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Timeline of Solar System exploration

Charted timeline of Solar System exploration, as of December 2014

This is a timeline of Solar System exploration ordered by date of spacecraft launch. It includes:

  • All spacecraft that have left Earth orbit for the purposes of Solar System exploration (or were launched with that intention but failed), including lunar probes.
  • A small number of pioneering or notable Earth-orbiting craft.[vague]

It does not include:

  • Centuries of terrestrial telescopic observation.
  • The great majority of Earth-orbiting satellites.
  • Space probes leaving Earth orbit that are not concerned with Solar System exploration (such as space telescopes targeted at distant galaxies, cosmic background radiation observatories, and so on).
  • Probes that failed at launch.

The dates listed are launch dates, but the achievements noted may have occurred some time later—in some cases, a considerable time later (for example, Voyager 2, launched 20 August 1977, did not reach Neptune until 1989).

1950sEdit

 
Sputnik 1 – First Earth orbiter
Mission name Launch date Description Ref(s)
  Sputnik 1 4 October 1957 First Earth orbiter [1][2]
  Sputnik 2 3 November 1957 Earth orbiter, first animal in orbit, a dog named Laika [2][3][4]
  Explorer 1 1 February 1958 Earth orbiter; discovered Van Allen radiation belts [5]
  Vanguard 1 17 March 1958 Earth orbiter; oldest spacecraft still in Earth orbit [6]
  Luna 1 2 January 1959 First lunar flyby (attempted lunar impact?); first artificial satellite in heliocentric orbit. [7][8][9][10]
  Pioneer 4 3 March 1959 Lunar flyby [11][12]
  Luna 2 12 September 1959 First lunar impact, First artificial object on Moon [10][13]
  Luna 3 4 October 1959 Lunar flyby; First images of another celestial body taken from space, most notably, the far side of Moon [10][14]

1960sEdit

 
Vostok 1 – First crewed Earth orbiter
 
Mariner 2 – First successful Venus flyby
 
Mariner 4 – First successful Mars flyby
 
Luna 9 – First lunar lander
 
Venera 4 – First Venus atmospheric probe
 
Zond 5 – First lunar flyby and return to Earth, first terrestrials to circle the Moon
 
