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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.




E1 launch







March 20: The Soviet government issues a secret decree authorizing the development of a lunar probe and its launch vehicle based on the R-7 ICBM.

March 27: The US Secretary of Defense Neil H. McElroy reports that the Advanced Research Project Agency, ARPA, will initiate the development of scientific satellites and lunar probes.

Aug. 17: A three-stage Thor-Able rocket, carrying US Air Force's Pioneer lunar orbiter (a.k.a. Pioneer-0), explodes 77 seconds after launch upon reaching a 10-mile altitude over the Atlantic.

Sept. 23: An 8K72 No. B1-3 launch vehicle fails 93 seconds after liftoff during an attempt to send the E1 No. 1 probe to impact the Moon.

Oct. 11: US Air Force launches a Thor-Able rocket toward the Moon. Although all three stages work as planned, a 3.5-degree deviation from the correct trajectory results in a 38-kilogram Pioneer-1 (Able-2) lunar orbiter reaching 113,800-kilometer apogee before falling back to Earth on October 12 after a 1.76-day flight. The spacecraft was designed to image the lunar surface and detect ionizing radiation, cosmic rays, magnetic field and micrometeorites.

Oct. 12: An 8K72 No. B1-4 launch vehicle fails 104 seconds after liftoff during an attempt to send the E1 No. 1 probe to impact the Moon.

Nov. 8: US Air Force's Thor-Able rocket launches the Pioneer-2 lunar orbiter, but the third stage fails to fire leaving the spacecraft on a ballistic trajectory with a 1,550-kilometer apogee and a velocity of 16,000 miles per hour. The spacecraft burns up over Africa 45 minutes after its liftoff.

Dec. 3: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, JPL, is formallly transferred from the US Army to NASA.

Dec. 4: An 8K72 No. B1-5 launch vehicle fails 245.4 seconds in flight during an attempt to send the E1 No. 1 probe to impact the Moon.

Dec. 6: US Army launches a four-stage Juno-2 rocket from Cape Canaveral carrying the six-kilogram Pioneer-3 lunar flyby vehicle toward the Moon. Due to a premature shutdown of the first stage, the payload reached an altitude of 102,320 kilometers from Earth before falling back and burning up over Africa on December 17 without achieving the Earth's escape velocity.







Jan. 2: The USSR launches a 8K72 No. B1-6 launch vehicle carrying the E1 No. 4 probe designed to impact the Moon. Due to navigational errors during the ascent, the spacecraft, announced as Luna-1, becomes the first human-made object to escape the Earth's graviational field and entering an orbit around the Sun.

March 3: US Army's Juno-2 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex-5 at Cape Canaveral with the 6.1-kilogram Pioneer-4 lunar flyby spacecraft. Because the second stage fires one second longer than planned, the spacecraft deviates from its prescribed trajectory and flies within 60,000 kilometers from the Moon on March 4, instead of planned 24,000 kilometers, and enters a heliocentric orbit. Mission control maintains communications with the spacecraft for 82 hours until March 6 and a distance of 655,000 kilometers from Earth, downlinking useful space radiation data.

June 18: An 8K72 No. I1-7 launch vehicle fails 153 seconds after liftoff during an attempt to send the E1A No. 5 probe to impact the Moon.

Sept. 12: The USSR launches the Luna-2 probe, the first man-made object to impact the Moon.

Oct. 3: Luna-3 photographs the Far Side of the Moon.

Nov. 26: An Atlas-Able rocket lifts off with the 169-kilogram Able-4 lunar orbiter, but the failure of the payload fairing at T+45 seconds dooms the mission.

Dec. 10: The Soviet of Ministers issues a secret decree No. 1388-618 directing the development of the planetary probes for missions to Mars and Venus and the first human-carrying spacecraft.





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.

June 26 or July 7: Pioneer-5 (P-2) makes its last contact with ground control from a record-breaking distance of 36.2 million kilometers from Earth.

Oct. 10: The Soviet Union makes first attempt at launching a spacecraft toward Mars. The vehicle never reached orbit.

Oct. 14: A Soviet Mars probe fails 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.


Feb. 4: A Molniya rocket fails to launch a Venus probe from the Earth's orbit.

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

June 19: Responding to question from Homer Newell, NASA Director at the Office of Space Sciences, Harold Urey identifies high lunar latiudes as regions of high scientific interest for a potential water ice deposits.



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

July 22: The Mariner-1 Venus probe fails to reach orbit due to a launch vehicle failure.

Aug. 27: An Atlas-Agena B rocket launches the 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.


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.


Jan. 30-Feb. 2: The Ranger-6 probe lifts off and hits the lunar surface in the Sea of Tranquility, but fails to transmit photos due to a short circuit.

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

Nov. 28: NASA launches the Mariner-4 probe to fly by Mars.

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


March 24: NASA's Ranger-9 spacecraft impacts the Moon and delivers images of its surface.

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.


Lunar Orbiter

Lunar Orbiter

March 1: Venera-3 lander penetrates the atmosphere of Venus, completing the first interplanetary trip.

April 17-20: NASA's Surveyor-3 robotic lander flies to the lunar surface.

