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A History of Satellites and Robotic Space Missions

Mission
(Country)
Launch Date Type Mission Highlights
Sputnik 1
(USSR)
Oct. 4, 1957 Satellite First artificial satellite.
Sputnik 2
(USSR)
Nov. 3, 1957 Satellite Carried first animal into space.
Explorer 1
(USA)
Jan. 31, 1958 Satellite First successful U.S. satellite. Also discovered Earth's radiation belt.
Pioneer 0
(USA)
Aug. 17, 1958 Lunar
orbiter
First stage exploded.
Pioneer 1
(USA)
Oct. 11, 1958 Lunar
orbiter
Failed to reach escape velocity.
Pioneer 3
(USA)
Dec. 6, 1958 Lunar
flyby
Failed to reach escape velocity.
Luna 1
(USSR)
Jan. 2, 1959 Lunar
flyby
Intended for impact, but missed lunar surface and is now in a solar orbit.
Pioneer 4
(USA)
Mar. 3, 1959 Lunar
flyby
Still in a solar orbit.
Luna 2
(USSR)
Sep. 12, 1959 Lunar
lander
Impacted Moon on Sep 13, 1959, becoming first man-made object to reach another body in our universe.
Luna 3
(USSR)
Oct. 4, 1959 Lunar
flyby
Reached the Moon on Oct. 7 and returned the first photograph of its far side.
Pioneer 5
(USA)
Mar. 11, 1960 Solar
monitor
Still in a solar orbit.
Mars 1960A
(USSR)
Oct. 10, 1960 Mars
probe
Failed to reach Earth orbit.
Mars 1960B
(USSR)
Oct. 14, 1960 Mars
probe
Failed to reach Earth orbit.
Venera 1
(USSR)
Feb. 12, 1961 Venus
flyby
Now in a solar orbit.
Ranger 3
(USA)
Jan. 26, 1962 Lunar
lander
Missed the Moon and is now in a solar orbit.
Ranger 4
(USA)
Apr. 23, 1962 Lunar
lander
First U.S. impact on the Moon.
Mariner 2
(USA)
Aug. 27, 1962 Venus
flyby
Arrived at Venus on Dec. 14, 1962 becoming the first successful interplanetary spacecraft. Now in a solar orbit.
Ranger 5
(USA)
Oct. 18, 1962 Lunar
flyby
Intended for impact on lunar surface but became a fly-by due to spacecraft failure.
Mars 1962A
(USSR)
Oct. 24, 1962 Mars
flyby
Failed to leave Earth orbit.
Mars 1
(USSR)
Nov. 1, 1962 Mars
flyby
Communications failed en route.
Mars 1962B
(USSR)
Nov. 4, 1962 Mars
lander
Failed to leave Earth orbit.
Luna 4
(USSR)
Apr. 2, 1963 Lunar
probe
Missed the Moon and is now in an Earth-Moon orbit.
Ranger 6
(USA)
Jan. 30, 1964 Lunar
lander
Impacted lunar surface but returned no photographs due to camera failure.
Zond 1
(USSR)
Apr. 2, 1964 Venus
flyby
Communications lost en route.
Ranger 7
(USA)
July 28, 1964 Lunar
lander
Returned pictures of lunar surface before impact on July 31, 1964.
Mariner 3
(USA)
Nov. 5, 1964 Mars
flyby
Mission failed when solar panels did not open. Now in a solar orbit.
Mariner 4
(USA)
Nov. 28, 1964 Mars
flyby
Arrived on Jul. 14, 1965 and returned close-up photos of Martian surface. Now in a solar orbit.
Zond 2
(USSR)
Nov. 30, 1964 Mars
flyby
Contact lost en route.
Ranger 8
(USA)
Feb. 17, 1965 Lunar
lander
Returned photographs of lunar surface before impact on Feb. 20, 1965.
Ranger 9
(USA)
Mar. 21, 1965 Lunar
lander
Returned photographs of lunar surface before impact on Mar. 24, 1965.
Luna 5
(USSR)
May 9, 1965 Lunar
lander
Destroyed upon impact with lunar surface.
Luna 6
(USSR)
June 8, 1965 Lunar
lander
Missed the Moon and is now in solar orbit.
