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Events not announced publicly at the time when they were taking place shown in gray type.


Click here to see a comprehesive list of significant space exploration milestones in the next decades.

 

1960

 

March 11: A Thor-Able rocket launches Pioneer-5 (P-2), the first space probe specifically designed to study interplanetary space (between orbits of Earth and Venus), as well as to test long-range communications.

July 7: The contact with the Pioneer-5 (P-2) spacecraft is lost at the record-breaking distance of 36.2 million kilometers from Earth.

Oct. 10: The Soviet Union conducted its first attempt to launch a spacecraft toward Mars. The vehicle never reached orbit.

Oct. 14: The Soviet Mars probe failed to reach orbit.

Dec. 10: The Soviet Government issues a decree, authorizing a variety of space projects, including the development of the 8K78 (Molniya) launcher.

1961

Feb. 4: The Molniya rocket failed to launch a Venus probe from the Earth orbit.

Feb. 12: The Molniya rocket launches Venera-1 toward Venus. Contact lost en route.

1962

April 16: The development of the UR-500 booster has been authorized.

July 22: The Mariner-1 Venus probe fails to reach orbit.

Aug. 27: The Atlas-Agena B rocket launches Mariner-2 Venus probe.

Aug. 25: A Venus lander (2MV-1 No. 3) left stranded in the low Earth orbit as a result of the upper stage failure of the Molniya rocket.

Sept. 1: The 2MV-1 No. 4 Venus lander left stranded in the low-Earth orbit due to the fourth stage failure.

Sept. 12: The 2MA-4 No. 1 Venus flyby probe left stranded in the low-Earth orbit due to the fourth stage failure.

Oct. 24: The 2MV-4 No. 3 Mars probe left stranded in the low Earth orbit.

Nov. 1: A Molniya rocket launches the Mars-1 probe toward Mars. Contact lost en route at the distance of 106 kilometers from Earth.

Nov. 4: The 2MV-3 No. 1 Mars lander left stranded in the low Earth orbit.

Dec. 14: The Mariner-2 completes world's first flyby of Venus at the distance of 35,000 kilometers.

1963

Jan. 3: Last contact with Mariner-2 Venus probe.

January: Due to the success of the Mariner-2, a follow-on mission, scheduled for 1964 is canceled.

Nov. 11: The 3MV-1A No. 2 Mars probe left stranded in the Earth orbit and announced as Kosmos-21.

1964

Feb. 19: A Soviet Venus probe failed to reach Earth orbit.

March 27: A Soviet Venus probe is stranded in the low-Earth orbit.

April 2: Zond-1 is launched toward Venus.

Nov. 5: The Atlas-Agena D rocket failed to deliver the Mariner-3 Mars flyby probe (payload fairing failed to jettison).

Nov. 28: The Mariner-4 Mars flyby probe lifts off.

Nov. 30: Zond-2 is launched toward Mars.

1965

July 15: The Mariner-4 flies within 10,000 kilometers from Mars, transmits 21 images, which reveal a disapponting lunar-like landscape.

July 18: Zond-3 is launched toward Mars.

Nov. 12: A Molniya rocket launches the Venera-2 spacecraft toward Venus.

Nov. 16: A Molniya rocket launches the Venera-3 spacecraft toward Venus.

Nov. 23: The Soviet Venus probe is stranded in the low-Earth orbit.

Dec. 16: The launch of the Pioneer-6 probe into solar orbit with the perigelium of 121.8 million kilometers.

1966

March 1: Venera-3 lander penetrates the atmosphere of Venus.

Aug. 17: A Delta rocket launches the Pioneer-7 probe into orbit around the Sun.

1967

June 12: The Venera-4 is launched toward Venus.

June 17: The Soviet Venus probe is stranded in the low Earth orbit.

June 14: The Atlas-Agena D rocket launches the Mariner-5 probe.

Dec. 13: Delta rocket launches the Pioneer-8 spacecraft in solar orbit.

1968

 

Nov. 8: A Delta rocket launches the Pioneer-9 probe into orbit around the Sun.

 

1969

M69

Jan. 5: Venera-5 is launched toward Venus.

Jan. 10: Venera-6 is launched toward Venus.

Feb. 25: The Atlas-Centaur rocket launched the Mariner-6 probe toward Mars.

March 25: The Atlas-Centaur rocket launched the Mariner-7 probe toward Mars.

March 27, April 2: Two Soviet Martian probes destroyed in botched launch attempts.

May 16: The Soviet Venera spacecraft descends through the atmosphere of Venus.