Apollo 8 – First crewed lunar orbiter
 
Apollo 11 – First crewed lunar landing
Mission name Launch date Description Ref(s)
  Pioneer 5 11 March 1960 Interplanetary space investigations [15][16]
  Venera 1 12 February 1961 First probe to another planet; Venus flyby (contact lost before flyby) [17][18][19]
  Vostok 1 12 April 1961 First crewed Earth orbiter [20][21]
  Ranger 1 23 August 1961 Attempted lunar test flight (failed to leave Earth orbit) [22][23][24]
  Ranger 2 18 November 1961 Attempted lunar test flight (failed to leave Earth orbit) [24][25][26]
  Ranger 3 26 January 1962 Attempted lunar impact (missed Moon) [24][27][28]
  Ranger 4 23 April 1962 Lunar impact (but unintentionally became the first spacecraft to hit the lunar farside and returned no data) [24][29][30][31]
  Mariner 2 27 August 1962 First successful planetary encounter, First successful Venus flyby [32][33][34]
  Ranger 5 18 October 1962 Attempted lunar impact (missed Moon) [24][35][36]
  Mars 1 1 November 1962 First probe to Mars: flyby (contact lost) [37][38]
  Luna 4 2 April 1963 Attempted lunar lander (missed Moon) [39][40]
  Cosmos 21 11 November 1963 Attempted Venera test flight? [41]
  Ranger 6 30 January 1964 Lunar impact (cameras failed) [42][43]
  Zond 1 2 April 1964 Venus flyby (contact lost) [44][45][46]
  Ranger 7 28 July 1964 Lunar impact [47][48]
  Voskhod 1 12 October 1964 First orbiter with multimember crew [49][50]
  Mariner 3 5 November 1964 Attempted Mars flyby (failed to attain correct trajectory) [51][52]
  Mariner 4 28 November 1964 First successful Mars flyby [53][54]
  Zond 2 30 November 1964 Mars flyby (contact lost) [46][55][56]
  Ranger 8 17 February 1965 Lunar impact [57][58]
  Voskhod 2 18 March 1965 First space walk by Alexei Leonov [50][59]
  Ranger 9 21 March 1965 Lunar impact [60][61]
  Lincoln Calibration Sphere 1 6 May 1965 Oldest spacecraft still in use[citation needed] [62]
  Luna 5 9 May 1965 Lunar impact (attempted soft landing) [63]
  Luna 6 8 June 1965 Attempted lunar lander (missed Moon) [64]
  Zond 3 18 July 1965 Lunar flyby [46][65][66]
  Luna 7 4 October 1965 Lunar impact (attempted soft landing) [67]
  Venera 2 12 November 1965 Venus flyby (contact lost) [68][18]
  Venera 3 16 November 1965 Venus lander (contact lost) – First spacecraft to reach another planet's surface, First Venus impact [69][18]
  Luna 8 3 December 1965 Lunar impact (attempted soft landing?) [70]
  Pioneer 6 16 December 1965 "Space weather" observations [71][72][73][74]
  Luna 9 31 January 1966 First lunar lander [10][75]
  AS-201 26 February 1966 Lunar programme test flight [76]
  Luna 10 31 March 1966 First lunar orbiter [77]
  Surveyor 1 30 May 1966 Lunar lander [78][79][80]
  Explorer 33 1 July 1966 Attempted lunar orbiter (failed to attain lunar orbit) [81][82]
  Lunar Orbiter 1 10 August 1966 Lunar orbiter [83][84][85]
  Pioneer 7 17 August 1966 "Space weather" observations [74][86][87]
  Luna 11 24 August 1966 Lunar orbiter [88]
  Surveyor 2 20 September 1966 Attempted lunar lander (crashed into Moon) [89][90]
  Luna 12 22 October 1966 Lunar orbiter [91]
  Lunar Orbiter 2 6 November 1966 Lunar orbiter [92][93]
  Luna 13 21 December 1966 Lunar lander [94]
  Lunar Orbiter 3 5 February 1967 Lunar orbiter [95][96]
  Surveyor 3 17 April 1967 Lunar lander [97][98]
  Lunar Orbiter 4 4 May 1967 Lunar orbiter [99][100]
  Venera 4 12 June 1967 First Venus atmospheric probe [18][101]
  Mariner 5 14 June 1967 Venus flyby [102][103]
  Surveyor 4 14 July 1967 Attempted lunar lander (crashed into Moon) [104][105]
  Explorer 35 (IMP-E) 19 July 1967 Lunar orbiter [106]
  Lunar Orbiter 5 1 August 1967 Lunar orbiter [85][107][108]
  Surveyor 5 8 September 1967 Lunar lander [109][110]
  Surveyor 6 7 November 1967 Lunar lander, first lift-off from an extraterrestrial body [79][111][112]
  Apollo 4 9 November 1967 Lunar programme test flight in Earth orbit (uncrewed) [113]
  Pioneer 8 13 December 1967 "Space weather" observations [74][114][115]
  Surveyor 7 7 January 1968 Lunar lander [116][117]
  Apollo 5 22 January 1968 Lunar programme test flight in Earth orbit (uncrewed) [118][119]
  Zond 4 2 March 1968 Lunar programme test flight out of Earth orbit (uncrewed) [46][120][121][122]
  Luna 14 7 April 1968 Lunar orbiter [123]
  Zond 5 14 September 1968 First lunar flyby and return to Earth, first life forms to circle the Moon [46][124][125][126][127]
  Apollo 7 11 October 1968 Lunar programme test flight in Earth orbit (crewed) [128][129]
  Pioneer 9 8 November 1968 "Space weather" observations [74][130][131]
  Zond 6 10 November 1968 Lunar flyby and return to Earth [46][132][133]
  Apollo 8 21 December 1968 First crewed lunar orbiter [129][134][135]
  Venera 5 5 January 1969 Venus atmospheric probe [18][136]
  Venera 6 10 January 1969 Venus atmospheric probe [18][137]
  Mariner 6 25 February 1969 Mars flyby [138][139]
  Apollo 9 3 March 1969 Crewed lunar lander (LEM) flight test in Earth orbit [129][140]
  Mariner 7 27 March 1969 Mars flyby [141][142]
  Apollo 10 18 May 1969 Crewed lunar orbiter [129][143][144]
  Luna 15 13 July 1969 Second attempted lunar sample return [145][146]
  Apollo 11 16 July 1969 First crewed lunar landing and first successful sample return mission [147][148][149][150][151]
  Zond 7 7 August 1969 Lunar flyby and return to Earth [46][152][153]
  Apollo 12 14 November 1969 Crewed lunar landing [154][155][156]