Zond 3
(USSR)
July 18, 1965 Lunar
flyby
Transmitted pictures of the Moon's far side.
Luna 7
(USSR)
Oct. 4, 1965 Lunar
lander
Destroyed upon impact with lunar surface.
Venera 2
(USSR)
Nov. 12, 1965 Venus
flyby
Communications failed. Now in a solar orbit.
Venera 3
(USSR)
Nov. 16, 1965 Venus
probe
Communications failed. Impacted Venus.
Luna 8
(USSR)
Dec. 3, 1965 Lunar
lander
Destroyed upon impact with lunar surface.
Pioneer 6
(USA)
Dec. 16, 1965 Solar
probe
Still transmitting from a solar orbit.
Luna 9
(USSR)
Jan. 31, 1966 Lunar
lander
Performed first successful soft landing on the Moon, on Feb. 3, 1966, and transmitted the first photographs from its surface.
Luna 10
(USSR)
Mar. 31, 1966 Lunar
orbiter
Studied Moon's gravity and radiation. Now in a lunar orbit.
Surveyor 1
(USA)
Apr. 30, 1966 Lunar
lander
First U.S. soft landing on the Moon.
Lunar
Orbiter
1
(USA)
Aug. 10, 1966 Lunar
orbiter
Orbited the Moon, returning photographs of its surface before impacting on command.
Pioneer 7
(USA)
Aug. 17, 1966 Solar
probe
Still in a solar orbit.
Luna 11
(USSR)
Aug. 24, 1966 Lunar
orbiter
Studied Moon's gravity and chemical composition. Now in a lunar orbit.
Surveyor 2
(USA)
Sep. 20, 1966 Lunar
lander
Failed and impacted the Moon.
Luna 12
(USSR)
Oct. 22, 1966 Lunar
orbiter
Photographed surface of the Moon. Now in a lunar orbit.
Lunar
Orbiter
2
(USA)
Nov. 6, 1966 Lunar
orbiter
Orbited the Moon, returning photographs of its surface before impacting on command.
Luna 13
(USSR)
Dec. 21, 1966 Lunar
lander
Arrived on Dec. 24, 1966 and transmitted panoramic photographs of surface.
Lunar
Orbiter
3
(USA)
Feb. 5, 1967 Lunar
orbiter
Orbited the Moon, returning photographs of its surface before impacting on command.
Surveyor 3
(USA)
Apr. 17, 1967 Lunar
lander
Landed safely on lunar surface.
Lunar
Orbiter
4
(USA)
May 4, 1967 Lunar
orbiter
Orbited the Moon, returning photographs of its surface before impacting on command.
Venera 4
(USSR)
June 12, 1967 Venus
probe
Arrived on Oct. 18, 1967. Returned atmospheric data but was crushed by pressure before reaching surface.
Mariner 5
(USA)
June 14, 1967 Venus
flyby
Arrived on Oct. 19, 1967 and studied Venusian magnetic field. Now in a solar orbit.
Surveyor 4
(USA)
July 14, 1967 Lunar
lander
Failed and impacted the Moon.
Lunar
Orbiter
5
(USA)
Aug. 1, 1967 Lunar
orbiter
Orbited the Moon, returning photographs of its surface before impacting on command.
Surveyor 5
(USA)
Sep. 8, 1967 Lunar
lander
Landed safely on lunar surface.
Surveyor 6
(USA)
Nov. 7, 1967 Lunar
lander
Landed safely on lunar surface and performed brief take-off.
Pioneer 8
(USA)
Dec. 13, 1967 Solar
probe
Still transmitting from a solar orbit.
Surveyor 7
(USA)
Jan. 7, 1968 Lunar
lander
Landed safely on lunar surface.
Luna 14
(USSR)
Apr. 7, 1968 Lunar
probe
Studied Moon's motion and its gravity.
Zond 5
(USSR)
Sep. 14, 1968 Lunar
flyby
Flew around the Moon and returned to Earth.
Pioneer 9
(USA)
Nov. 8, 1968 Solar
probe
Still in a solar orbit.
Zond 6
(USSR)
Nov. 10, 1968 Lunar
flyby
Flew around the Moon and returned to Earth.