Soviet astronomers Klim Churyumov and Svetlana Gerasimenko discover comet 67P, which would become a target for the Rosetta mission.

1970

Venera-7

Venera-7

Aug 17: The Venera-7 spacecraft is launched toward Venus.

Aug. 22: The unsuccessful launch of the Soviet Venus probe.

1971

May 8: The Atlas-Centaur booster failed to send the Mariner-8 spacecraft toward Mars.

May 30: The Atlas-Centuar rocket sent the Mariner-9 spacecraft toward Mars.

June 8: Mars-3 conducts trajectory correction on its way to Mars.

Nov. 14: Mariner-9 successfully entered orbit around Mars.

Nov. 14: Mars-3 conducts trajectory correction on its way to Mars.

Nov. 27: Mars-2 lander impacted lunar surface, transmitting no data. The main craft entered a 18-hour orbit around Mars.

Dec. 2: Mars-3 lander reached the surface of Mars, however transmitted only few seconds of garbled data.

1972

Kosmos-482

Venera-72

March 2: An Atlas-Centaur booster launches Pioneer-10 toward Jupiter.

March 27: Venera-8 is launched toward Venus.

March 31: The Soviet Venus probe is stranded in the Earth orbit.

Oct. 27: Mariner-9 completed its mission.

End of year: As Pioneer-10 passes through the asteroid belt, its meteoroid detector records much less particles than originally predicted. (790)

1973

Pioneer-10

April 5: The Atlas-Centaur booster launched a Pioneer-11 spacecraft toward Jupiter.

Aug. 9: Soviet Proton rocket launches Mars-7 toward Mars.

Nov. 4: An Atlas-Centaur rocket launches the Mariner-10 spacecraft toward Venus and Mercury.

Dec. 4: Pioneer-10 spacecraft completes a flyby of Jupiter within 131,000 kilometers. (157)

1974

March 9: Mars-7 arrives in the vicinity of Mars, returns limited data.

Dec. 10: The Titan-Centaur booster launched Helios-1 spacecraft into orbit around the Sun.

1975

June 8: Proton launches Venera-9 toward Venus.

June 14: Proton launches Venera-10 toward Venus.

Aug. 20: The Titan-Centaur booster launched Viking-1 spacecraft toward Mars.

Sept. 9: The Titan-Centaur booster launched Viking-2 spacecraft toward Mars.

Oct. 22: Venera-9 transmitted first ever images from the surface of Venus.

Oct. 25: The Venera-10 completed soft landing on the surface of Venus, transmitted images.

1976

Luna-24

Luna-24

Jan. 16: A Titan-Centaur booster launched Helios-2 spacecraft into orbit around the Sun.
1977

Aug. 20: An Titan-Centaur rocket launched Voyager-2 spacecraft toward Jupiter.

Sept. 5: An Titan-Centaur rocket launched Voyager-1 spacecraft toward Jupiter.

1978

ISEE3

May 20: An Atlas-Centaur rocket launches Pioneer-Venus-1 spacecraft toward Venus.

Aug. 8: An Atlas-Centaur rocket launches Pioneer-Venus-2 spacecraft toward Venus.

Aug. 12: A Delta rocket launches ISEE-3/ICE spacecraft into orbit around the Sun.

Nov. 21: NASA's ISEE-3 spacecraft enters a halo orbit around L-1 Sun-Earth system becoming the first spacecraft to use halo orbit - a concept developed by the late Robert Farquhar.

Sept. 9: Proton launches Venera-11 toward Venus.

Sept. 10: Proton launches Venera-12 toward Venus.

1979
 
1980
 
1981

Oct. 30: Proton launches Venera-13 toward Venus.

Nov. 4: Proton launches Venera-14 toward Venus.

1982
 

1983

Venera-15

Venera

 

Jun. 2: Proton launches Venera-15 toward Venus.

Jun. 7: Proton launches Venera-16 toward Venus.

Nov. 11: Venera-15 and Venera-16 begin systematic radar cartography of Venus.

1984

July 10: Venera-15 and Venera-16 complete radar cartography of around 30 percent of Venus.

Dec. 15: Proton launches Vega-1 to Venus and Halley Comet.

Dec. 21: Proton launches Vega-2 to Venus and Halley Comet.

1985

Jan. 7: The Mu-3SII rocket launched Sakigake spacecraft toward Halley Comet.

July 2: The Ariane-1 rocket launched Giotto spacecraft toward Halley Comet.

Aug. 18: The Mu-3SII rocket launched Suisei spacecraft toward Halley Comet.