Aug. 10: An Atlas-Agena rocket launches the Lunar Orbiter spacecraft from Pad 13 at Cape Canaveral.

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





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: A Delta rocket launches the Pioneer-8 spacecraft into a solar orbit. It operated for nearly 30 years.






Sept. 15-21: The Zond-5, a prototype of the spacecraft for manned circumlunar missions, flies around the Moon and splashes down in the Indian Ocean.

Nov. 8: A Delta rocket launches NASA's Pioneer-9 interplanetary spacecraft with eight instruments between orbits of Earth and Venus to monitor solar weather and solar wind during the Apollo missions.





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

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

Feb. 24 (EST): An Atlas-Centaur rocket launches NASA's Mariner-6 probe toward Mars.

Feb. 25: NASA announces the selection of 38 scientists to assist in the design and development of a Martian soft-landing probe for the Viking mission, then scheduled to fly in 1973.

March 25: An Atlas-Centaur rocket launches the Mariner-7 probe toward Mars.

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

May 16-17: Soviet Venera-5 and Venera-6 spacecraft descend through the atmosphere of Venus but cease operations before reaching its surface.

July 31: Mariner-6 flies by Mars at a minimal distance of 3,429 kilometers taking 24 photos of the planet's surface over a 17-minute period.

August 5: Mariner-7 flies by Mars within 2,130 miles from the planet's Southern Hemisphere imaging its surface.

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




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

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

Nov. 17: Luna-17 conducts a successful lunar landing with the Lunokhod-1 robotic rover onboard.

Nov. 19: The Soviet Lunokhod-1 rover operating on the surface of the Moon registers a strong solar flare which would be harmful to humans.





Feb. 10: The Soviet Lunokhod-1 rover experiences a total lunar eclipse on the Moon. Its temperature drops by 250 degrees C and then rises back within three hours.

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

May 30: An Atlas-Centuar rocket sends the Mariner-9 spacecraft toward Mars.

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

Sept. 14: Lunokhod-1 discontinues communications with ground control after a nearly year-long mission.

Nov. 14: Mariner-9 successfully enters orbit around Mars, becoming the first artificial satellite around the Red Planet.

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

Nov. 27: Mars-2 lander impacts Martian surface, transmitting no data. The main craft enters a 18-hour orbit around Mars.

Dec. 2: Mars-3 lander reaches the surface of Mars, however transmits only a few seconds of garbled data.




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

March 27: Venera-8 is launched toward Venus.

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

July: Pioneer-10 enteres the asteroid belt region of the Solar System.

Oct. 27: Mariner-9 completed its mission.

End of year: Meteoroid detector aboard Pioneer-10 records much less particles than originally predicted as the spacecraft is crossing through the asteroid belt. (790)



February: Pioneer-10 exits the asteroid belt without damage.

April 5: An Atlas-Centaur booster launches Pioneer-11 toward Jupiter.

Aug. 9: A 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: NASA's Pioneer-10 spacecraft flies within 131,000 kilometers from Jupiter. (157)




Feb. 5: NASA's Mariner-10 completes a flyby of Venus, delivering the first closeup image of the planet.

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

March 29: Mariner-10 completes the first of its three flybys of Mercury.

Sept. 21: Mariner-10 completes the second of its three flybys of Mercury.

Dec. 10: A Titan-Centaur rocket launches the Helios-1 spacecraft into orbit around the Sun.


June 8: A Proton rocket launches Venera-9 probe to Venus.

June 14: Proton launches Venera-10 toward Venus.

Aug. 20: A Titan-Centaur rocket launches Viking-1 spacecraft toward Mars.

Sept. 9: A Titan-Centaur rocket launches Viking-2 spacecraft toward Mars.

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

Oct. 25: Venera-10 complets soft landing on the surface of Venus, transmits images.






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

February: Pioneer-10 crosses orbit of Saturn.

April 16: The German-US Helios probe makes the closest controlled approach to the Sun by a spacecraft to date at 43 million kilometers.

June 19: Viking-1 enters orbit around Mars.

Aug. 9: A Proton rocket launches the Luna-24 Moon sample return mission.

Sept. 3: Viking-2 lands on Mars and transmits images from the surface.





Aug. 20: A Titan-Centaur rocket launches the Voyager-2 spacecraft toward Jupiter.

Sept. 5: A Titan-Centaur rocket launches the Voyager-1 spacecraft toward Jupiter.

Sept. 18: Flying 7.25 miles from Earth, Voyager-1 snaps an image of the Earth and the Moon in a single frame.

Dec. 10: Voyager-2 enters asteroid belt.




April: The primary radio receiver fails aboard the Voyager-1 spacecraft and it switches to a backup device.

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: A Proton rocket launches the Venera-11 mission to Venus.

Sept. 10: Proton launches the Venera-12 mission to Venus.

Oct. 21: Voyager-2 exits asteroid belt.

Dec. 9: Multiple probes from NASA's Pioneer-Venus mission enter atmosphere of Venus, at least one survives all the way to the surface.



March 5: Voyager-1 completes flyby of Jupiter, providing first detailed images of the planet and many of its moons.

April 24: Voyager-2 begins imaging moons of Jupiter during its flyby of the giant planet.

July 9: Voyager-2 makes the closest approach to Jupiter.