1970sEdit

 
Venera 7 – First Venus lander and the first spacecraft to land on another planet
 
Mars 3 – First Mars lander
 
Pioneer 10 – First Jupiter flyby
 
Mariner 10 – First Mercury flyby
 
Voyager 2 – First Uranus/first Neptune flyby
Mission name Launch date Description Ref(s)
  Apollo 13 11 April 1970 Crewed lunar flyby and return to Earth (crewed lunar landing aborted) Farthest from Earth a human has gone (401,056 km) [157][158][159][160]
  Venera 7 17 August 1970 First Venus lander and the first spacecraft to land on another planet [18][161][162]
  Luna 16 12 September 1970 First robotic lunar sample return [10][163]
  Zond 8 20 October 1970 Lunar flyby and return to Earth [46][164][165]
  Luna 17/Lunokhod 1 10 November 1970 First remote controlled rover [10][166]
  Apollo 14 31 January 1971 Crewed lunar landing [167][168][169]
  Salyut 1 19 April 1971 First space station [170][171]
  Mars 2 19 May 1971 First Mars impact, Mars orbiter and attempted lander; First rover on Martian surface (Prop-M unsuccessful) [172][173][174][175][176]
  Mars 3 28 May 1971 Mars orbiter, First Mars lander (lost contact after 14.5s) [177][178][179][180][181]
  Mariner 9 30 May 1971 First Mars orbiter [182][183]
  Apollo 15 26 July 1971 Crewed lunar landing; First crewed lunar rover [129][184][185][186]
  Luna 18 2 September 1971 Attempted lunar sample return (crashed into Moon) [187][188]
  Luna 19 28 September 1971 Lunar orbiter [189]
  Luna 20 14 February 1972 Lunar robotic sample return [190]
  Pioneer 10 3 March 1972 First Jupiter flyby [191][192][73]
  Venera 8 27 March 1972 Venus lander [18][193][194]
  Apollo 16 16 April 1972 Crewed lunar landing [195][196][197]
  Apollo 17 7 December 1972 Last crewed lunar landing [198][199][200][201]
  Luna 21/Lunokhod 2 8 January 1973 Lunar rover [202]
  Pioneer 11 5 April 1973 Jupiter flyby and First Saturn flyby [73][203][204]
  Explorer 49 (RAE-B) 10 June 1973 Lunar orbiter/radio astronomy [205][206]
  Mars 4 21 July 1973 Mars flyby (attempted Mars orbiter) [207][208]
  Mars 5 25 July 1973 Mars orbiter [209][210]
  Mars 6 5 August 1973 Mars flyby and attempted lander (failed due to damage on Mars landing) [211][212]
  Mars 7 9 August 1973 Mars flyby and attempted lander (missed Mars) [213][214]
  Mariner 10 3 November 1973 Lunar and Venus flybys in addition to the First Mercury flyby [215][216][217][218]
  Luna 22 29 May 1974 Lunar orbiter [10][219]
  Luna 23 28 October 1974 Attempted lunar sample return (failed due to damage on lunar landing) [220]
    Helios-A 10 December 1974 Solar observations [221][222]
  Venera 9 8 June 1975 First Venus orbiter and lander; First images from surface of Venus [18][223][224][225]
  Venera 10 14 June 1975 Venus orbiter and lander [18][226][227][228]
  Viking 1 20 August 1975 Mars orbiter and lander; First clear pictures from Martian surface [229][230][231][232]
  Viking 2 9 September 1975 Mars orbiter and lander [232][233][234][235]
    Helios-B 15 January 1976 Solar observations [236][237]
  Luna 24 9 August 1976 Lunar robotic sample return [10][238]
  Voyager 2 20 August 1977 Jupiter/Saturn/first Uranus/first Neptune flyby [239][240][241]
  Voyager 1 5 September 1977 Jupiter/Saturn flyby, first to exit the heliosphere [241][242][243]
  Pioneer Venus 1 20 May 1978 Venus orbiter [244][245]
  Pioneer Venus 2 8 August 1978 Venus atmospheric probes [246][247]
    ISEE-3 12 August 1978 Solar wind investigations; later redesignated International Cometary Explorer and performed Comet Giacobini-Zinner and Comet Halley flybys – First comet flyby [248][249][250]
  Venera 11 9 September 1978 Venus flyby and lander [18][251][252][253]
  Venera 12 14 September 1978 Venus flyby and lander [18][254][255][256]

