the lunar surface before making a rough landing on the moon and deploying a small set of instruments, including a seismometer.

A series of malfunctions, principally with the spacecraft's guidance system, sent the spacecraft hurtling past the moon at much higher speeds than planned. Because of the increased speeds, among other flight problems, Ranger 3 was unable to enter lunar orbit and flew past the moon on January 28, 1962.
JPL history, NASA history, Ranger project, Ranger, Ranger missions, Ranger 3, moon missions, destination moon, Earth missions, historic space missions, first space missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Ranger Spacecraft Ranger 2 The second of the series of spacecraft launched by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the early 1960s to further lunar and interplanetary exploration, Ranger 2, like its predecessor, was built to test flight systems for a future lunar mission. 11/18/1961 Moon The second of the series of spacecraft launched by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the early 1960s to further lunar and interplanetary exploration, Ranger 2, like its predecessor, was built to test flight systems for a future lunar mission. However, it was similarly unsuccessful due to a malfunction with its booster rocket. The malfunction caused Ranger 2 to be trapped in low-Earth orbit before burning up in Earth's atmosphere two days after launch. JPL history, NASA history, Ranger project, Ranger, Ranger missions, Ranger 2, moon missions, destination moon, Earth missions, historic space missions, first space missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Artist's concept of Seasat Seasat One of the earliest Earth-observing satellites, Seasat was designed to test various oceanographic sensors and gain a better understanding of Earth's seas. 06/27/1978 Earth One of the earliest Earth-observing satellites, Seasat was designed to test various oceanographic sensors and gain a better understanding of Earth's seas.

Seasat operated in Earth orbit for 105 days, measuring sea-surface winds and temperatures, wave heights, atmospheric liquid water content, sea ice features and ocean topography, before a massive short circuit in the spacecraft's electrical system ended the mission on October 10, 1978.
Earth missions, Earth satellite, Planet Earth, Global Climate Change, Earth's oceans, radar, seas, oceans, planet, climate change, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Shuttle Imaging Radar antenna Shuttle Imaging Radar-A Designed to fly aboard NASA's Space Shuttle Columbia, STS-2, Shuttle Imaging Radar-A was the first in a series of instruments that imaged Earth using radar pulses, rather than optical light, as illumination. 11/12/1981 Earth SIR-A Designed to fly aboard NASA's Space Shuttle Columbia, STS-2, Shuttle Imaging Radar-A was the first in a series of instruments that imaged Earth using radar pulses, rather than optical light, as illumination. The instrument helped detect the remnants of buried ancient riverbeds in the Sahara Desert because it could peer beneath features like sand, which are impenitrable to optical light observations.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory built the instrument and its follow-ons, which were the largest space structures ever built at JPL.
Earth missions, Earth satellite, Space Shuttle Columbia, Shuttle Imaging Radar, Earth radar, STS-2, Columbia Shuttle, NASA Earth missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL, Shuttle Imaging Radar-A
Shuttle Imaging Radar antenna Shuttle Imaging Radar-B Shuttle Imaging Radar-B, the second in a series of NASA Earth-imaging instruments employing radar technology, was designed to fly aboard NASA's Space Shuttle Challenger, STS-41-G, to collect radar images of Earth at several angles. 10/05/1984 Earth SIR-B Shuttle Imaging Radar-B, the second in a series of NASA Earth-imaging instruments employing radar technology, was designed to fly aboard NASA's Space Shuttle Challenger, STS-41-G, to collect radar images of Earth at several angles.

The multiangle images, an improvement on the single angle images collected by the instrument's predecessor, allowed scientists to create perspective views of the landscape.
Earth missions, Earth satellite, Space Shuttle Challenger, Shuttle Imaging Radar, Earth radar, STS-41-G, Columbia Shuttle, NASA Earth missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL, Shuttle Imaging Radar-B
Shuttle Imaging Radar antenna Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C / X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar First launched a decade after its predecessors, Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C was coupled with the German-built X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar to image Earth in three different wavelengths. 04/09/1994 Earth SIR-C / X-SAR First launched a decade after its predecessors, Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C was coupled with the German-built X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar to image Earth in three different wavelengths.

The instrument flew on two separate shuttle missions (STS-59 and STS-68, respectively) and collected data on terrestrial soil moisture content, ocean dynamics, volcanism and tectonic activity, and soil erosion and desertification.
Earth missions, Earth satellite, Space Shuttle Endeavour, Shuttle Imaging Radar, Earth radar, STS-58, STS-69, Columbia Shuttle, NASA Earth missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL, Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C
Artist's concept of SRTM Shuttle Radar Topography Mission The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, which flew aboard NASA's Space Shuttle Endeavour during an 11-day mission in 2000, made the first near-global topographical map of Earth, collecting data on nearly 80 percent of Earth's land surfaces. 02/11/2000 Earth SRTM The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, which flew aboard NASA's Space Shuttle Endeavour during an 11-day mission in 2000, made the first near-global topographical map of Earth, collecting data on nearly 80 percent of Earth's land surfaces.

The instrument's design was essentially a modified version of the earlier Shuttle Imaging Radar instruments with a second antenna added to allow for topographic mapping using a technique similar to stereo photography.
Earth missions, Earth satellite, Space Shuttle Columbia, Shuttle Imaging Radar, Earth radar, STS-58, STS-69, Columbia Shuttle, NASA Earth missions, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL, Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C
Astronauts Pay a Visit to Surveyor 3 Surveyor 3 After Surveyor 1's initial studies of the lunar surface in 1966, Surveyor 3 made further inroads into preparations for human missions to the moon. 04/17/1967 Moon Moon After Surveyor 1's initial studies of the lunar surface in 1966, Surveyor 3 made further inroads into preparations for human missions to the moon. Using a surface sampler to study the lunar soil, Surveyor 3 conducted experiments to see how the lunar surface would fare against the weight of an Apollo lunar module.