Aug. 5: Voyager-2 completes observations of Jupiter after returning 17,000 images of the planet.

Sept. 1: NASA's Pioneer-11 becomes the first human-made object to fly by Saturn.



April 12: Mission control turns off the Viking-2 lander after 1,316 Earth days of operation on the surface of Mars.

Aug. 7: Viking-1 orbiter ends its mission after running out of attitude control propellant.




August: Voyager-2 completes flyby of Saturn.

Oct. 30: A Proton rocket launches Venera-13 mission to Venus.

Nov. 4: A Proton rocket launches Venera-14 mission to Venus.




Surface of Venus


Mariner Mark-2


March 1: Venera-13 lands on Venus and transmits first color images from the planet's surface.

NASA conceptualizes a Saturn mission based on the Mariner Mark-2 spacecraft launched from the Space Shuttle.

Nov. 5: The Viking-1 lander transmits its last images from the surface of Mars.

Nov. 13: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, JPL, loses contact with the Mars lander from the Viking-1 mission.






Jun. 2: A Proton rocket launches Venera-15 mission to orbit Venus.

Jun. 7: A Proton rocket launches Venera-16 mission to orbit Venus.

June 13: NASA’s Pioneer-10 crosses the orbit of Neptune.

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


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.




Jan. 7: Japan's Mu-3SII rocket launches the Sakigake spacecraft toward Halley Comet.

July 2: A European Ariane-1 rocket launches the Giotto spacecraft toward Halley Comet.

Aug. 18: Japan's Mu-3SII rocket launches the Planet-A (Suisei) spacecraft toward the Halley Comet.

Sept. 11: The International Cometary Explorer, ICE, passes through a tail of comet Giacobini-Zinner, the first spacecraft to so.





Halley comet from Giotto

Jan. 24: Voyager-2 becomes the first and only spacecraft in the 20th century to fly by Uranus and its moons.

March 13-14: Europe's Giotto spacecraft flies within 600 kilometers of Halley comet, taking images of its nucleus.

March 6-9: The Soviet Vega-1 spacecraft performs a flyby of Halley comet.





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

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







May 4: The Space Shuttle Atlantis launches the Magellan Venus Radar Mapper, VRM, spacecraft toward Venus during the STS-30 mission.

July 5: The imaging team in the Voyager project identifies the second previously unknown moon of Neptune after the flyby of the planet by Voyager-2. The natural satellite was initially dubbed 1989N2 and was later named Larissa.

Aug. 25: Voyager-2 passes within 4,800 kilometers from Neptune becoming the first spacecraft to approach the planet and the only spacecraft visiting it in the 20th century.

Oct. 18: The Space Shuttle launches the Galileo spacecraft on a mission to explore Jupiter.





Feb. 10, 05:58:48 GMT: NASA's Galileo spacecraft passes within 16,106 kilometers from Venus.

Feb. 14: Voyager-1 sends its last image of Earth from a distance of six billion kilometers from the Sun.

Feb. 23: NASA's Pioneer-11 crosses orbit of Neptune, becoming the 4th spacecraft to leave the Solar System.

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

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

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



Oct. 29: NASA's Galileo spacecraft passes within 1,600 kilometers of Asteroid Gaspra, providing first images of a small planetary body.



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

July 10: Europe's Giotto probe passes within 200 kilometers from the Grigg-Skjellerup comet, achieving the closest cometary flyby.

July 23: ESA's Giotto mission operations are officially terminated. The spacecraft made one last flyby of Earth and at the same time, the plans for the Rosetta mission are announced.

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

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


April 10: Japan's Muses-A (Hiten) probe ends its mission, impacting the lunar surface.

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.



Jan. 25: A Titan-2 rocket launches the Clementine spacecraft intended to orbit the Moon and approach asteroid 1620 Geographos.

Feb. 21: The Clementine spacecraft enters orbit around the Moon.

May 7: A failed engine cutoff during orbit maneuver of the Clementime spacecraft left it tumbling in space without propellant and prevented a trip to asteroid 1620 Geographos.

June 27: The Ulysses solar probe passes over the Sun's south pole.





The Ulysses passes over the Sun's north pole.

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

Dec. 7: The Galileo spacecraft enters orbit around Jupiter, the descent module plunges into the planet's atmosphere.





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.

The Clementine project scientists announce that data returned by the Clementine spacecraft indicated that ice may exist from an asteroid crash at the Moon’s South Pole.



Sojourner rover

March 3: ESA announces that its Huygens probe is ready for shipment to the Kennedy Space Center.

July 4: Mars Pathfinder lands on Mars and deploys a small Sojourner rover which makes first moves on the surface of the Red Planet.

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: A Titan-4B rocket launches the Cassini spacecraft.



Lunar Prospector

Feb. 17: Voyager-1 becomes the most distant human-made object, surpassing Pioneer-10, which was in that position for 25 years.

March 5: NASA announces the Lunar Prospector orbiter had found evidence of up to 10-30 million tons of water ice in craters near the Moon's North and South poles.

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

July 31: NASA's Lunar Prospector spacecraft crashes into the presumed icebed on the Moon, but returned data fails to show signs of water.

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.


