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Missions to the Inner System, in order :
(defined as inside Main asteroid Belt) plus nation, launch date, result (bold = success, red = failure, gray = inactive or destroyed, SMALL CAPS = targets/destinations)
vehicle type in parentheses if launch failure
Overall Inner System mission success: 24/27 = 89%

  1. Explorer 10 - USA 25 March 1961
    Studied interplanetary magnetic field. Decayed 30Jun1961.

  2. Explorer 26 (IMP?) - USA 21 December 1964
    Failed in space?, still in elliptical orbit.

  3. Explorer 28 (IMP-C) - USA 29 May 1965
    Magnetic field observatory in cislunar orbit, decayed 4Jul1968.

  4. Pioneer 6 - USA 16 December 1965
    Still returning solar system data, in 0.814 × 0.985 AU × 0.17 ° orbit. Answered 35th anniversary ping on 16Dec2000. Amazing!

  5. Pioneer 7 - USA 17 August 1966
    Returned solar system data from 6 expts until retired in 1997. In 1.010 × 1.125 AU × 0.097 ° solar orbit.

  6. Explorer 34 (IMP-F) - USA 24 May 1967
    Returned radiation & magnetic field data from highly elliptical orbit. Discovered radio emission from Saturn. Decayed 03May1969.

  7. Pioneer 8 - USA 13 December 1967
    Returned solar system data from 8 expts until retired in 1997. In 1.0 × 1.1 AU × 0.? ° solar orbit.
    Secondary payload into LEO (TETR 1), decayed on 28Apr1968.

  8. Pioneer 9 - USA 08 November 1968
    Returned solar system data from 8 expts, in 0.75 × 1.0 AU × 0.? ° solar orbit, died 03Mar1987.
    Secondary payload into LEO (TETR 2), decayed on 19Dec1979.

  9. HEOS 1 - ESRO 05 December 1968
    Observed magnetic field outside earth's in highly elliptical orbit, decayed 28Oct1975.

  10. Explorer 41 (IMP-G) - USA 21 June 1969
    Returned cislunar radiation data. Decayed 23Dec1972.

  11. Pioneer E - USA 27 August 1969 (LTTA-Delta)
    First stage launch failure. In thalassosynchronous orbit.

  12. Kosmos 307 - USSR 24 October 1969
    DS-P1-Yu geophysics & astrophysics & radiation expts? Decayed 30Dec1970.

  13. HEOS A2 - ESRO 31 January 1972
    Observed particles & fields in highly elliptical orbit. Decayed 02Aug1974.

  14. Interkosmos-6 - USSR/Hungary/Czech/Poland/Romania/Mongolia 07 April 1972
    Studied spectrum & composition of cosmic rays, and micrometeorite counter. Recovered 11Apr1972.

  15. Explorer 47 - USA 23 September 1972
    Measured cislunar radiation, interplanetary magnetic field, in cislunar earth orbit.

  16. ISEE 3 (ICE) - USA 12 August 1978
    3rd in series, renamed International Comet Explorer, sent to rendezvous with COMET GIACOBINI-ZINNER on 11Sep1985. In heliocentric "halo" orbit about Sun-Earth L1.

  17. Vega 1 - USSR/ESA 15 December 1984
    VEnera GAllei (Russian for Venus/Halley). Joint mission to VENUS arrived 09Jun-11Jun1985, probe encountered HALLEY'S COMET on 06Mar1986, returned pix? In solar orbit.

  18. Vega 2 - USSR/ESA 21 December 1984
    Joint VEnera GAllei mission to VENUS arrived 14-15Jun1985, then probe encountered HALLEY'S COMET on 09Mar1986. In solar orbit.

  19. Sakigake - Japan 07 January 1985
    Intercepted HALLEY'S COMET on ??Mar1986. In solar orbit. Still active?

  20. Giotto - ESA 02 July 1985
    Intercepted HALLEY'S COMET on 13Mar1986 @ 250? km, returned pix? Flew by COMET GRIGG-SKELLERUP @ 200 km on 10Jul1992. Dormant? In solar orbit.

