On the Launch Pad

  • 16 October 2020: BepiColombo Venus flyby 1
  • 20 October 2020: OSIRIS-REx sample collection attempt from asteroid Bennu
  • December 2020: Hayabusa2 returns samples to Earth
  • 6 December 2020: Chang'e-5 launch

Active Mission:

BepiColombo

Europe and Japan’s first Mercury mission will study how the planet formed.

Explore Mercury:

Your Guide to Mercury

Mercury, the innermost planet, can teach us how the planets formed and what the early solar system was like when life arose on Earth.

Every Mission to Mercury, Ever

Only two spacecraft—NASA's MESSENGER and Mariner 10—have ever visited Mercury. A third, the European Space Agency's BepiColombo, is on the way.

Active Mission:

Akatsuki

Japan's Akatsuki spacecraft studies Venus' atmosphere. See stunning photos taken from the spacecraft.

Future Mission:

Shukrayaan-1

India's Shukrayaan-1 spacecraft will launch in 2023 with a radar and infrared camera to map Venus' surface. Explore Venus pictures in our image library.

Explore Venus:

Every Mission to Venus, Ever

Venus was one of the first planets to be visited by spacecraft from Earth. Probes do not last long on the surface, where the atmosphere is 50 times denser than Earth's and temperatures are hot enough to melt lead.

Your Guide to Venus

Venus may have had oceans and been habitable to life before being transformed into an inhospitable wasteland.

Active Missions:

International Space Station

The International Space Station is a permanently crewed, multinational space laboratory in low-Earth orbit.

Commercial Crew Program

NASA's commercial crew program partners with private industry to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

NEOWISE

NASA's NEOWISE space telescope detects, tracks and characterizes moving solar system objects, including near-Earth asteroids.

Hubble Space Telescope

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is a multipurpose observatory in Earth orbit used for a wide variety of astronomical and planetary science purposes.

Future Missions:

DART

NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test, DART, launches in 2021. It is the first mission to test a potential method of deflecting an asteroid on course to hit Earth.

James Webb Space Telescope

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2021, is a multipurpose next-generation observatory that will enable a wide variety of astrophysical and planetary science discoveries.

NEOSM

NASA’s Near-Earth Object Surveillance Mission, NEOSM, is a mission that will launch as soon as 2025 to protect our planet from dangerous space rocks.

Active Missions:

Chandrayaan-2

India's Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft studies the composition of the Moon's surface and searches for signatures of water ice.

Chang'e-4

China's Chang'e-4 mission delivered a landing platform and a rover named Yutu-2 to the Moon's far side.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is a robotic mission mapping the Moon's surface. LRO has collected a treasure trove of data about the Moon, enabling numerous groundbreaking discoveries.

Future Missions:

Chang'e-5

China's Chang’e-5 mission launches in late 2020. Its goal is to collect a sample from the lunar surface and bring it back to Earth.

Artemis

NASA's Artemis program aims to send astronauts to the lunar south pole by 2024, and then on to Mars. The first mission, Artemis 1, is scheduled for 2021.

VIPER

NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, VIPER, a mobile robot that will land near the Moon's south pole in 2023 to search for water ice.

CLPS

NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services, CLPS, is a partnership between NASA and private industry to send commercial robotic payloads to the Moon starting in 2021.

Explore the Moon:

Every Mission to the Moon, Ever

It only takes a couple days to send most spacecraft to the Moon, so it's not surprising that humans have sent more missions there than anywhere else. The Moon is also the only celestial body besides Earth where humans have visited.

Your Guide to the Moon

The Moon is the only world besides Earth ever visited by humans. By studying it, scientists can piece together Earth’s origin story.

Active Missions:

Perseverance

NASA's Perseverance rover will seek signs of life in Jezero crater, and store samples for future return to Earth.

Tianwen-1

China’s first Mars mission will search for pockets of water beneath the surface.

Hope

The United Arab Emirates' Hope mission will build a complete picture of the Martian climate.

InSight

NASA's InSight mission is studying the internal layering of Mars to learn more about how all planets are made.

Exo Mars TGO

The European Space Agency's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) is searching for small concentrations of methane in Mars' atmosphere that could be the result of biological processes.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is an orbiting spacecraft studying the geology and climate of the planet since 2006. It hosts the most powerful high-resolution camera ever sent to Mars.

MAVEN

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft, MAVEN, studies how Mars loses its atmosphere to space. The orbiter also relays communications between surface missions and Earth.

Mangalyaan

India's Mangalyaan spacecraft, also known as the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), is a technology demonstration mission that studies Mars and captures beautiful full-globe images.

Curiosity

NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars in 2012 to search for evidence that the planet could once have supported Earth-like life.

Mars Express

The European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter has discovered methane in the Martian atmosphere and mapped the composition of the planet's polar ice.

Odyssey

NASA's Odyssey mission monitors Mars’ surface changes and is a critical communications relay between surface spacecraft and Earth.

Future Missions: 

ExoMars 2022

ESA's ExoMars 2022 mission will deliver a European rover named Rosalind Franklin, and a Russian surface platform named Kazachok, to the surface of Mars. The rover will travel across the Martian surface to search for signs of life.

