List of active Solar System probes
This is a list of active probes which have escaped Earth orbit. It includes lunar probes, but does not include probes orbiting at the Sun-Earth Lagrangian points (for these, see List of objects at Lagrangian points). A craft is deemed "active" if it is still able to transmit usable data to Earth (whether or not it can receive commands).
The craft are further grouped by mission status – "en route", "mission in progress" or "mission complete" – based on their primary mission. For example, though Voyager 1 is still contactable en route to the heliopause, it is listed as "mission complete" because its primary task of studying Jupiter and Saturn has been accomplished. Once a probe has reached its first primary target, it is no longer listed as "en route" whether or not further travel is involved.
- Hayabusa 2 is en route to asteroid 162173 Ryugu
- OSIRIS-REx is en route to asteroid 101955 Bennu
Mission in progress
Current location of the main probe:
- ARTEMIS P1/P2 are studying the effect of the solar wind on the Moon. Originally launched as Earth satellites, they were later repurposed and moved to lunar orbit.
- Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is engaged in lunar mapping intended to identify safe landing sites, locate potential resources on the Moon, characterize the radiation environment, and demonstrate new technology.
- Akatsuki The first Japanese Venusian probe. Also known as Planet-C and Venus Climate Orbiter, Akatsuki failed to enter Venusian orbit in December 2010. It continued to function and entered Venus orbit in 2015.
- 2001 Mars Odyssey, a tribute to the classic novel and film, is one of six currently active human-made Mars satellites. It is continuing its extended mission to map the surface of Mars and also acts as a relay for the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers.
- Mars Express: Mars orbiter designed to study the planet's atmosphere and geology, search for sub-surface water, and deploy the Beagle lander. Mission extended until at least 31 December 2014.
- Lander: Opportunity Rover landed on Meridiani Planum. Expected to last 90 Martian days (sols), it continues to function effectively after 4772 sols. Its twin, Spirit Rover, explored an area on the other side of the planet, but became stuck in soft soil May 1, 2009, and communication was lost March 22, 2010 (sol 2210).
- Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is the second NASA satellite orbiting Mars. It is specifically designed to analyze the landforms, stratigraphy, minerals, and ice of the red planet.
- Lander: Curiosity rover is searching for evidence of organic material on Mars, monitoring methane levels in the atmosphere, and engaging in exploration of the landing site at Gale Crater.
- Mangalyaan is the first Indian interplanetary space probe. It was successfully inserted into orbit of Mars on 24 September 2014.
- MAVEN — Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution.
- Trace Gas Orbiter (ExoMars 2016) arrived safely at Mars on 19 Nov 2016 and is scheduled to use atmospheric braking for some months before commencing data collecting operations.
Asteroids and comets
- Dawn successfully entered asteroid Vesta's orbit in July 2011. There it studied Vesta until September 2012, when it departed for dwarf planet Ceres.
- Launched: 1 October 2010 | Destination: Moon | Arrival: 6 October 2010 |
- Left Moon: 8 June 2011 | Destination: L2 Lagrangian point | Arrived: 25 August 2011 |
- Left L2 Lagrangian point: April 2012 | Destination: 4179 Toutatis | Arrived: 13 December 2012 |
- Left 4179 Toutatis: 13 December 2012 | Destination: heliocentric orbit | Institution: CNSA
Outer Solar System
- The Cassini orbiter began studying Saturn and its moons after passing Venus and Jupiter and deploying the Huygens landing probe to Titan. It is primarily investigating Saturn's rings, its magnetosphere, and the geologic composition of its satellites; the mission will continue until 2017.
- New Horizons is the first spacecraft to study Pluto up close, and ultimately the Kuiper Belt. It is the fastest artificially-accelerated object and will be the fifth probe to leave the solar system.
New mission in progress
- Voyager 1 is currently the farthest man-made object from Earth, as well as the first object to leave the Solar System and cross into interstellar space. As of September 2014 it lies about 129 astronomical units (AU) from the sun (19.3 billion kilometers, or 0.002 light years), and it will not be overtaken by any other current craft. It was originally tasked with investigating Jupiter and Saturn, and the moons of these planets. Its continuing data feed offered the first direct measurements of the heliosheath and the heliopause. In August 2012, Voyager 1 became the first human built spacecraft to enter interstellar space. It is hoped that Voyager 1 will continue operating until at least 2020.
- Voyager 2 has not yet left the solar system, but will become one of the first five probes to do so eventually. Its mission to study all four gas giants was one of NASA's most successful, yielding a wealth of new information. As of July 2016 it is some 136 AU from the sun (20.35 billion kilometers), and it is hoped that it will continue to operate until at least 2020. As with Voyager 1, scientists are now using Voyager 2 to learn what the solar system is like beyond the heliosphere.
New mission under consideration
No future missions
- Pioneer 6, launched in 1965, is the oldest functioning probe (if still operating). Contact was last attempted 8 December 2000 to celebrate its thirty-fifth anniversary, and the attempt was successful. Like the three craft which superseded it, it took measurements of the solar wind, solar magnetic field and cosmic rays.
- Pioneer 7 was last contacted 31 March 1995; no attempt has been made since, and this probe may or may not be operational.
- Pioneer 8 was last contacted on 22 August 1996; no attempt has been made since, and this probe may or may not be operational.
- ICE contact with the probe was lost on September 16, 2014. It is unknown whether contact can be reestablished because the probe's exact orbit is uncertain.
- Giotto approached within 600 kilometers of Halley's Comet on its flyby mission, and survived some particulate impact on the inbound flight to capture scientific data and stunning images of the comet's nucleus. Its multicolor camera was subsequently destroyed, but the probe remained otherwise functional. Its mission completed, deactivation commands were transmitted on 15 March 1986. Awakened four years later on 2 July, it studied the comet Grigg-Skjellerup as it approached within 200 kilometers eight days later, and was again deactivated on the 23rd.
- Genesis returned a capsule with a solar wind sample to Earth in 2004. The rest of the probe was put into a parking orbit near Earth's L2 point.
- Rosetta is orbiting the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. On November 12, 2014, a lander was successfully deployed for further investigation. Mission ended on 30 September 2016, when the probe landed onto the comet's surface.
- MESSENGER was studying Mercury. It is only the second probe to do so and is the first to orbit the planet. Technologically, it is far superior to its 1975 predecessor, Mariner 10. Having previously passed Earth once, Venus twice and Mercury three times, it entered orbit in March 2011. Mission ended on 30 April 2015, when the probe crashed onto the planet's surface.
- ExoMars Schiaparelli EDM lander, demonstration lander for Mars. Deployed from TGO on October 16, 2016, after a seven month journey from Earth, and crash landed on October 19, 2016. Returned 80% of EDL test data transmitted during descent but crashed on landing.
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- "ESA Science & Technology: Mars Express". esa.int. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
- "weekly report". nasa.gov. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
- "Voyager Locations Tables" (PDF). Retrieved June 28, 2016.
- "Solar System Exploration: Missions: By Name: P: Pioneer 6". Solar System Exploration. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
- "European Spacecraft Lands on Comet in Historic Space Feat". Space.com. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
- "Mission complete: Rosetta's journey ends in daring descent to comet". ESA. 30 September 2016. Retrieved 30 September 2016.