  21. Planet A (Suisei) - Japan 18 August 1985
    Intercepted HALLEY'S COMET on 08Mar1986, in solar orbit.

  22. Galileo - USA 18 October 1989.
    First encounter with an asteroid
    First probe into atmosphere of a gas giant
    Robotic interplanetary probe with 11? expts on circuitous six-year trajectory with multiple gravity assists. Launch delayed by Challenger disaster, launched from Shuttle Atlantis in LEO (STS-34) on IUS. High gain antenna failed (probably during storage before liftoff), data tx on low gain. Mission planned to terminate with plunge into Jovian atmosphere in 2004 to avoid risk of contaminating possible Europan biosphere with Terran biota.
    Flew by VENUS: flyby @ 60X Cassini flyby on 09Feb1990; returned radio science.
    Flew by EARTH twice - 08Dec1990 and 08Dec1992.
    Flew by asteroid 951 GASPRA @ 1600 km on 29Oct1991.
    Flew by asteroid 243 IDA @ ? km on 18Aug1993; discovered first natural satellite (nnnn DACTYL) of another asteroid.
    Released Galileo Probe 07Jul1995, bus arrived in Jovian orbit & dropsonde entered Jovian atmosphere @ 6 ° N on 07Dec1995. Bus has completed 28 orbits of Jupiter as of Dec2000. More details of Jovian system exploration here.

  23. Clementine 1 - USA 25 January 1994
    After successful lunar mapping mission in February 1994, spun out of control during initial burn to intercept near Earth NEAR EARTH ASTEROID 1620 GEOGRAPHOS on 07May1994, died, hence counted as failure in this list but a success on the Lunar list. In solar orbit.

  24. NEAR Shoemaker - USA 17 February 1996
    First artifact to orbit an asteroid.
    First artifact to land on an asteroid.
    Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvouz probe (renamed "Shoemaker" 14Mar2000) flew gravity assisted trajectory to meet 433 EROS (Greek for "Love")
    Flew by ASTEROID 253 MATHILDE on 27Jun1997 @ 1200 km and returned pix.
    Flew by EARTH @ 532 km on 15Jan1998 enroute to Eros; missed first approach, rendezvouzed again 14Feb2000 (Valentine's Day - no coincidence). Returned approx. 170,000 pix. Soft landed at 1944UT on 12Feb2001 in HIMEROS REGION. Dormant 28Feb2001. Instruments (6):
    Radio science
    Laser rangefinder
    X-ray, gamma ray, & near IR spectrometers (NIS turned off 05Jun2000).

  25. Cassini - USA/ESA 15 October 1997.
    Likely last of NASA's Big Science missions. Robotic interplanetary probe with 12 experiments on circuitous seven-year gravity assisted trajectory, launched on Titan IVB
    Two flybys of VENUS for gravity assist - first @ 284 km on 26Apr1998, second @ ? km on 24Jun1999.
    Flew by EARTH @ 725? km on 18Aug1999.
    Flew by main belt asteroid 2685 MAZURSKY @ 1.6 million km on 23Jan2000
    Flew by JUPITER @ 9.7 million km on 30Dec2000,
    Target SATURN: will arrive on 01Jul2004, Target Titan: will release Huygens dropsonde into Titanian atmosphere on 06Nov2004, will map satellites in circumsaturnian orbit for 4 years.

  26. Deep Space 1 - USA 24 October 1998
    Flight demo of ion drive, 11 other technologies. In 1.30 AU × 1.44 AU × 0.22° solar orbit. Flew by ASTEROID 9969 BRAILLE. Primary mission complete. Intercept with COMET WILSON-HARRINGTON in Mar2001 cancelled due to failed star tracker Nov1999.
    Flew by 1.3AU × 5.9 AU × 0° COMET 19/P BORRELLY @ 2200 km on 2230 22Sep2001. Mission complete; turned off 18Dec2001.

  27. Stardust - USA 07 February 1999
    Fourth NASA Discovery mission. Possible encounter of ASTEROID 5535 ANNEFRANK in Nov2002. Aerogel collector deployed 23Feb2000. Flew by COMET P/WILD 2 @ 1922 UTC 02Jan2004 (via flyby @ 230 km, 6.1 km/sec). Will return sample capsule to Utah desert in Jan2006.
    Flew by EARTH @ 6012 km on 15Jan2001.
    Flew by LUNA @ 98,000 km on 15Jan2001.
    Now in 0.983 AU × 2.285 AU × 3.7 ° solar orbit.

This category is somewhat fuzzier than the others, thus placement in this group may seem arbitrary. Space physics experiments of broad applicability (e.g. radiation measurement, magnetic mapping) are not included here. Earth science e.g. geophysics is specifically excluded - it is covered in another page. In fact, all planetary science missions are excluded, but cometary and asteroid science is not. Multiple visits to the same body by the same spacecraft (e.g. GEM) do not count as multiple missions (even if they do require multiple visits to Capitol Hill for funding). Multiple visits to different primaries do. A mere gravity assist maneuver without science return doesn't really count as a mission, either - a "flyby" requires at least one instrument to be pointed in the general direction of the celestial body. This was not an accounting issue until a few Big Science missions (e.g. Galileo, Project Vega) flew some very complex trajectories with multiple gravity assists. However, if you don't agree, by all means email me robot@ultimax.com and I might change my policy.