1986

Soviet, Japanese and European spacecraft rendezvous with Halley Comet.

March 13-14: Europe's Giotto spacecraft swept to within 600 kilometers of Halley's comet.

1987
 

1988

Fobos

Phobos

July 7: Proton rocket launches Phobos-1 spacecraft toward Mars.

July 12: Proton rocket launches Phobos-2 spacecraft toward Mars.

1989

 

Oct. 18: The Space Shuttle launches the Galileo spacecraft toward Jupiter.

 

1990

Feb. 10: NASA's Galileo spacecraft passes within 16,000 kilometers of Venus.

Aug. 10: The Magellan spacecraft enters a polar orbit around Venus.

Oct. 6: The Shuttle Discovery carries Ulysses spacecraft into orbit.

Dec. 8: NASA's Galileo spacecraft passes within 1,000 kilometers of Earth on its way to Jupiter.

1991

 

Oct. 29: NASA's Galileo spacecraft passes within 1,600 kilometers of Asteroid Gaspra.

 

1992

Feb. 8: NASA'S Ulysses spacecraft passes Jupiter.

Sept. 25: Titan-3/TOS rocket launches NASA's Mars Observer toward Mars.

Dec. 8: NASA's Galileo spacecraft passes within 300 kilometers of Earth.

Europe's Giotto probe meets its second comet, Grigg-Skjellerup.

1993

Aug. 21: NASA's Mars Observer disappears during final approach to Mars.

Aug. 28: NASA's Galileo spacecraft passes within 2,400 kilometers of asteroid Ida.

ESA approves the development of the Rosetta mission to land on a comet.

1994

Clementine

Titan-2 rocket launches Clementine spacecraft intended to orbit the Moon and approach an asteroid.

The Ulysses probe passes Sun's south pole.

1995

The Ulysses passes over the Sun's north pole.

July 12, 11:07 p.m. PST: Galileo released a Jovian atmospheric probe.

Dec. 7: NASA's Galileo spacecraft enters orbit around Jupiter.

1996

Mars-96

Mars-96

Nov. 7: The Delta-2 rocket launches the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft.

Nov. 16: The Mars-96 spacecraft is stranded in the low-Earth orbit, following the failure of the Block D upper stage of the Proton rocket.

Dec. 4: NASA launches Mars Pathfinder lander and rover toward Mars.

1997

July 4: NASA's Mars Pathfinder lands on the surface of Mars.

Sept. 12: The Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft enters orbit around Mars.

Sept. 27: NASA receives last transmission from Mars Pathfinder on the surface of Mars.

Oct. 15: The Titan-4B rocket launches the Cassini spacecraft.

1998

July 4: Japan launched Nozomi (Planet-B) spacecraft intended to enter orbit around Mars.

Sept. 24: Japan's Nozomi (Planet-B) swings by Earth-Moon system.

Oct. 24: NASA launched Deep Space 1, the ion-propelled spacecraft.

Dec. 18: Japan's Nozomi (Planet-B) swings by Earth-Moon system.

Dec. 20: Japan's Nozomi (Planet-B) to leave Earth orbit.

1999

Jan. 3, 3:21 p.m. EST: Delta II launches the Mars Polar Lander and a duo of Deep Space 2 probes toward Mars.

Feb. 7: The Delta-2 rocket launches the Stardust spacecraft.

March: NASA's Mars Global Surveyor starts operational mapping of Mars.

October: Japan's Nozomi's planned arrival date to Mars. (Postponed by several years by onboard failure and trajectory adjustments.)

November: NASA approved Deep Impact mission intended to rendezvous with Comet Tempel 1 and release an impactor into its core.

Dec. 3: Mars Polar Lander disappears during its descent on the surface of Mars.

2000

Jan. 7: The Mars Program Independent Assessment Team (MPIAT) started its work.

Jan. 17: The Mars Polar Lander flight team ends all attempts to regain communications with the spacecraft.

Mid-March: The Mars Program Independent Assessment Team (MPIAT) delivered its final report to NASA, finding that significant flaws in formulation and execution led to the failures of recent missions.

March 28: In the wake of the loss of the Mars Polar Lander, Dr. Edward Weiler, the Associate Administrator for Space Science, announced the cancellation of the planned Mars 2001 lander awaiting his approval of a new overall Mars "architecture" plan.

February - May: NASA's Stardust spacecraft collects interstellar dust.

2001

Feb. 12: At the end of its mission, NASA's NEAR spacecraft touched down on the surface of the asteroid Eros, which the spacecraft was orbiting since previous year.

