Spacecraft and Space Missions

We learn about space by going there — either in person or by sending spacecraft. During the Space Age humanity has launched dozens of missions, sending orbiters to Mars and wayfarers such as Voyager 1 and 2 and New Horizons on grand odysseys to the farthest reaches of the solar system. We also peer far beyond the Sun’s family of planets, using the Hubble Space Telescope and other high-tech space observatories to look at distant stars and galaxies, stretching our vision to span every wavelength band of light, from radio to gamma ray.

Here you’ll find the news about our endeavors in space. Whether it be the latest planetary mission, a new space telescope, or the future of space exploration, we’ll keep you up to speed on where our spacecraft are and what they’re doing.

Apollo 14 retroreflectors

Pesky Problems for Lunar Reflectors

For more than 40 years, astronomers have been firing lasers at specially-designed reflectors left on the lunar surface. But over time they've gotten dusty — and especially finicky whenever there's a full Moon.

The End of Rosetta’s Big Sleep

Europe's comet-chasing spacecraft woke up after a 957-day-long hibernation to begin the most comprehensive comet study to date. Part of its mission: attempt to place an instrumented lander on a comet’s nucleus for the first time.

MAVEN Mars mission

MAVEN Heads to Mars

NASA's next orbiter has successfully launched and is en route to the Red Planet. When it arrives, it will pry into the secrets of Mars's climate, both past and present, and hopefully reveal how the cold, dry world lost most of its ancient atmosphere.


Kepler Mission Hits 3,500 Candidates

The Kepler team has released its analysis of the mission’s first three years of observations. The haul includes 10 Earth-size (and probably rocky) exoplanets in their stars’ habitable zones, and the stats show such planets are common.

Mars in Feburary 2012

Indian Mars Mission Launches

India's first mission to the Red Planet launched successfully November 5th from a barrier island off the country's coastline. The mission will study Mars's atmosphere and surface and is an important milestone for the country's space agency.

Comet ISON

To Catch a Comet

A balloon-borne mission launching from the Southwest will aim a telescope at the approaching Comet ISON. While it won't observe the comet at its best, the mission might reveal details about the composition of the icy body and the family it comes from.

Curiosity artwork

Methane Goes Missing on Mars

The Curiosity rover conducted super-sensitive tests of the Red Planet's atmosphere for methane — the most abundant hydrocarbon in the solar system — and found none. What does this finding mean for the search for Martian life?

Deep Impact spacecraft

Deep Impact Meets Its End

Primarily known for its up-close comet observations, the Deep Impact spacecraft went on the fritz in mid-August. The mission team scrambled to reestablish communication, but efforts were unsuccessful.

LADEE in lunar orbit

LADEE Leaves for Luna

NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer left Earth on Friday night — an event widely seen up and down the East Coast — on a mission to solve a 45-year-old mystery.