The dearth of Soviet/Russian missions may be due to payloads and purposes of Interkosmos, Prognoz, and especially the generic Kosmos missions not being well documented. Any further information concerning the scientific objectives of the following Kosmos missions, which have been reported to be for astronomical research, would be appreciated: Kosmos-8, -208, -230, -251, -262, -264, -307, and -461.

Credit goes out to TRW Space Log 1957-1996, The Planetary Report published by The Planetary Society, Proton Mission Planner's Manual, and Jonathan's Space Report; to Chris Jones clj@world.std.com and Marc Rayman mrayman@jpl.nasa.gov. A tip o' the leaded visor to David Portree DSFPortree@aol.com for his sharp eyes.

Future Missions to the Inner Solar System

  • Einstein Gravity Probe-B - USA September 2001.
    Determine effect of Earth on local space-time continuum by measuring tiny changes in four onboard gyroscopes. Test Theory of Relativity.

  • CONTOUR - USA July 2002.
    COmet Nucleus TOUR will encounter COMET ENCKE 2 @ 100 km in Nov2003, COMET SCHWASSMAN-WACHMANN- 3 @ 100 km in Jun2006; possibly flyby COMET d'ARREST 2 in 2008. Instruments: cameras, gas & dust samplers.

  • Muses-CN - Japan/USA Nov-Dec 2002 (delay).
    Mu Space Engineering Spacecraft, 3rd in series, will flyby Terra May 2004, intercept near Earth ASTEROID 1998 SF36 (target reassigned Jul2000, original was 1989ML Nereus) in Sep2005, blast loose samples with projectiles, depart Jan2006, and return samples to Utah desert in Jun2007. Small rover cancelled November 2000.

  • Rosetta - ESA grounded indefinitely
    Was to launch January 2003, grounded pending result of Ariane 5 failure. Will flyby asteroid ASTEROID 2430 SHIPKA, later ASTEROID 3840 MIMISTROBELL, before setting 2 landers on COMET 46P/WIRTANEN in August 2011. Instruments: UV spectrograph. See also http://sci.esa.int/rosetta/.

  • Deep Impact - USA January 2004
    Will hit COMET P/TEMPEL 2 on 1Jul2005 with 500 kg copper penetrator to expose core.

  • Champollion - USA Cancelled, but was to have launched in 2004. Named for Egyptologist and protégé of Joseph Fourier's who deciphered the Rosetta Stone.

  • (proposed) Hera - USA January 2006.
    Triple asteroid rendezvous and sample return. Launch on Delta II, arrive ASTEROID A010Aug 2006 for 99 days; arrive ASTEROID AG6AG6 in Nov 2006 for 98 days, arrive ASTEROID 1989 UQ in March 2009 for 205 days; return sample capsule to Earth in November 2010.

  • Dawn - USA circa 2007.
    Discovery-class mission to orbit ASTEROID 4 VESTA and ASTEROID 1 CERESCeres, two of the largest asteroids in the solar system, using technology from Deep Space 1 mission. UCLA $271 million.

  • Master - ESA 2005 or 2007 or 2009.
    Mission to study Main Belt asteroids using Mars Express bus.

    More missions than these are planned. Let us know which we've skipped.

Asteroid News: ASTEROID 1950 DA may hit the Earth on 16 Mar 2880.
Data from NASA's Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking System NEAT collected from the Mount Haleakala 1 meter telescope on Maui, Hawaii has been used to recalculate the number of Near Earth asteroids. The previous estimate for one km or larger asteroids in this class was between 1,000 and 2,000. The new data has significantly reduced this number to between 500 and 1,000. NASA currently has 322 near-Earth asteroids identified and hopes to have 90 percent of these asteroids identified by 2010. There are 14778 numbered Main Belt asteroids, all of whose orbits are now known. The asteroid tracking system has been on hiatus for the past year, but will be reactivated later this year using an upgraded 1.2-meter telescope. The findings appeared in the January 13 issue of the journal Nature. News courtesy of Dale Gray's Space Frontier Status Report.
What's Coming to this Page:

As promised, outward gazing (i.e. interstellar) observatories have been disaggregated from this list. This Inner System list will be further subdivided into near earth/earth observing missions, solar missions, and deep space/inner system missions. Comprehensive list of individual instruments and capabilities (wavelength, aperture, energy, etc.) aboard each observatory. No doubt many more Soviet missions will be added to this list when their objectives clear up. Your comments are welcome: robot@ultimax.com
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