April 7: The Delta-2 rocket launches the Mars Odyssey spacecraft.

Aug 8: The Delta-2 rocket launches the Genesis spacecraft.

Oct. 24: The Mars Odyssey spacecraft enters orbit around Mars.

Dec. 3: NASA's Genesis spacecraft begins collection of the solar wind.

2002

CONTOUR

The launch of Mars Smart Lander/Mobile Laboratory was delayed from 2007 to 2009.

July 3: NASA launched CONTOUR spacecraft to intended to get as close as 100 kilometers to comets Encke and Schwassman-Wachmann-3.

August - December: The Stardust collects interstellar dust for the second time.

Aug. 15: NASA loses contact with the CONTOUR spacecraft after a planned maneuver that was intended to propel it out of Earth orbit and into its comet-chasing solar orbit. Limited ground-based evidence at the time suggested the spacecraft split into several pieces.

Nov. 2: The Stardust spacecraft flies within 3,000 kilometers from asteroid Annefrank.

Dec. 10: 2:40 p.m. EST: Scientists on the ground make an unsuccessful attempt to contact the NEAR spacecraft, which landed on the asteroid Eros in February 2001.

Dec. 20: NASA makes its last attempt to contact the CONTOUR spacecraft.

2003

Jan. 12: Ariane-5 was scheduled to launch Rosetta spacecraft. (In January 2003, the mission was rescheduled to 2004, in the wake of the Ariane-5 rocket failure in December 2002).

March 12: Hubble Space Telescopes, snaps best images to date of comet 67P, the target for the Rosetta mission.

May: Delta-2 launches Mars Exploration Rover, MER-A.

May 8: Japan's M-5 rocket launched MUSES-C (Hayabusa) spacecraft to return samples from asteroid 25143 Itokawa.

June: The Soyuz-Fregat launched ESA's Mars Express toward Mars.

June: Delta-2 launches Mars Exploration Rover, MER-B.

Sept. 27: ESA launches SMART-1 spacecraft toward the Moon.

October: The Dnepr rocket to launch Trailblazer spacecraft toward the Moon. (The mission was delayed till Spring 2004, then to Fall 2004, to 2005).

Dec. 25: Beagle-2 lander sent toward Martian surface, however no signal from the spacecraft was ever detected.

NASA selected Phoenix spacecraft, which uses components originally built for a 2001 mission that was canceled while in development, as its first mission in the Mars Scout Program.

A dwarf planet Eris is discovered beyond Pluto.

2004

MER

Mars Exploration Rover

 

January: Japan's Nozomi spacecraft to enter orbit around Mars. (The mission was abandoned in 2003, due to technical problems onboard the vehicle).

Jan. 2: The Stardust spacecraft flew by comet Wild 2, collecting samples.

Jan. 3: The Spirit rover (MER-A) landed on Mars.

Jan. 25: The MER-2 Opportunity rover landed on Mars.

March 2: Ariane-5G+ launches the Rosetta spacecraft toward Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet.

April 1: NASA's Genesis spacecraft completes solar wind particle collection.

July 1: The Cassini spacecraft enters orbit around Saturn.

Aug. 3: Delta II launched NASA MESSENGER spacecraft toward Mercury. (In March 2004, postponed from May 11)

Sept. 8: The reentry capsule of NASA's Genesis spacecraft crashes in Utah desert, after its parachute system fails to deploy preventing rescue helicopter crews from intercepting it in mid-air. Scientific data from the mission could still be partially recovered.

Oct. 26: Cassini conducted its first of 45 flybys of Saturn's moon Titan at a distance of 1,200 kilometers from its surface. The data from the flyby led to the discovery of a possible vulcano on the surface. (See entry for June 2005.)

Nov. 15: ESA's SMART-1 spacecraft enters orbit around the Moon.

Dec. 24: The European Space Agency's Huygens probe detached from NASA's Cassini to begin a three-week journey to Saturn's moon Titan. NASA's Deep Space Network tracking stations in Madrid, Spain and Goldstone, Calif., received the signal at 7:24 p.m. (PST).

December: NASA completed the selection of science instruments for Mars Science Laboratory, MSL, then scheduled for launch to Mars in 2009.

2005

Titan

Postcard from Titan

 

Deep Impact

Jan 12: Delta II launches NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft toward comet Tempel 1. (In November 2004, delayed from Dec. 30, 2004)

Jan. 14: The Huygens probe from the Cassini spacecraft successfully lands on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan and transmits imagery during the descent and from the surface.