Venera 5
(USSR)
Jan. 5, 1969 Venus
probe
Arrived on May 17, 1969. Collected data on atmospheric composition before being crushed by pressure.
Venera 6
(USSR)
Jan. 10, 1969 Venus
probe
Arrived on May 16, 1969. Collected data on atmospheric composition before being crushed by pressure.
Mariner 6
(USA)
Feb. 24, 1969 Mars
flyby
Arrived on May 17, 1969 and flew along Mars equator, returning information on temperature, pressure, and surface composition. Now in a solar orbit.
Mariner 7
(USA)
Mar. 27, 1969 Mars
flyby
Arrived on Aug. 5, 1969 and flew near south pole of Mars, returning pictures and measurements of temperature, pressure, and surface composition. Now in a solar orbit.
Luna 15
(USSR)
July 13, 1969 Lunar
lander
Destroyed upon impact with lunar surface.
Zond 7
(USSR)
Aug. 8, 1969 Lunar
flyby
Flew around the Moon and returned to Earth.
Venera 7
(USSR)
Aug. 17, 1970 Venus
lander
First successful landing on another planet on Dec. 15, 1970. Returned 23 minutes of data, including measurement of surface temperature.
Luna 16
(USSR)
Sep. 12, 1970 Lunar
lander
Landed on Sep. 20, 1970 and returned lunar soil samples.
Zond 8
(USSR)
Oct. 20, 1970 Lunar
flyby
Flew around the Moon and returned to Earth.
Luna 17
(USSR)
Nov. 10, 1970 Lunar
lander
Deployed automated rover upon landing on lunar surface, which took pictures and conducted soil analysis.
Mariner 8
(USA)
May 8, 1971 Mars
flyby
Spacecraft never reached Earth orbit.
Mars 2
(USSR)
May 19, 1971 Mars
orbiter
& lander
Lander became first man-made object to reach Mars surface, on Nov. 27, 1971
Mars 3
(USSR)
May 28, 1971 Mars
orbiter
& lander
Lander completed the first successful landing on Mars, on Dec. 2, 1971, and returned 20 seconds of video data.
Mariner 9
(USA)
May 30, 1971 Mars
orbiter
First spacecraft to orbit another planet, and is still revolving around Mars. Also returned first close range photos of moons Phobos and Deimos.
Luna 18
(USSR)
Sep. 2, 1971 Lunar
lander
Destroyed upon impact with lunar surface.
Luna 19
(USSR)
Sep. 28, 1971 Lunar
orbiter
Still in a lunar orbit.
Luna 20
(USSR)
Feb. 14, 1972 Lunar
lander
Soft landed on Feb. 21, 1972, and launched lunar soil samples back to Earth.
Pioneer 10
(USA)
Mar. 3, 1972 Jupiter
flyby
Passed Jupiter on Dec. 1, 1973 and has now left the solar system. Returned over 500 images of Jupiter and data on its magnetic field.
Venera 8
(USSR)
Mar. 27, 1972 Venus
lander
Arrived on July 22, 1972. Returned information on wind speed variations through atmosphere and 50 minutes of data after landing.
Luna 21
(USSR)
Jan. 8, 1973 Lunar
lander
Deployed second automated rover upon landing, which traveled 37 km while exploring the lunar surface.
Pioneer 11
(USA)
Apr. 6, 1973 Jupiter
& Saturn
flyby
Visited Saturn on gravity assist from Jupiter and has now left the solar system. Returned images of both planets, especially Jupiter's Red Spot and Saturn's Rings.
Mars 4
(USSR)
July 21, 1973 Mars
orbiter
Failed to insert itself in Martian orbit.
Mars 5
(USSR)
July 25, 1973 Mars
orbiter
Entered orbit on Feb. 12, 1974.
Mars 6
(USSR)
Aug. 5, 1973 Mars
orbiter
& lander
Entered orbit on Mar. 12, 1974, but lander failed on its way down.
Mars 7
(USSR)
Aug. 9, 1973 Mars
orbiter
& lander
Orbiter failed and lander missed the planet.