Jan. 3, 3:21 p.m. EST: A Delta-2 rocket 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.

Aug. 17: NASA Cassini's spacecraft flies by Earth, which gives the spacecraft a 5.5-kilometer speed boost.

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.


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.



433 Eros

Feb. 12: At the end of its mission, NASA's NEAR spacecraft touches down on the surface of the asteroid 433 Eros after orbiting it for a 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 solar wind.

ESA solicits ideas for the reuse of the Mars Express hardware for other missions, leading to Venus Express project.



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

July 3: Delta-2 rocket launches NASA's CONTOUR spacecraft 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's orbit and into its comet-chasing solar orbit. Limited ground-based evidence at the time suggested the spacecraft split into several pieces as a result of engine malfunction.

Sept. 3: An object J002E3 detected in a temporary orbit around the Earth. Later confirmed to be a third stage from the Saturn-5 rocket which launched the Apollo 12 mission.

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

November: ESA approves the Venus Express project.

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.


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).

Jan. 23: Last radio signal is registered from the Pioneer-10 spacecraft on the outskirts of the Solar System. It takes more than 11 hours for the signal to reach the Earth from a distance of 12,230,000,000 kilometers.

March 12: The Hubble Space Telescope, 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.

May 8: NASA's Mars Global Surveyor takes the first photo of the Earth and the Moon from the Martian orbit.

June 2: A Soyuz-FG/Fregat rocket launches ESA's Mars Express toward Mars.

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

Sept. 21: The Galileo orbiter enters Jupiter's atmosphere.

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

Dec. 19: Beagle-2 lander separates from the Mars Express orbiter on approach to Mars.

Dec. 25: ESA's Mars Express spacecraft enters orbit around Mars, but the Beagle-2 lander disappears during its descent onto the Martian surface.

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.



Mars Exploration Rover



Huygens's separation



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 detaches from NASA's Cassini spacecraft 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 a 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.





Deep Impact

Venus Express

Venus Express

Jan. 12: A Delta-2 rocket 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.

November: A Russian Soyuz-FG rocket launches ESA's Venus Express orbiter.

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.



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.

May 7: European Venus Express spacecraft reaches its final operational orbit around Venus.

Sept. 3, 07:42:22 CEST (05:42:22 GMT): ESA's SMART-1 spacecraft impacts 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.


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's New Horizons spacecraft makes its closest approach 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-2 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.



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.

Oct. 22: India launches a 590-kilogram Chandrayaan-1 lunar mapping satellite and a 20-kilogram impactor on the lunar surface. (Delayed from Sept. 19, 2007). It entered lunar orbit on Nov. 7 and an impactor crashed into the Moon as planned on Nov. 15.

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.




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 17-18: NASA launches Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, LRO, and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, LCROSS, spacecraft into orbit around the Moon for at least a year-long mission. (As of March 2009. As of 2004, the mission was planned for 2008; confirmed as of mid-2007; Delayed from Oct. 28, 2008, May 20 and June 17, 2009)

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

Oct. 9: NASA's Centaur stage with the LCROSS experiment impacts lunar surface at 84.7 South latitude, 39.0 West longitude in the effort to detect presence of water on the Moon.

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.



Phoenix unresurrected

March 22: The last signal comes from NASA's Spirit rover on the surface of Mars.

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

May: NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter flies 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 flies by comet Hartley 2.





GRAIL probe

Grail prob



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

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

March 18: NASA's New Horizons mission crosses orbit of Uranus, however the planet was 3.8 billion kilometers from the spacecraft at the time, so it remained in sleep mode.

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.



MSL rover

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

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








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.)

Sept. 12: NASA declares that Voyager-1 had reached interstellar space.

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 leaves Earth's orbit on its way to Mars.

Dec. 2: China's Long-March-3B rocket launches the Chang'e-3 lunar lander. A second vehicle, Chang'e-4, was expected to back up the mission as of 2010. (As of March 2009. As of Feb. 25, 2004, the unmanned lander mission was expected in 2010, the rover mission in 2012. In May 2009, Ye Peijian, a chief scientist of the Chang'e project said that Chang'e-3 would carry a rover).

Dec. 14, 13:11 GMT: China's Chang'e-3 spacecraft achieves a successful soft landing on the surface of the Moon.



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 aboard 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. 16: The Hubble Space Telescope team announces the discovery of three potential targets in the Kuiper Belt that the New Horizons mission could study following the flyby of Pluto in 2015.

Oct. 19: A decision is made to land ESA's Philae probe at the 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.)



New Horizons near Pluto



Jan. 6: Images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal crash site of the Beagle-2 lander. The lander was partially deployed.

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.

June 23: ESA confirms extension of the Rosetta mission to end-September 2016.

July 14: The New Horizons spacecraft flies by Pluto and its moons takes first close-up images.

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.




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.

Dec. 28: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft condusts a deep-space maneuver to rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu.



Cassini burns up

Jan. 4: NASA choses the Psyche mission as one of the two missions in the Discovery program.

April: NASA receives 12 proposals under a New Frontiers program announcement of opportunity.

April 22: NASA's Cassini spacecraft makes a final flyby of Titan before ending its mission with a plunge into the Saturnian atmosphere.