1980sEdit

 
Giotto – Comet Halley flyby
 
Galileo – Mission to Jupiter
Mission name Launch date Description Ref(s)
  Venera 13 30 October 1981 Venus flyby and lander [18][257][258][259]
  Venera 14 4 November 1981 Venus flyby and lander [18][260][261][262]
  Venera 15 2 June 1983 Venus orbiter [18][263][264]
  Venera 16 7 June 1983 Venus orbiter [18][265][266]
  Vega 1 15 December 1984 Venus flyby, lander and first balloon; continued on to Comet Halley flyby [267][268][269][270][271]
  Vega 2 21 December 1984 Venus flyby, lander and balloon; continued on to Comet Halley flyby [271][272][273][274][275]
  Sakigake 8 January 1985 Comet Halley flyby [276][277]
  Giotto 2 July 1985 First close observation of comet (distance 596 kilometers), Comet Halley flyby [278][279][280]
  Suisei (Planet-A) 18 August 1985 Comet Halley flyby [281][282]
  Mir 19 February 1986 First modular space station (operational 1986–2000; final module added 1996) [283][284][285]
  Phobos 1 7 July 1988 Attempted Mars orbiter/Phobos landers (contact lost) [286][287]
  Phobos 2 12 July 1988 Mars orbiter/attempted Phobos landers (contact lost) [288][289]
  Magellan 4 May 1989 Venus orbiter [290][291]
  Galileo 18 October 1989 Venus flyby, first Asteroid flyby (Gaspra), first Asteroid moon discovery (Dactyl), first Jupiter orbiter, first Jupiter atmospheric probe [292][293][294][295]