Feb. 17: During its first encounter with Saturn's moon Enceladus at an altitude of 1,167 kilometers (725 miles), Cassini's cosmic dust analyzer with its high rate detector recorded thousands of particle hits during a period of 38 minutes. The particles might indicate the existence of a dust cloud around Enceladus, or they may have originated from Saturn's outermost ring, the E-ring.

March 4-5: European Rosetta spacecraft flies by Earth on its way to Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet.

March 8: MESSENGER probe deployed its magnetometer boom.

March 9: Cassini executed a second flyby of Saturn's Moon Enceladus on at an altitude of 500 kilometers (310 miles). Mission scientists again observed a stream of dust particles. The largest particles detected measure no more than the diameter of a human hair -- too small to pose any danger to Cassini.

March 11: In the wake of the successful landing on Titan, NASA and ESA discuss possible mission to Jovian satellite Europa sometimes around 2016.

March 15: NASA has suspended use of one of the mineral-identifying tools on the Opportunity Mars rover while experts troubleshoot a problem with getting data from the instrument, the robot's miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

March: NASA began considering flying two Mars Science Laboratory, MSL, rovers in 2011, instead of one in 2009.

April 26: On Mars, NASA Opportunity rover drove into the ripple-shaped dune of windblown dust and sand where traction became difficult. In the weeks following, the rover churned 192 meters worth of wheel rotations before gaining enough traction to actually move one meter.

April 27: NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft photographs its target, comet Tempel 1, from a distance of 64 million kilometers.

May 5: NASA announced that latest analysis of imagery taken by Mars Global Surveyor confirmed probable location of a crash site of the Mars Polar Lander during its landing on Mars in 1999.

May 13-June 4: NASA directed the Opportunity rover, to conduct cautious drives in the successful effort to escape a dune, where it stuck on April 26. The rover churned 192 meters worth of wheel rotations before gaining enough traction to actually move one meter.

June 1, 2005: NASA announced the selection of a Juno mission to orbit Jupiter. The mission, the second in NASA's New Frontiers Program, could then proceed to a preliminary design phase.

June: In the June 9 issue of Nature magazine scientists announced that a recent flyby of Saturn's hazy moon Titan by the Cassini spacecraft has revealed evidence of a possible volcano, which could be a source of methane in Titan's atmosphere.

July 14: Cassini flew near Saturn's moon Enceladus. Flyby was originally planned at an altitude of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), but after intriguing discoveries in February 2005, the mission team decided to lower that altitude to about 175 kilometers (109 miles).  This was Cassini's lowest-altitude flyby of any object during its nominal four-year tour. During the flyby the spacecraft has found a huge cloud of water vapor over the moon's south pole, and warm fractures where evaporating ice probably supplies the vapor cloud. Cassini has also confirmed Enceladus is the major source of Saturn's largest ring, the E-ring.

July: NASA canceled a $500 million Mars Telecommunications Orbiter slated for launch at the end of 2009.

July 31: The reaction wheel onboard Japan's Hayabusa (MUSES-C) spacecraft failed.

Aug. 12: After a two-day delay, NASA's Atlas V launched the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter.

Aug. 22: Cassini flies by Saturn's Moon Titan.

Sept. 12: Japan's Hayabusa (MUSES-C) arrives at the target asteroid Itokawa.

Sept. 15: NASA discontinued a $65 million nuclear propulsion research program, at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, aimed to develop the nuclear propulsion system to carry spacecraft beyond the solar system within the Prometheus program.

Sept. 19: ESA extends the Mars Express mission by one additional Martian year (23 months).

Oct. 3: A second reaction wheel onboard Japan's Hayabusa (MUSES-C) spacecraft failed and its attitude has been maintained by a single wheel together with the chemical engines aboard.

Oct. 31: NASA announces that images taken by Hubble Space Telescope between May 15 and May 18, 2005, reveal two new candidate satellites around Pluto, in addition to already known Charon.

Nov. 12, 3:30 p.m. Japan Time: A 600-gram, 10-centimeters high, Minerva hoping robot designed to take pictures of the asteroid Itokava and record its surface temperatures separated from the Hayabusa mother craft. The probe was supposed to have been launched at about 60 meters off the surface of the asteroid, but Hayabusa was positioned at an unexpectedly high 200 meters from the surface when it received the signal to detach the probe. As a result, Minerva disappeared in space, apparently, without making contact with the surface.