Mariner 10
(USA)
Nov. 3, 1973 Mercury
& Venus
flyby
First spacecraft to visit Mercury, using a gravity assist from Venus. After producing over 10,000 pictures of the planet's surface it was placed in a solar orbit.
Luna 22
(USSR)
May 29, 1974 Lunar
orbiter
Studied Moon and surrounding region from orbit.
Luna 23
(USSR)
Oct. 28, 1974 Lunar
probe
Destroyed upon impact with lunar surface.
Helios 1
(USA &
W. Germany)
Dec. 10, 1974 Solar
probe
Now in a solar orbit.
Venera 9
(USSR)
June 8, 1975 Venus
orbiter
& lander
Arrived on Oct. 22, 1975. Returned 53 minutes of data, including the first black & white photographs of Venusian surface.
Venera 10
(USSR)
June 14, 1975 Venus
orbiter
& lander
Arrived on Oct. 25, 1975. Returned 65 minutes of data, including black and white photos of planet surface.
Viking 1
(USA)
Aug. 20, 1975 Mars
orbiter
& lander
Searched for life on Mars and monitored the planet's weather. Communication with the orbiter was shut down in 1980, after 1489 orbits.
Viking 2
(USA)
Sep. 9, 1975 Mars
orbiter
& lander
Searched for life on Mars and monitored the planet's weather. The orbiter ran out of power in 1978 and the lander stopped transmitting in 1980.
Helios 2
(USA &
W. Germany)
Jan. 16, 1976 Solar
probe
Came within 43 million km of the Sun.
Luna 24
(USSR)
Aug. 9, 1976 Lunar
lander
Returned lunar soil samples after landing.
Voyager 2
(USA)
Aug. 20, 1977 Multi-
planet
flyby
Flew by Jupiter in 1979, Saturn in 1981, Uranus in 1986, and Neptune in 1989, studying their satellites, rings, and magnetospheres. Still transmitting from beyond our solar system.
Voyager 1
(USA)
Sep. 5, 1977 Jupiter
& Saturn
flyby
Flew by Jupiter in 1979 and Saturn in 1980, studying their satellites, rings, and magnetospheres. Still transmitting from beyond our solar system.
Pioneer 12
(USA)
May 20, 1978 Venus
orbiter
Used radar to map Venutian surface. Shut down in 1992.
Pioneer 13
(USA)
Aug. 8, 1978 Venus
probe
Arrived on Dec. 9, 1978, deploying four atmospheric probes, which descended by parachute and learned that the lower atmosphere was clear.
Venera 11
(USSR)
Sep. 9, 1978 Venus
lander
Arrived on Dec 25, 1978. Returned data for 95 minutes.
Venera 12
(USSR)
Sep. 14, 1978 Venus
lander
Arrived on Dec. 21, 1978. Returned data for 110 minutes, including evidence of lightning.
Venera 13
(USSR)
Oct. 30, 1981 Venus
lander
Landed on Mar. 1, 1982. Returned first color photographs of planet surface and conducted soil analysis, finding rocks rare on Earth.
Venera 14
(USSR)
Nov. 4, 1981 Venus
lander
Arrived on Mar. 5, 1982. Returned panoramic photos and conducted soil analysis.
Venera 15
(USSR)
June 2, 1983 Venus
orbiter
Arrived on Oct. 10, 1983. Mapped part of northern hemisphere using radar.
Venera 16
(USSR)
June 7, 1983 Venus
orbiter
Arrived on Oct. 14, 1983. Mapped part of northern hemisphere using radar.
Vega 1
(USSR)
Dec. 15, 1984 Venus
& Halley
flyby
Flew by Venus and dropped lander which failed. Encountered Comet Halley on Mar. 6, 1986. Now in a solar orbit.
Vega 2
(USSR)
Dec. 21, 1984 Venus
& Halley
probe
Flew by Venus and dropped lander which sampled soil, finding rocks rare on Earth. Encountered Comet Hally on Mar. 9, 1986. Now in a solar orbit.
Sakigake
(Japan)
Jan. 7, 1985 Halley
flyby
Encountered Comet Halley on Mar. 1, 1986.