1990sEdit

 
Mars Pathfinder – Mars lander and the first successful Mars rover, Sojourner
 
Cassini–Huygens – First Saturn orbiter and first Titan lander
Mission name Launch date Description Ref(s)
  Hiten (MUSES-A) 24 January 1990 Lunar flyby and orbiter [296][297]
    Hubble Space Telescope 24 April 1990 Orbital space telescope (operational since 1990) [298][299][300]
    Ulysses 6 October 1990 Solar polar orbiter [301][302][303]
    Yohkoh (Solar-A) 30 August 1991 Solar observations (1991–2001) [304][305]
  Mars Observer 25 September 1992 Attempted Mars orbiter (contact lost) [306][307]
  Clementine 25 January 1994 Lunar orbiter/attempted asteroid flyby (contact lost) [308][309][310]
  WIND 1 November 1994 Solar wind observations [311][312]
    SOHO 2 December 1995 Solar observatory (operational since 1996) [313][314][315]
  NEAR Shoemaker 17 February 1996 Eros orbiter, first near-Earth asteroid flyby, first asteroid orbit and first asteroid landing [316][317][318]
  Mars Global Surveyor 7 November 1996 Mars orbiter [319][320]
  Mars 96 16 November 1996 Attempted Mars orbiter/landers (failed to escape Earth orbit) [321][322]
  Mars Pathfinder 4 December 1996 Mars lander and first successful planetary rover [323][324][325]
  ACE 25 August 1997 Solar wind and "space weather" observations (operational since 1998) [326][327]
      Cassini–Huygens 15 October 1997 First Saturn orbiter and first outer planet lander [328][329][330][331][332]
  Lunar Prospector 7 January 1998 Lunar orbiter [333][334]
  Nozomi (Planet-B) 3 July 1998 Attempted Mars orbiter (failed to enter Mars orbit) [335][336]
  Deep Space 1 (DS1) 24 October 1998 Asteroid and comet flyby [337][338]
           ISS 20 November 1998 International space station [339][340]
  Mars Climate Orbiter 11 December 1998 Attempted Mars orbiter (orbit insertion failed; entered atmosphere and was destroyed) [341][342]
  Mars Polar Lander/Deep Space 2 (DS2) 3 January 1999 Attempted Mars lander/penetrators (contact lost) [343][344][345]
  Stardust 7 February 1999 First comet coma sample return (returned 15 January 2006) [346][347][348]

2000sEdit

 
Mars Express/Beagle 2 – First planetary mission by the ESA
 
MESSENGER – First Mercury orbiter
 
Chandrayaan-1 – Water Around Fresh Moon Crater
Mission name Launch date Description Ref(s)
  2001 Mars Odyssey 7 April 2001 Mars orbiter [349][350]
  Genesis 8 August 2001 First solar wind sample return [351][352][353][354]
  CONTOUR 3 July 2002 Attempted flyby of comet nuclei (Encke, Schwassmann-Wachmann-3, and optionally a third one; lost in space) [355][356]
  Hayabusa (MUSES-C) 9 May 2003 Asteroid lander and first sample return from asteroid [357][358][359]
    Mars Express/Beagle 2 2 June 2003 Mars orbiter/attempted lander (lander failure) [360][361][362][363]
  Mars Exploration Rover Spirit 10 June 2003 Mars rover [364][365]
  Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity 8 July 2003 Mars rover [366][367]
  SMART-1 27 September 2003 Lunar orbiter [368][369]
  Rosetta/Philae 2 March 2004 Asteroid Šteins and Lutetia flybys; first comet orbiter and lander (Landed in November 2014) [370][371][372][373]
  MESSENGER 3 August 2004 First Mercury orbiter (Achieved orbit 18 March 2011) [374][375][376]
  Deep Impact 12 January 2005 Comet flyby and impact [377][378][379][380]
  Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter 12 August 2005 Mars orbiter [381][382]
  Venus Express 9 November 2005 Venus polar orbiter [383][384]
  New Horizons 19 January 2006 First Pluto/Charon flyby (on 14 July 2015); continued on to 486958 Arrokoth flyby (on 1 January 2019) [385][386][387][388]
      Hinode (Solar-B) 22 September 2006 Solar orbiter [389][390]
  STEREO 26 October 2006 Two spacecraft, solar orbiters [391][392][393]
  Phoenix 4 August 2007 Mars polar lander (Mars landing on 25 May 2008) [394][395]
  SELENE (Kaguya) 14 September 2007 Lunar orbiters [396][397][398][399]
  Dawn 27 September 2007 Asteroid Ceres and Vesta orbiter (Entered orbit around Vesta on 16 July 2011 and around Ceres on 6 March 2015) [400][401][402]
  Chang'e 1 24 October 2007 Lunar orbiter [403][404][405]
  Chandrayaan-1 22 October 2008 Lunar orbiter and impactor; discovered water on the Moon [406][407][408]
  Herschel Space Observatory 14 May 2009 Infrared space telescope at Sun–Earth L2 Lagrange point [409][410]
  Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter/LCROSS 18 June 2009 Lunar polar orbiter and lunar impactor [411][412][413][414]
  WISE (NEOWISE) 14 December 2009 Infrared survey of celestial sky (WISE mission); later Near-Earth object survey (NEOWISE mission) [415][416][417]