Mars Sample Return

Mars Sample Return is a series of missions by NASA and the European Space Agency to return samples from Mars’ surface to Earth by 2031.

MMX

Japan's Martian Moons eXploration mission will launch in the mid-2020s on a mission to explore the moons of Mars.

Explore Mars:

Every Mission to Mars, Ever

Today, there are more spacecraft operating at Mars than any planet besides Earth. NASA remains the only space agency to have operated a spacecraft on the surface.

Your Guide to Mars

Mars, the Red Planet, once had liquid water on the surface and could have supported life. We don't know how it changed to the cold, dry desert-world it is today.

Active Missions:

Hayabusa2

Japan's Hayabusa2 mission collected a sample from asteroid Ryugu and will return it to Earth in December 2020.

OSIRIS-REx

NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission will collect a sample from asteroid Bennu and return it to Earth in 2023.

New Horizons

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is the first to visit the the Kuiper Belt, a ring of small, icy worlds beyond the orbit of Neptune. It flew past Pluto in 2015 and Arrokoth in 2019.

Future Missions:

Lucy

NASA's Lucy will be the first space mission to explore a population of asteroids called Trojans that share Jupiter's orbit. It launches in 2021.

Psyche

NASA's Psyche mission is a journey to a unique metal asteroid of the same name orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. It launches in 2023.

Comet Interceptor

The European Space Agency's Comet Interceptor's mission will launch in 2028 and wait for a scientifically interesting comet to be discovered. It will then intercept the comet, splitting into 3 spacecraft for multi-point observations.

Explore Asteroids, Comets & Small Worlds:

Every Mission to an Asteroid, Comet, or Small World, Ever

There are countless worlds to explore in our solar system besides the classical planets. Studying these asteroids, comets, and small worlds reveal important insights about how planets are made and where we Earthlings come from.

Active Mission:

Juno

NASA's Juno spacecraft arrived at Jupiter in 2016 to study the planet's core, which will help us learn about the origins of our solar system.

Future Missions:

JUICE

The European Space Agency's JUpiter ICy moons Explorer, JUICE, launches in 2022 on a mission to explore Jupiter and three of its icy moons: Europa, Callisto and Ganymede.

Europa Clipper

NASA's Europa Clipper mission will launch in the mid-2020s on a mission to determine whether Jupiter's icy moon Europa could support life.

Explore Jupiter:

Every Jupiter Mission, Ever

Jupiter is a challenging destination in its own right, and also used by spacecraft for gravity assists to travel to outer solar system destinations.

Your Guide to Jupiter

Jupiter, our largest planet, teaches us how solar systems evolve. Its four planet-like moons make it a solar system of its own.

Future Mission:

Dragonfly

NASA's Dragonfly mission to Saturn’s largest moon Titan is scheduled to launch in 2026 and arrive in 2034. The 8-bladed drone-like craft will make short flights around the surface.

Explore Saturn:

Every Mission to Saturn, Ever

Only 4 spacecraft have ever made it out to Saturn. Our most comprehensive look at the planet came from NASA and the European Space Agency's Cassini-Huygens mission, which spent 13 years exploring Saturn and its moons.

Your Guide to Saturn

Saturn is the crown jewel of our solar system. It has a stunning set of rings, diverse moons, and so much more to explore.

Uranus

NASA's Voyager 2, which flew past Uranus in 1986, is the only spacecraft to have seen the planet up close. See pictures in our image library.

Neptune

NASA's Voyager 2, which flew past Neptune in 1989, is the only spacecraft to have seen the planet up close. See pictures in our image library.

Active Missions:

CHEOPS

The European Space Agency's CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite, CHEOPS, is a space mission to precisely measure the diameters of known exoplanets.

TESS

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, TESS, is on a mission to discover thousands of exoplanets in orbit around the brightest dwarf stars in the sky.

Future Missions:

Roman Space Telescope

NASA's Roman Space Telescope is the next step in our hunt for Earth-sized exoplanets and our understanding of mysterious dark energy. It has no launch date, and needs your help to get it in space.

Explore Exoplanets:

Your Guide to Exoplanets

We know of more than 4,000 planets orbiting other stars. Does one of them host life as we know it?

Latest Articles

The Cost of Perseverance, in Context

The cost of the Perseverance rover disappears into the noise of U.S. spending and represents a more modest investment than you might think.

Perseverance Microphones Fulfill Planetary Society Campaign to Hear Sounds from Mars

The first Mars microphone, sponsored by The Planetary Society, flew aboard NASA's Polar Lander spacecraft, which crashed on the Red Planet in 1999.

Sample Return Roundup

It's a banner year for sample return missions. In 2020, China, Japan, and the United States are all scheduled to have sample return missions in flight, seeking to retrieve material from near-Earth asteroids, the Moon, and eventually Mars.

Our New Map of Every Mars Landing Attempt, Ever

The Planetary Society has a new improved guide to all the places we've landed—or crashed—on Mars, plus planned locations for the upcoming Perseverance, Tianwen-1, and Rosalind Franklin rover missions.

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