Giotto
(Europe)
July 2, 1985 Comet
flyby
Encountered Halley's comet on Mar. 13, 1986 and comet Grigg-Skjellerup on July 10, 1992.
Suisei
(Japan)
Aug. 18, 1985 Halley
flyby
Encountered Comet Halley on Mar. 8, 1986.
Phobos 1
(USSR)
July 7, 1988 Phobos
orbiter
& lander
Intended to study Mars' moon, Phobos, but contact was lost en route.
Phobos 2
(USSR)
July 12, 1988 Phobos
orbiter
& lander
Inserted into orbit around Mars but lander failed to make it to Phobos.
Magellan
(USA)
May 4, 1989 Venus
orbiter
Mapped Venusian surface using radar. Plunged into its atmosphere and was crushed by pressure after four years in orbit.
Galileo
(USA &
Europe)
Oct. 18, 1989 Jupiter
orbiter
& probe
Designed to explore and study Jovian system. Probe entered Jupiter's atmosphere on Dec. 7, 1995 and orbiter is still transmitting data.
Muses-A
(Japan)
Jan. 24, 1990 Lunar
orbiters
Consisted of two small orbiters, but failed to send back data from orbit around Moon.
Hubble Space Telescope
(USA &
Europe)
Apr. 25, 1990 Space-borne telescope Uses three cameras to photograph distant objects. Orbits the Earth in low-earth orbit.
Ulysses
(USA &
Europe)
Oct. 6, 1990 Solar
orbiter
Used gravity assist from Jupiter to achieve polar orbit around the Sun. Viewed Sun from high latitudes and studied its surrounding environment.
Yohkoh
(Japan &
USA & Britain)
Aug. 31, 1991 Satellite Uses four instruments to image the Sun. The main goal of the project was to increase our understanding of solar flares, and other types of solar activity.
Mars
Observer
(USA)
Sep. 25, 1992 Mars
orbiter
Contact was lost just before it was to be inserted into Mars orbit.
Clementine
(USA)
Jan. 25, 1994 Lunar
orbiter
Designed to test new space technology for the Department of Defense. It collected data which should allow scientists to create the first topographic map of the Moon.
Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous
(USA)
1996 Orbiting Eros NEAR is the first spacecraft to orbit an asteroid. It began its orbit around Eros on February 14, 2000.
Advanced Composition Explorer
(USA)
Aug. 25, 1997 Satellite in
L1 Halo orbit
The ACE spacecraft is sampling low-energy particles of solar origin and high-energy galactic particles. It also provides near-real-time reports of space weather.
Cassini and Huygens Probe
(USA) & (ESA)
Oct. 15, 1997 Saturn orbiter The Cassini spacecraft will study Saturn and its moons starting in 2004. The Huygens probe will study the moon Titan.
Deep Space 1
(USA)
Oct. 15, 1998 Asteroid and comet flyby Tested twelve new space exploration technologies. Completed flyby of asteroid Braille and comet Borrelly. Collected best pictures of a comet to date! Mission ended Dec. 18, 2001.
Comet Nucleus Tour
(USA)
2002 Comet probe The CONTOUR spacecraft will fly by three different comets. It will take several images and analyze some comet dust.
Mars Express
(ESA)
June 2003 Mars orbiter & lander Orbiter will map Mars and search for water; Beagle 2 lander will search for signs of life.
Mars Exploration Rover (MER)
(USA)
June 2003 Mars rovers Twin Mars rover vehicles will explore two sites on Mars, searching for signs of water.
MErcury Surface Space ENvironment, GEochemistry Ranging mission
(USA)
2004 Mercury Probe MESSENGER will orbit the planet Mercury to study its atmosphere, surface and crust.
New Horizons
(USA)
January 19, 2006 Pluto, Kuiper Belt Object, and Jupiter flyby New Horizons will be the first spacecraft to visit Pluto. Afterwards, it will fly by a Kuiper Belt Object. Along the way it will fly past Jupiter.
Phoenix Mars Lander
(USA)
August 4, 2007 Mars lander Phoenix will land near the Martian North Pole. It will search for water ice, and will scoop up soil samples with its robotic arm and analyze them in onboard laboratories.

Last modified May 20, 2008 by Randy Russell.

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