Sept. 11: The New Horizons spacecraft emerges from hibernation to get ready for the exploration of the Kuiper Belt.

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

Sept. 22: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft flies by Earth, whose gravitational pull adjusts its trajectory for rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu.

Dec. 20: NASA announces two finalist concepts for a robotic mission planned to launch in the mid-2020s: Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return, CAESAR, seeking to return a sample from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and Dragonfly, a drone-like rotorcraft that would explore the prebiotic chemistry and habitability of dozens of sites on Saturn’s moon Titan.



Tesla Roadster









Parker Solar Probe






Asteroid Bennu






Jupiter from Juno

Feb. 6: The first Falcon Heavy rocket sends a Tesla Roadster dummy cargo into a heliocentric trajectory.

April 12: A post-test inspection of the composite structure for a heat shield to be used on the Mars 2020 mission reveales that a fracture occurred during structural testing. The mission team began work to build a replacement heat shield structure.

April 23: China announces that its relay satellite for the far side of the Moon will be named "Queqiao," or "magpie bridge" in Chinese folktale.

April 24: An An-124 aircraft carrying first components of the BepiColombo spacecraft, including sun shield, arrives at Cayenne, French Guiana.

May 5: An Atlas-5 (401) rocket launches the InSight lander toward Mars.

June 4: After a six-month hibernation, New Horizons is awaken by mission control preparing for flyby of Ultima Thule.

June 8, ~12:30-13:40 JST: Hayabusa-2 conducts its 1st Trajectory Correction Manoeuvre, TCM01, accelerating by around 24 cm/s (-x), 5cm/s (-y), 14cm/s (z). At the time, the distance from the spacecraft to the asteroid Ryugu was around 1,900 kilometers and the relative speed after TCM01 was around 2.35 meters per second.

June: NASA powers down the Opportunity Mars rover to weather a dust storm preventing re-charge of the vehicle's batteries.

June 14, 03:06 GMT: China's Queqiao relay spacecraft completes the burn to enter a halo orbit around Earth-Moon L2 point, 65,000 kilometers behind the Moon.

June 24, from ~09:30-09:40 JST: Hayabusa-2 conducts its 8th Trajectory Control Manoeuvre, TMC08, for optical navigation. Trusters gave a velocity change of ~0.2cm/3 (+y), 2cm/s (+z). The distance to Ryugu was 38 kilometers and the relative speed after TCM08 was ~0.08 m/s (8 cm/s).

End of June: Hayabusa-2 arrrives in the vicinity of asteroid Ryugu.

June 28: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully completes its second Deep Space Maneuver, DSM-2. The thruster burn put the spacecraft on course for a series of asteroid approach maneuvers to be executed on Oct. 1, 2018, that will culminate with the spacecraft’s scheduled arrival at asteroid Bennu on December 3.

July 20: Hayabusa-2 approaches asteroid Ryugu to a distance of six kilometers before retudning to its station position around 20 kilometers away from the space rock.

Aug. 3-4: Observing teams in Senegal and Colombia watch stellar occulation by Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule, gathering data for the next flyby target of the New Horizon probe.

Aug. 7, 23:42 GMT: Hayabusa-2 reaches a minimum distance of 0.85 kilometers to Ryugu and then begins its return to the 20-kilometers hold point.

Aug. 12: Delta-4-Heavy launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe.

Aug. 16: NASA's New Horizons spacecraft makes its first detection of its flyby target, the Kuiper Belt object, Ultima Thule. (Not announced until Aug. 28)

Aug. 17: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft begins science operations, capturing the first image of asteroid Bennu with its PolyCam instrument from a distance of 2.2 million kilometers.

Aug. 20-24: The Europa-Clipper project undergoes the Preliminary Design Review.

Aug. 24: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft begins the approach phase of the mission at a distance of two million kilometers from asteroid Bennu.

Sept. 21, 13:06 Japan Time: Minerva-II1 lander, consisting of two one-kilogram rovers, separates from the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft at an altitude of around 55 meters from asteroid Ryugu and conducts successful landing on its surface.

Oct. 1: NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft fires its main engine thrusters in a braking maneuver as part of the first Asteroid Approach Maneuver that put it on course for a scheduled arrival at asteroid Bennu in December.

Oct. 3, 03:58 CEST: The Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, MASCOT, separates from the Japanese Hayabusa-2 spacecraft and lands on the asteroid Ryugu 51 meters away, around 20 minutes later.

Oct. 3: Parker Solar Probe performs the first of seven Venus flybys.

Oct. 3: NASA's New Horizons spacecraft carries out a short engine burn to home in on the location and timing of its Jan. 1 flyby of the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule.

Oct. 5: Parker Solar Probe autonomously adjusts its solar arrays as the temperature rises above 150F one month before it reaches perihelion.

Oct. 17: NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft ejects the flight cover on its TAGSAM sampling arm. The spacecraft also performs two spins -- called Sample Mass Measurements -- before and after to confirm that its mass changed about 2.5 pounds (approximately the weight of the cover).

Oct. 19: An Ariane-5 rocket launches the European-Japanese BepiColombo spacecaft on a mission to explore Mercury.