Nov. 19: JAXA announced that flight control problems aborted first attempt to land Hayabusa (MUSES-C) spacecraft on asteroid Itokawa. However upon exmaining the data from the spacecraft, JAXA realized that the landing did took place, but no samaples were taken.

Nov. 25 p.m. JST: The Hayabusa initiates a second descent toward the surface of the Itokawa.

Nov. 26, 6:20 JST: JAXA gives final "go" for landing (touchdown), which took place successfully. At 7:20 a.m. (JST) the Hayabusa started to ascend.

Fall: NASA orders to stop preparations for the launch of the Dawn spacecraft to orbit two asteroids, due to cost overruns. The launch was scheduled for May 27, 2006, then for June 2006.

2006

SMART-1

Jan. 15: The reentry capsule of the Sturdust spacecraft with samples of the comet dust landed at Utah Test and Training Range.

Jan. 19: An Atlas-5 rocket launches the New Horizons spacecraft toward Pluto. (Previously planned as early as Jan. 11)

March: The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MRO, enters orbit around Mars.

Late March-early September: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter conducts "aerobraking," from a 35-hour highly elliptical orbit to a two-hour circular orbit.

Sept. 3, 07:42:22 CEST (05:42:22 UT): ESA's SMART-1 spacecraft impacted the Moon's surface as planned, ending ESA's first solar-powered mission to another celestial body and Europe's first mission to the Moon. ESA estimated that impact had occurred at 46.2º West, 34.4º South.

Nov. 2: The Mars Global Surveyor stops responding to ground commands, effectively ending its mission.

November: The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MRO, initiates its science observations.

2007

New Horizon

New Horizons by Jupiter

Jan. 8: NASA selected two competing proposals for a Scout mssion to Mars in 2011: Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, or Maven, led by Dr. Bruce Jakosky, University of Colorado, Boulder; and the Great Escape mission led by Dr. Alan Stern, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. The finalist was expected to be selected by the end of the year.

Jan 30: Sample container onboard Japan's Hayabusa probe has been moved into a reentry capsule and its lid has been closed successfully.

Feb. 23-25: European Rosetta spacecraft flies by Mars.

Feb. 28: NASA New Horizons makes its closest pass to Jupiter, whose gravity accelerates the spacecraft by an additional 9,000 miles per hour.

February: Japanese space agency, JAXA, initiated a new attitude control method to operate the ion engine onboard the Hayabusa spacecraft, and engine running trials in phases have been underway since late March. The agency then scheduled to start fully fledged engine operations in mid April to return to Earth in June 2010, despite ongoing problems.

April 13: Internal review board released a preliminary report concluding that the failure of the Mars Global Surveyor was likely caused by battery failure, as a result of a complex sequence of events involving the onboard computer memory and ground commands.

May 7: A U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft delivered NASA's Phoenix Mars lander from Colorado to Florida for launch.

Aug. 4: The Delta II rocket launched NASA's Phoenix Mars lander.

Nov. 13: European Rosetta spacecraft flies by Earth for the second time on its way to Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet.

2008

Phoenix

Phoenix lands on Mars

March 12: NASA's Cassini spacecraft performed a flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus, flying through icy water geyser-like jets. The spacecraft came within 50 kilometers of the surface at closest approach and 200 kilometers (120 miles) while flying through the plume.

May 25: NASA's Phoenix probe landed in a polar region of Mars. (Delayed from May 18)

Sept. 5: 18:58 UT: ESA's Rosetta passes within 800 kilometers from asteroid 2867 Steins.

Dec. 2: After nearly a month of daily checks to determine whether Martian NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander would be able to communicate again, the agency has stopped using its Mars orbiters to contact the spacecraft.

Dec. 4: NASA announced that Mars Science Laboratory will launch two years later than previously planned in the fall of 2011.

2009

LRO

LRO

April: On Mars, Spirit rover enters an area dubbed "Troy," where its wheels dug themselves more than hub deep. The rover team has spent weeks studying Spirit's situation and testing escape maneuvers using an engineering test rover.

June: NASA announces that for the first time, the Cassini team have detected sodium salts in ice grains of Saturn's outermost ring. Detecting salty ice indicates that Saturn's moon Enceladus, which primarily replenishes the ring with material from discharging jets, could harbor a reservoir of liquid water -- perhaps an ocean -- beneath its surface.

June 30: NASA/ESA Ulysses spacecraft is commanded to cease operations after an 18-year mission to study the Sun.

Nov. 13: European Rosetta spacecraft flies by Earth for the third time on its way to Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet.