The moon lander, which was the second of the Surveyor series to make a soft landing on the moon, also gathered information on the lunar soil's radar reflectivity and thermal properties in addition to transmitting more than 6,000 photographs of its surroundings.
Moon, moon missions, Apollo missions, Apollo, space history, space exploration, mission to the moon, Surveyor missions, Surveyor 3, lunar missions, lunar samples, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Surveyor Spacecraft Surveyor 4 Despite a perfect flight to the moon, Surveyor 4, which was designed to conduct further studies of the lunar surface in preparation for the upcoming Apollo missions, met an untimely end just 2.5 minutes before landing on the moon. 07/14/1967 Moon Moon Despite a perfect flight to the moon, Surveyor 4, which was designed to conduct further studies of the lunar surface in preparation for the upcoming Apollo missions, met an untimely end just 2.5 minutes before landing on the moon.

Communication was lost just before the moon lander's retrorocket, a device designed slow the spacecraft during its descent, cut off. NASA concluded that the spacecraft might have exploded, thus causing the loss of communication.
Moon, moon missions, Apollo missions, Apollo, space history, space exploration, mission to the moon, Surveyor missions, Surveyor 4, lunar missions, lunar samples, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Surveyor Spacecraft Surveyor 5 Equipped with a chemical element analyzer for conducting analyses of the lunar soil, the Surveyor 5 lander was the first spacecraft to do a soil analysis on the moon, or any other world. 09/08/1967 Moon Mare Tranquillitatis, Moon Equipped with a chemical element analyzer for conducting analyses of the lunar soil, the Surveyor 5 lander was the first spacecraft to do a soil analysis on the moon, or any other world. At the outset, the mission nearly failed due to a leak in the spacecraft's thruster system, but engineers devised an alternate breaking sequence to land the spacecraft safely.

Returning more than 20,000 photographs taken over three days and making one of the most significant finds of the Surveyor missions (that the moon's surface was likely basaltic rather than powdery and therefore conducive to human exploration), Surveyor 5 became one of the most successful missions of the series.
Moon, moon missions, Apollo missions, Apollo, space history, space exploration, mission to the moon, Surveyor missions, Surveyor 5, lunar missions, lunar samples, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Surveyor Spacecraft Surveyor 6 Part of the highly successful series of lunar landers sent to the moon to examine the feasibility of a future human mission, Surveyor 6 was the first spacecraft to be launched from the surface of the moon. 11/07/1967 Moon Sinus Medii, Moon Part of the highly successful series of lunar landers sent to the moon to examine the feasibility of a future human mission, Surveyor 6 was the first spacecraft to be launched from the surface of the moon. It lifted itself to about 3 meters altitude and flew about 2.5 meters from its initial landing point to further validate Surveyor 5's finding that the lunar soil is basaltic, an important detail for Apollo mission planners.

The spacecraft returned nearly 30,000 images of the moon, some of which were photographs of the spacecraft's original landing footprint, which helped sceintists determine the lunar soil's mechanical properties.
Moon, moon missions, Apollo missions, Apollo, space history, space exploration, mission to the moon, Surveyor missions, Surveyor 6, lunar missions, lunar samples, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Surveyor Spacecraft Surveyor 7 Surveyor 7 was the last of the original series of Surveyor moon landers of the late 1960s and was dedicated primarily to scientific investigations. 01/07/1968 Moon Moon Surveyor 7 was the last of the original series of Surveyor moon landers of the late 1960s and was dedicated primarily to scientific investigations. By 1968, the spacecraft's predecessors had already performed much of the investigative work into the feasibility of a future human mission to the moon, so Surveyor 7's mission was decidedly unique.

It was the only spacecraft of the series to land in the lunar highland region and had the most extensive set of instruments, with which it conducted a number of scientific experiments on the lunar soil. Findings from Surveyor 7 were fairly consistent with earlier missions except that chemical analysis of the highland crust showed it to have less iron than samples from the lunar maria.
Moon, moon missions, Apollo missions, Apollo, space history, space exploration, mission to the moon, Surveyor missions, Surveyor 7, lunar missions, lunar samples, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL
Viking Spacecraft Viking 2 Viking 2 landed on Mars in September 1976 -- immediately following the first successful spacecraft landing on Mars by Viking 1 -- and was part of NASA's early two-part mission to investigate the Red Planet and search for signs of life. 09/09/1975 Mars Utopia Planitia, Mars Viking 2 landed on Mars in September 1976 -- immediately following the first successful spacecraft landing on Mars by Viking 1 -- and was part of NASA's early two-part mission to investigate the Red Planet and search for signs of life. While neither spacecraft found traces of life, they did find all the elements essential to life on Earth: carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen and phosphorus.

Like its predecessor, the Viking 2 mission consisted of a lander and an orbiter designed to take high-resolution images, and study the Martian surface and atmosphere. Both the Viking 1 and 2 landers benefited greatly from their orbiting counterparts, which snapped images that helped mission controllers navigate the landers to safe landing sites.
Mars, Mars missions, mission to Mars, Mars lander, Mars orbiter, Mars spacecraft, Red Planet, Viking 1, Viking 2, Viking orbiter, Viking lander, space exploration, NASA history, JPL history, space history, JPL, NASA, NASAJPL