Oct. 24: Japan's Hayabusa-2 spacecraft drops its first target marker on the surface of asteroid Ryugu.

Nov. 1: NASA announces the end of the Dawn asteroid exploration mission as the spacecraft runs out of propellant.

Nov. 5: Voyager-2 crosses the heliopause.

Nov. 14: Engineers at Lockheed Martin commanded Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, TAGSAM, aboard NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to move through its full range of motion – flexing its shoulder, elbow, and wrist “joints.”

Nov. 26: NASA's InSight spacecraft makes successful soft landing on the surface of Mars.

Dec. 3: OSIRIS-REx executes a maneuver transitoning into orbit around the asteroid Bennu.

Dec. 10: Slightly more than 18 billion kilometers from Earth, NASA's Voyager-2 leaves the Sun's protective bubble and enters interstellar space.

Dec. 12, 08:45 GMT: Chinese Chang'e-4 spacecraft enters a 100 by 400-kilometer orbit around the Moon.

Dec. 17: Around 12:00 GMT, Europe's BepiColombo probe to begin its first routine thrust to optimise orbit.

Dec. 18: New Horizons conducts a trajectory correction maneuver, TCM-30, ensuring its flyby within 3,500 kilometers from Ultima Thule.

Dec. 31: NASA declares OSIRIS-REx spacecraft in orbit around the asteroid Bennu, the smallest body ever orbited by a spacecraft.




Ultima Thule







Jan. 1: NASA's New Horizons spacecraft completes a flyby of a Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, unofficially known at the time as Ultima Thule.

Jan. 3: Chang'e-4 spacecraft lands near the lunar Von Kármán crater, becoming the world's first spacecraft to land on the Far Side of the Moon.

Feb. 13: NASA makes final attempt to communicate with the Mars Exploration Rover (MER), Opportunity, before ending the mission after 15 years of operation on the surface of Mars.

Feb. 22: Japan's Hayabusa-2 spacecraft touches down on asteroid Ryugu and fires a projectile into its surface to collect samples of its soil.

Feb. 21: A US Falcon-9 rocket launches Israel's Beresheet lander toward the Moon.

Feb. 28: Chinese Yutu-2 rover wakes up at 10:51 a.m. Beijing Time, after its first lunar night. The Chang'4 lander scheduled to re-activate a day later.

March 5: NASA announces that the magnetometer called Interior Characterization of Europa Using Magnetometry, or ICEMAG, will not fly aboard Europa Clipper spacecraft because of cost concerns. Instead, NASA promises to seek options for a simpler version of this instrument.

April 4: Israel's Beresheet spacecraft enters orbit around the Moon.

April 8: The Beresheet spacecraft maneuvers to a 211 by 467-kilometer around the Moon.

April 11: The Beresheet spacecraft crashes during the landing attempt on the Moon around 19:25 UTC.

May 30: Japan's Hayabusa-2 spacecraft descends to an altitude of around 9 meters over asteroid Ryugu and drops its second target marker on its surface.

June 27: NASA chooses Dragonfly -- a helicopter flying over Titan, the largest moon of Saturn –– as the next New Frontiers mission to launch in 2026.

July 11: Japan's Hayabusa-2 probes conducts second touchdown on asteroid Ryugu to collect the second sample of its soil, followed by a takeoff.

July 22: India launches Chandrayaan-2 lunar orbiting and landing mission.

July 25: ESA issues invitation to industry to bid for the development of the Earth Return Orbiter, a European contribution into the Mars sample return mission. The spacecraft is targeted for launch around 2026.

Sept. 1: India's Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft completes its 5th and final lunar-orbiting maneuver entering the 119 by 127-kilometer orbit around the Moon and preparation for landing.

Sept. 2: The Vikram lander separates from India's Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft in the lunar orbit in preparation for its descent to the lunar surface.

Sept. 6-7: Mission control loses contact with the Indian Vikram lander, which determined to be crashed into the Moon.

Oct. 2: The Minerva-2 hopper-rover separates from the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft, becoming the final vehicle of the mission to land on the asteroid Ryugu.



Solar Orbiter

Feb. 9: An Atlas-5 rocket launches ESA's electrically powered Solar Orbiter to fly within 40 solar radii in a 150-day orbit following multiple flybys of Earth and Venus. (Originally planned for launch in 2015-2017)

Feb. 13: NASA announces selection of four missions for conceptual studies within the Discovery program, which include 2019 proposals for two Venus missions, Io Volcano Observer and a Triton fly-by mission. Only two of four projects were to receive funding for full-scale development.

April 10, 06:25 CST: ESA/JAXA' Bepi Colombo probe passes 12,700 kilometers from Earth during its trip to Mercury.

April 22-23: The New Horizons spacecraft uses its long-range telescopic camera to image a pair of the closest stars, Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359, in the first interstellar parallax experiment.

May 15: The primary structure for NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test, DART, spacecraft returns to the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, APL. Now equipped with its chemical propulsion system and elements of its electrical propulsion system – installed at Aerojet Rocketdyne in Redmond, Washington, the spacecraft remained at APL through final assembly and pre-launch testing.

July 19: Japan's H-2A rocket launches the Emirates Mars Mission (Al'amal/Hope).

