"To Boldly Go Where No One Can" is the mission of automated spacecraft, probes and landers. This section gives you links to a variety of places for learning about these robotic machines. When you are ready, click back to return to the Space Center.
NASA, the European Space Agency, Russia, Japan and others have sent probes into the icy depths of space to learn more about our solar system. From early satellites orbiting the Earth to interplanetary missions these robot machines extend our eyes and minds into the unknown.
These probes have given us a close up look at all of the planets but Pluto. Some have gone to asteroids and some have gone through the tails of comets. The Stardust Mission is designed to bring back samples from comet Wild-2. The Voyager probes, launched in the early 1970's, are still sending back information about the outer reaches of our solar system. It takes about two weeks for their signals to reach Earth. For a list of past, present and future missions see NASA's Space Science Missions Index site.
Mars has always facinated people and so when the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft landed with its Sojourner Rover, there was great interest in the images and science of the mission.
See the Field Trip to Mars page for more on the Mars Pathfinder.
Mars Global Surveyor
In November, 1996, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory began America's return to Mars after a 20-year absence by launching the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft. Since then, Surveyor has returned an unprecedented amount of data regarding Mars' surface features, atmosphere and magnetic properties. The mapping phase of the mission began in mid-March 1999. During mapping operations, the spacecraft circles Mars once every 118 minutes at an average altitude of 378 kilometers (235 miles).
2001 Mars Odyssey is an orbiter carrying science experiments designed to make global observations of Mars to improve our understanding of the planet's climate and geologic history, including the search for water and evidence of life-sustaining environments. On April 7, 2001, the 2001 Mars Odyssey was launched on a Delta II launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral, Florida. After arriving in orbit in October, 2001, the spacecraft began its science mapping orbit (for 917 Earth days) and will serve as a communications relay for U.S. and international landers arriving at Mars in 2003/2004.
In 2003, NASA launched two Mars Exploration Rovers, twin geology-laboratory robots, to the surface of Mars. Each is the size of a desk and capable of traveling up to 110 yards a day from their respective landing sites. They arrived in January, 2004. Other missions, including landers and orbiting missions, will follow every 26 months. Find out about these rovers, future missions and the Viking, Pathfinder and other missions to Mars.
The Cassini orbiter will study the planet and the Huygens probe will land on Saturn's largest moon, Titan. To find out when it will arrive and information on the mission, click on the image or here: Cassini Mission.
All external links open in a new tab.
Close the tab to return to Kid's Cosmos.
Return to Top
Kids' Cosmos… Expanding Minds Beyond the Limits of the Universe
P.O. Box 14077, Spokane, WA 99206-4077
© 2011 Kid's Cosmos