Dec. 30: NASA selects three finalists for the New Frontiers program: Venus Surface and Atmosphere Geochemical Explorer, SAGE; Osiris-Rex to return a 60-gramm sample of asteroid and a sample return mission from Aitken Basin in the lunar South Pole.

2010

Phoenix

Phoenix unresurrected

May 21: Japan launches Akatsuki (Planet-C) orbiter and the IKAROS solar-sailing probe toward Venus.

May: NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter flew over the Phoenix landing site 61 times during a final attempt to communicate with the lander. No transmission from Phoenix was detected. At the same time, a new image transmitted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows signs of severe ice damage to the lander's solar panels.

July 10: Rosetta spacecraft flies by the 100-kilometer asteroid 21 Lutetia.

November: NASA's Deep Impact probe flew by comet Hartley 2.

2011

Phobos-Grunt

Phobos-Grunt

GRAIL probe

Grail prob

 

 

Feb. 14, 8:39 p.m. PST: NASA's Stardust spacecraft completes its closest approach with comet Tempel 1 at a distance of 181 kilometers.

March 17 (March 18 GMT): NASA's Messenger spacecraft enters orbit around Mercury.

March 24, 7:33 p.m. EDT: The Stardust spacecraft sends its last transmission to Earth shortly after depleting fuel.

March 29, 5:20 a.m. EDT: NASA's Messenger spacecraft has delivered its first image since entering orbit of Mercury, as it flew above the planet's south pole, providing a glimpse of the previously unseen surface.

May 3: NASA's Dawn spacecraft obtains its first image of the giant asteroid Vesta from a distance of 1.21 million kilometers.

June 8: ESA's Rosetta spacecraft is put in hybernation mode as it flies toward comet 67P.

June 9, 5:10 p.m.: China's Chang'e-2 leaves its moon orbit and sets off for outer space about 1.5 million kilometers away from the Earth. It was take about 85 days for the orbiter to reach outer space, according to the State Administration of Science,Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND).

June 28-July 3: Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope discover a fourth moon orbiting Pluto. The tiny, new satellite – temporarily designated P4 -- was uncovered in a Hubble survey searching for rings around the dwarf planet.

July 15: NASA's Dawn spacecraft enters orbit around asteroid Vesta.

August: NASA launches the Juno orbiter toward Jupiter.

Aug. 25: China's Chang'e-2 spacecraft arrives to the Sun-Earth L2 (Lagrange) point.

Sept. 20-Oct. 8: Thermal-balance testing of the BepiColombo Mercury Planetary Orbiter Structural and Thermal Model, is conducted at ESA's Large Space Simulator.

Dec. 5: NASA announces that its Kepler mission had confirmed its first planet in the "habitable zone," the region where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface. Kepler also has discovered more than 1,000 new planet candidates, nearly doubling its previously known count. Ten of these candidates are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of their host star. The newly confirmed planet, Kepler-22b, is the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun. The planet is about 2.4 times the radius of Earth.

Dec. 21: NASA announces that Kepler mission had discovered the first Earth-size planets orbiting a sun-like star outside our solar system. The planets, called Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, are too close to their star to be in the so-called habitable zone where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface, but they are the smallest exoplanets ever confirmed around a star like our Sun.

2012

MSL

MSL rover

Jan. 1: NASA's GRAIL B spacecraft enters lunar orbit.

Jan. 15: The stranded Phobos-Grunt spacecraft reenters the Earth atmosphere.

Aug. 6, 05:31 GMT: NASA's Curiosity rover lands inside Gale crater on Mars.

Dec. 13, 16:30:09 Beijing Time: China's Chang'e-2 probe flew as close as 3.2 kilometers from asteroid Toutatis.

Dec. 17: A pair of Grail, Gravity Recovery and Internal Laboratory, spacecraft (Ebb and Flow) slammed into a two-kilometer-high mountain on the far side of the Moon near the north pole.

2013

MAVEN

MAVEN

Sept. 7: NASA's Minotaur-5 rocket sent Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, LADEE, into the lunar orbit. (The original launch date - May 1, 2012. As of July 2010, the launch was planned for Jan. 15, 2013. By May 2012, the mission slipped to November of 2013.)

Oct. 9: The Juno spacecraft flew by Earth on its way to Jupiter.

Nov. 5: India's PSLV-XL rocket launched a 1.4-ton MOM Mangalyaan unmanned orbiter to Mars. (a 2006 ISRO proposal; In 2009, after an ISRO call for proposals, it was promised in 2013-2015.)