2010sEdit

 
Mars Science Laboratory – Mars lander and large rover
 
Mangalyaan – First Indian Mars orbiter
 
Trace Gas Orbiter – ESA/Roscosmos Mars orbiter


Mission name Launch date Description Ref(s)
  Solar Dynamics Observatory 11 February 2010 Continuous solar monitoring [418][419]
  Akatsuki (Planet-C) 20 May 2010 Venus orbiter (orbit insertion failed in 2010 / successful orbit insertion on 7 December 2015) [420][421][422]
  PICARD 15 June 2010 Solar monitoring [423][424]
  Chang'e 2 1 October 2010 Lunar orbiter, Asteroid 4179 Toutatis flyby [405][425][426]
  Juno 5 August 2011 Jupiter orbiter [427][428]
  GRAIL 10 September 2011 Two spacecraft, Lunar orbiters [429][430][431]
    Fobos-Grunt and Yinghuo-1 8 November 2011 Attempted Phobos sample return and Mars orbiter, respectively; both failed to escape Earth orbit [432][433]
  Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) 26 November 2011 Mars rover (landed 6 August 2012) [434][435]
  Van Allen Probes (RBSP) 30 August 2012 Earth Van Allen radiation belts study [436][437][438]
  IRIS 28 June 2013 Solar observations [439]
  LADEE 7 September 2013 Lunar orbiter [440][441]
  Hisaki 14 September 2013 Planetary atmosphere observatory [442]
  Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan) 5 November 2013 Mars orbiter [443][444][445]
  MAVEN 18 November 2013 Mars orbiter [446][447]
  Chang'e 3 1 December 2013 Lunar lander and rover (first lander since Soviet Luna 24 in 1976) [405][448][449][450]
  Chang'e 5-T1 23 October 2014 Circumlunar mission and Earth reentry; technology demonstration to prepare for Chang'e 5 mission [451]
      Hayabusa2 / MASCOT 3 December 2014 Asteroid lander and sample return (sample return scheduled for December 2020), first asteroid rover [359][452][453]
  PROCYON 3 December 2014 Comet observer and attempted asteroid flyby (engine failure) [454]
  Exploration Flight Test 1 5 December 2014 Uncrewed Earth orbital test of Orion vehicle [455]
  DSCOVR 11 February 2015 Solar observation [456][457]
    ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and EDM lander 14 March 2016 Mars orbiter and attempted lander (lander failure) [458][459]
  OSIRIS-REx 8 September 2016 Asteroid sample return mission (sample return scheduled for September 2023) [460][461]
  InSight 5 May 2018 Mars lander [462][463]
  Queqiao 20 May 2018 Relay satellite for Chang'e 4 in Halo orbit around Earth–Moon L2 Lagrange point [464]
  Parker Solar Probe 12 August 2018 Solar corona probe, closest solar approach (0.04 AU) [465][466]
    BepiColombo 19 October 2018 Two Mercury orbiters (orbit insertion planned in December 2025) [467][468]
  Chang'e 4 7 December 2018 Lunar lander and rover, first landing on the lunar far side [405][469][470]
  Beresheet 22 February 2019 Attempted lunar lander (crashed into Moon) [471][472]
  Chandrayaan-2 22 July 2019 Lunar orbiter; attempted lander and rover (contact lost during descent) [473][474]

Planned or scheduledEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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