July 23: China launches Chang Zheng-5 rocket carrying the Tianwen-1 orbiter, lander and rover mission to Mars.

July 30: An Atlas-5 rocket launches NASA's Perseverance rover to Mars.

Oct. 15, 03:58:31 UTC: The Bepi Colombo spacecraft completes first of two planned flybys of Venus, passing within 10,720 kilometers from the planet's surface.

Oct. 20: NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft touches down on the surface of asteroid Bennu to take a sample of its soil.

Nov. 24: China's Chang Zheng-5 rocket launches the nation's Chang'e-5 lunar sample return mission.

Nov. 28, 12:58 UTC: Chang'e-5 spacecraft begins the 17-minute lunar orbit insertion maneuver at an altitude of 400 kilometers from the Moon.

Dec. 1: China's Chang'e-5 spacecraft lands in Oceanus Procellarumon on the surface of the Moon and begins soil sampling.

Dec. 3: Ascent vehicle of China's Chang'e-5 spacecraft lifts off from Oceanus Procellarumon on the surface of the Moon an enters lunar orbit for a rendezvous with the orbital stage.

Dec. 5: Japan's Hayabusa-2 spacecraft separates a capsule for the reentry into the Earth's atmosphere.

Dec. 6: The return capsule from the Hayabusa-2 mission lands in Woomera, Australia, with the samples of an asteroid.

Dec. 6: The ascent vehicle of China's Chang'e-5 spacecraft docked with the orbiting vehicle in lunar orbit, transferred samples to the orbiter and separated from the orbiter.

Dec. 8: The ascent vehicle of China's Chang'e-5 spacecraft performs braking manuever in lunar orbit leading to an impact onto the lunar surface.

Dec. 12: China's Chang'e-5 spacecraft transfers from circular to elliptical lunar orbit ahead of the trans-Earth injection.

Dec. 16: Descent module from China's Chang'e-5 mission returned back to Earth with lunar soil samples.








Feb. 9: United Arab Emirates' Al'amal probe enters orbit around Mars.

Feb. 10: China's Tianwen-1 probe enters orbit around Mars.

Feb. 18: NASA's Perseverance rover lands in Jezero Crater on Mars.

Feb. 24: China's Tianwen-1 probe transfers to a 280 by 59,000-kilometer orbit around Mars for planned three months of operations with all seven scientific instruments.

March 4: NASA announced it selected Northrop Grumman to supply propulsion system of the return rocket designed to lift soil samples from the surface of Mars in a joint effort with the European Space Agency.

April 3: Perseverance rover deploys Ingenuity helicopter on the surface of Mars.

April 9: Navigation cameras that helped orient NASA's Osiris-REx probe in relation to asteroid Bennu are turned off, after snapping their last images of the asteroid ahead of spacecraft's departure back to Earth.

April 19: The Ingenuity helicopter performs first takeoff and landing on the surface of Mars.

April 20: The Perseverance rover uses its Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, MOXIE, to convert carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere into oxygen.

April 22: The Ingenuity helicopter performs its second flight on Mars.

April 25: The Ingenuity helicopter climbs to an altitude of five meters and flies 50 meters downrange during its 3rd flight over the Martian surface.

April 30: The Ingenuity helicopter climbs to an altitude of five meters, flies 133 meters south and returns beack after scouting its future landing site.

Early May: Europe's Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, JUICE, arrives at ESTEC center in the Netherlands in preparation for a new round of extreme environment testing.

May 10, 4:23 p.m. EDT: NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft fires its main engines full throttle for seven minutes – its most significant maneuver since it arrived at Asteroid Bennu in 2018. This burn thrusts the spacecraft away from the asteroid at nearly 1,000 kilometers per hour, setting it on a 2.5-year cruise towards Earth.

May 14, 23:18 UTC: The descent module of China's Tianwen-1 mission with the Zhurong rover successfully lands on the surface of Mars.

May 19: China releases first photos from the surface of Mars.

May 22, 10:40 Beijing Time: The Zhurong rover rolls off its Tianwen-1 landing platform on the surface of Mars.

June 2: NASA announces it selected two new robotic missions to Venus, to be launched within the 2028-2030 timeframe: Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging, DAVINCI+, which will carry an atmospheric probe, and Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy, VERITAS, featuring an orbiter. At the same time, Io Volcano Observer and Triton-Neptune fly-by mission proposals had not been selected.

June 7: NASA's Juno spacecraft passes within 1,000 kilometers from Jovian moon Ganymede.

June 10: The European Space Agency announces the approval of the EnVision orbiter aiming to send a radar-imaging spacecraft into orbit around Venus in the early 2030s.

June 15: Airbus announces that its Earth Return Orbiter, ERO, for the Mars sample return mission, completed the Preliminary Design Review with ESA and NASA, in preparation for launch in 2026.

Mid-August: China's Change-5 spacecraft left the L1 Lagrange point in the Sun-Earth system heading to the Distant Retrograde Orbit, DRO, around the Moon.

September: China's Chang'e-5 probe leaves Lagrange L1 point in the Sun-Earth system.

Sept. 21: New Horizons switches from the spin-stabilization to three-axis attitude control for a nearly two-week period of science observations and software tests.

Oct. 1: Europe's BepiColombo spacecraft passes within 195 kilometers from Mercury in the first of six flybys of the planet. (As of 2012, the first flyby of Mercury was planned for Feb. 15, 2019, but it was postponed in 2014.)

Oct. 16: NASA launches Lucy mission to explore multiple asteroids.

Nov. 23: A Falcon-9 rocket launches NASA's DART asteroid-deflection mission from Pad 4E at Vandenberg AFB, Ca. (As of April 2019, the launch was expected in June 2021, in 2020, it was scheduled for "late summer".)

Nov. 27: Europe's Solar Orbiter passes within 466 kilometers from Earth.






February - May 28: NASA's MAVEN Mars orbiter operates in safe mode due to the Intertial Measurement Units, IMUs, failure until ground control recovers the mission switching to celestial navigation.

April: The Decadal Strategy for Planetary Science and Astronomy, published by US scientists and commissioned by NASA and National Science Foundation, recommends NASA to direct a "flagship" mission to Uranus.

April 24: The US-French InSight lander takes its last "selfie" as its operations are winding down due to power-supply issues.

May 4: The US-French InSight lander records magnitude 5 quake on Mars, the biggest event of this kind detected on another planet.

June 23: ESA's Bepi Colombo spacecraft performs its second flyby of Mercury.

June 24: NASA announces it has to postpone the Psyche asteroid mission from 2022 until at least 2023, pushing back its arrival at destination from 2026 to the end of 2020s.

June 28: An Electron rocket launches the Cis-lunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, CAPSTONE, intended for the Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit, NRHO.

July: China announces that its Tianwen-1 Mars lander completed its mission.

Aug. 4: A Falcon-9 rocket launches South-Korean lunar orbiter, Danuri (Koren Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, KPLA).

August: The Ingenuity helicopter conducts its 30th flight over the Martian surface after surviving the planet's harsh winter.

Sept. 11, 23:14 UTC: The DART spacecraft releases the LICIACube in the vicinity of the Didymos double asteroid system to image DART's impact into the Dimorphus asteroid.

Sept. 26, 7:14 p.m. EDT: The 570-kilogram DART spacecraft intentionally crashes into Dimorphus, the 165-meter moonlet of asteroid Didymos, demonstrating a potential method for riderecting trajectories of space rocks.

September: India's Mangalyaan spacecraft completed eight years of operations in the orbit of Mars due to end of propellant and battery drainage.

Oct. 16, 7 a.m. EDT: NASA's Lucy probe passes 350 kilometers from Earth on its way to Trojan asteroids.

Nov. 14: CAPSTONE becomes the first cubesat entering orbit around the Moon.

Nov. 28: The Orion spacecraft flying without crew reached maximum distance from Earth during the 13th day of the Artemis-1 mission.

Dec. 14: The Juno spacecraft completes the 47th close flyby of Jupiter, but a computer problem aboard the spacecraft delays resulting data downlink.

Dec. 16: South Korea's Danuri probe performs a successful maneuver to enter the 109 by 8,920-kilometer orbit around the Moon.

Dec. 17: NASA's Ingenuity helicopter began its 37th flight over the Martian surface, employing a new software designed to recognize and divert away from inhospitable surface at landing.

Dec. 18: The InSight lander failed to communicate with Earth and NASA assumed the end of the mission due to declining power aboard the spacecraft.


Jan. 19: NASA Ingenuity helicopter performs its 40th flight over the surface of Mars. It spends 91 seconds in the air, climbs to 10 meters and covers 178 meters in distance.

Jan. 24: NASA adds the 700-meter asteroid 1999 VD57 as a new target for the Lucy probe to test its tracking system during a previously unplanned flyby scheduled for Nov. 1, 2023, at a disatance of around 450 kilometers.

Jan. 25: NASA's Perseverance rover drops the 10th and final tube with samples of martian soil for the retrieval and return to Earth during a future mission.

Feb. 9: The European JUICE probe arrives at launch site in Kourou.

Feb. 10: UAE's Hope probe begins maneuvers in the Martian orbit to rendezvous with the planet's moon Deimos.

March 1: The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, reports findings confirming that spacecraft like DART can be used to deflect threats from asteroids.

Feb. 27 - March 3: NASA's Dragonfly project, aiming to send a helicopter to Titan, passes the Preliminary Design Review, PDR.

March 8: ESA announces extension of the Mars Express mission until 2026 with a provisional extension to 2028.

March 21, 10:24 Japan Standard Time: After 100 days in space, the Hakuto-R Mission 1 lunar lander enters orbit around the Moon.

April 3: NASA's Ingenuity helicopter completes its 49th flight regestering a speed of 6.5-meters per second and an altitude of 16 meters.

April 13: NASA's Ingenuity helicopter completes its 50th flight osn Mars, climbing to an altitude of 18 meters, covering 322.2 meters of distance for 145.7 seconds.

April 14: An Ariane-5 rocket launches the Europe's Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer, JUICE.

April 26, 01:40 Japan Standard Time: The HAKUTO-R (Mission-1) robotic lander developed by the privately funded company, Ispace, headquartered in Japan, fails during an attempt to complete soft-landing on the surface of the Moon.