Nov. 18: NASA's Atlas-5 (401) rocket launches Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, MAVEN, probe to gather information about the Red Planet's atmosphere, climate history and potential habitability in greater detail than ever before. (As of September 2008 was planned in 2011. In December 2007, delayed to 2013, due to "organizational conflict.")

Dec. 1: India's Mangalyaan probe left Earth orbit on its way to Mars.

2014

Comet

Comet 67P

Jan. 20: The Rosetta probe is re-activated in preparation for the rendezvous with its target comet.

March 28: Philae lander is activated onboard the Rosetta spacecraft.

July: Images from Rosetta spacecraft reveal that 67P comet has a double-lobed body.

Aug. 6: Europe's Rosetta spacecraft enters orbit around comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko at a distance of around 100 kilometers.

End of August: Rosetta is maneuvered into an elliptical orbit around comet 67P.

Sept. 21: NASA's MAVEN probe enters orbit around Mars.

Oct. 19: A decision is made to land Philae probe at Agilkia site on comet 67P on November 12.

Nov. 12, 9:35 a.m. CET: Philae lander is dispatched from the Rosetta spacecraft, 20.5 kilometers from comet 67P. The lander touches down on comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko 6 hours 59 minutes later, however fails to attach itself to the surface and makes two bounces before coming to rest at an unknown location later dubbed Abydos, around a kilometer away from the planned site. The lander runs out of power after 60 hours.

Dec. 3: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, launches the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft on a mission to rendezvous with a carbon-rich asteroid, land a small probe plus three mini rovers on its surface, and then return samples to Earth. (Mission proposed in August 2010; formally approved in January 2012.)

2015

Pluto

New Horizons near Pluto

pluto

Pluto

March 6: NASA's Dawn probe enters orbit around Ceres.

April 30, 19:26 GMT: NASA's Messenger spacecraft ends its mission crashing into a mountain side on Mercury near 54.4 degrees latitude, 210.1 degrees longitude.

May 26: NASA completes selection of nine science instruments for a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa in 2020s.

June 13: 22:28 CEST, ESA's European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, receives first signals from the Philae lander after months of silence on the surface of comet of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

July 14: The New Horizons spacecraft flies by Pluto and its moons.

Oct. 22: New Horizons carries out the first in a series of four initial maneuvers aiming to reach 2014 MU69, a small Kuiper Belt object, on Jan. 1, 2019.

Oct. 25: New Horizons carries out the second maneuver aiming to reach 2014 MU69 Kuiper Belt object.

Oct. 28: The Cassini spacecraft flies within just 50 kilometers from Enceladus, probing water ejecting from the Saturnian moon's South Pole region.

Oct. 28: New Horizons carries out the third maneuver aiming to reach 2014 MU69 Kuiper Belt object.

Nov. 4: New Horizons carries out the final of four initial maneuvers aiming to reach 2014 MU69, a small Kuiper Belt object, on Jan. 1, 2019.

Dec. 9: Japan's Akatsuki (Planet-C) spacecraft succeeded entering a 400 by 440,000-kilometer orbit around Venus with an inclination 3 degrees toward the Equator and a period of 13.6 days, following a failed attempt in 2010.

Dec. 22: NASA suspends the planned March 2016 launch of the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight), unsuccessful attempts to repair a leak in a prime instrument.

2016

juno

Juno probe

March: A Russian Proton rocket launches ExoMars-2016 TGO orbiter and the EDM lander toward the Red Planet.

July 4: NASA's Juno spacecraft enters orbit around Jupiter (As of 2007, planned on Oct. 19).

Early August: China's Jade Rabbit lunar lander ceases operations on the lunar surface after a 31-month mission.

Sept. 8: NASA launches the OSIRIS-Rex asteroid sample return mission with the task of delivering as much as two kilograms of soil from asteroid Bennu. According to a 2006 proposal within the Discovery Program, the launch would take place as early as 2011, rendezvous with an asteroid 1999 RQ36 in 2013 and return in 2017.

Sept. 30: The Rosetta spacecraft ends its mission with a controlled impact at Ma'at Region of the comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. After descending with a speed of around 90 centimeters per second, the probe's transmissions were cut and it was no longer possible to restore communications with the spacecraft. Previously, the mission was scheduled to end in December when the comet flew past Jupiter.

Oct. 7: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft fires its Trajectory Correction Maneuver, TCM, thrusters for the first time in order to slightly adjust its trajectory on the outbound journey from Earth to the asteroid Bennu.

2017

cassini

 

Sept. 15: NASA's Cassini spacecraft to end its mission with a controlled plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn.