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List of All NASA Missions – Launch Year, Current Activity and Key Missions Purposes

List of All NASA Missions

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All of us know the breathtaking footage of Apollo 11’s Moon landing. We sadly recall the tragic events of Challenger. Millions eagerly waited for New Horizons to arrive at Pluto in the Summer of 2015. Yet, there has been a multitude of valuable space programs that have not received such wide media attention. Here is a list of all NASA Missions, their original launch years, whether or not they are active and a brief description of their key purposes.

JUMP TO SECTION:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X

A

Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 1997

Observes particles of from the Sun, interstellar space and other galaxies.

Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2007

Observes mysterious icy clouds in Earth’s upper atmospheric level, the Mesosphere.

Analogue Missions
Currently Active: YES
Launched: n/a

Remote tests/experiments in locations that are scientifically similar to locations soon-to-be explored. Currently, Analogue test are being run in locations similar to Mars so we can gather data before manned missions to the red planet.

Apollo
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1961

Mission program to successfully land a man on the Moon and return safely. Started from President Kennedy’s promise to accomplish this goal before the 1960s were over. Included Apollo 11, the first men on the Moon. Also included Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17, all which put humans on the Moon’s surface as well.

Apollo-Soyuz
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1975

Nine day collaboration between US and Soviet Union to test docking in space. Predecessor for later MIR and ISS.

Aqua
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2002

Comprehensively surveys the Earth’s, collecting data on oceans, atmosphere, ice, land, snow and vegetation.

Aquarius
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2011

Measures salt levels in surface waters on Earth to help understand how our water reacts to climate change and the water cycle.

ARCTAS
Currently Active: YES
Launched: unknown

Aircraft and satellites that measure the composition of Earth’s Troposphere.

ARTEMIS
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2007

Investigates the processes in near-Earth space that cause wild auroras in Earth’s Magnetosphere.

Astroid Redirection Mission
Currently Active: YES
Launched: unknown

Robotically takes large boulder-sized piece of near-Earth asteroid, uses gravity to safely redirect the boulder into Moon orbit. Helps prepare for asteroid deflection and travel to Mars.

ASTRO 1 & 2
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1990

System of telescopes that traveled multiple times on Space Shuttle. Gathered data on deep space regions using Ultraviolet, X-ray and more.

ATTREX
Currently Active: YES
Launched: TBD

Unmanned aircraft operations to research, and resolve water vapor changes in the Earth’s Stratosphere.

Aura
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2004

Uses data NASA satellites to study, understand and protect the interactions that impact Earth’s air. Primarily focuses on Ozone depletion research.

B

BARREL
Currently Active: YES
Launched: unknown

Balloon-based mission to understand electrons coming from the Radiation Belt.

C

CALIPSO
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2006

Satellite to deeply study the effects clouds and aerosols on the Earth’s climate change.

Cassini-Huygens
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 1997

Cassini orbits Saturn to study everything about the planet and its moons. The Huygens probe releases from the craft to land in locations, like Saturn’s moon, Titan, in 2005.

CHAMP
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2000

Collects precise measurements of Earth’s gravity and magnetic field.

Chandra X-Ray Observatory
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 1999

Most X-rays are blocked by Earth’s atmosphere. Chandra is a powerful space telescope that can observe X-rays and use them to answer or create new questions about the universe.

CINDI
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2008

Mission to deeply understand the composition and dynamics of Earth’s Ionosphere.

Clementine
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1994

Objective was to space qualify lightweight imaging sensors and component technologies for the next generation of Department of Defense (DOD) spacecraft.

CATS
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2015

Instrument aboard International Space Station that measures and examines Earth’s clouds and aerosols to better understand climate change.

CloudSat
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2006

Advanced radar that can slide through clouds to understand more about their vertical composition and structure, instead of just their upper layers.

Cluster
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2000

Uses four identical spacecrafts to simultaneously study the Earth’s magnetosphere.

Compton Gamma Ray Observatory
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1991

The second NASA “Great Observatory,” launching after Hubble. Studies high energy aspects of the universe.

Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1989

Took precise measurements and mapped the leftover radiation from the Big Bang across the sphere of the visible universe.

Cosmic Hot Interstellar Plasma Spectrometer (CHIPS)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2003

Short mission to prove that much lighter and smaller spacecrafts could be built and function at a much lower cost than traditional missions.

Curiosity
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2011

Rover placed on Mars’ surface to determine if the red planet was ever capable of supporting microbial life.

Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CGNSS)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2016

Collects and measures precise data of Earth’s surface winds during tropical storms and hurricanes with the goal of better predicting violent storms.

D

Dawn
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2007

Studies our solar system’s two largest protoplanets, Ceres and Vesta, to better understand the solar system and its conditions during its early, primordial time periods.

Deep Impact
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2005

A NASA Discovery mission that fired an impact device at Comet Tempel 1, and used a second device to photograph the impact interaction.

DISCOVER-AQ
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2011

Mission to better understand and diagnose NASA satellite’s interpretations of Earth’s surface conditions that factor into air quality.

E

Earth Observing-1
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2000

Mission to introduce new scientific equipment and acquire learnings for future missions.

 
Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (ERBS)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1984

Studied the way Earth takes in radiation energy from the Sun and re-radiates it again.

Extrasolar Planet Observatory and Deep Impact Extended Investigation (EPOXI)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2005

A continuation of Deep Impact to further study comets. Also, studies three nearby stars with planets transiting them (passing in front of).

Euclid
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2020

Joint mission with ESA (European Space Agency) to investigate the “dark” universe and better understand the history of its expansion.

Explorer
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 1958-2013

A large series of missions launched with varying scientific investigations. Missions studied the Earth, the Sun, planets and more.

Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer (EUVE)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1992

Mission to take full-sky survey in the far ultraviolet spectrum.

F

FAST
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1996

Investigated the plasma physics occurring in Earth’s auroras on both poles.

Fermi Gamma Ray Telescope
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2008

Largest telescope in the Gamma ray spectrum. By viewing the universe in this energetic spectrum, Fermi has answered many previously unknown questions regarding black holes, pulsars and more.

Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1999

Conducted hi-res observations of the universe in the far ultraviolet spectrum.

G

Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2003

Orbiting space telescope that observes galaxies in the ultraviolet spectrum to better understand their creation and evolution.

Galileo
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1998

An interplanetary mission to investigate Jupiter. In its path, the spacecraft also conducted flybys and detailed analysis of Venus, the Moon and more.

Gemini
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1962

A series of 12 missions using small two-man module to help NASA prepare for Project Apollo and the Moon landing. Notably included he first US spacewalk and the first multi-craft docking. Mission crews included Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

Genesis
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2001

Captured particles from solar wind and brought them back to Earth for deep analysis.

Geotail
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 1992

Joint international mission to better understand Earth’s magnetotail. Observed and studied from distances close to Earth, all the way out to the tip of the tail.

Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1975

Provided detailed analysis of Earth’s weather patterns.

Global Precipitation Measurement
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2014

Joint international satellite mission that provides detailed analysis of rain and snow every three hours.

Glory
Currently Active: YES
Launched: unknown

Measures and analyzes the balance of energy in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2011

Performed advanced gravity field measurements of the Moon to better understand its interior structure.

Gravity Probe B
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2004

Space lab that used advanced gyroscopes to help prove two predictions made by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.

Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2002

Maps changes in Earth’s gravitational field. Helps provide cost-effective data about Earth’s gravity that can be accessed and used by scientists all over the world.

H

Herschel
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2009

Space telescope that studied the universe in deep infrared end of the spectrum.

HETE-1
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1996

First telescope to precisely measure Gamma-ray bursts in multi ends of the spectrum, including X-ray, Ultraviolet and Gamma.

Hinode (Solar-B)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2006

A follow-up mission to the Japanese, Solar-A to observe and understand the Sun. Seeks answers for the Sun’s magnetic field, corona and solar flares.

Hitomi (ASTRO-H)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2016

Japanese-born observational mission to better understand extremely high-energy processes of the universe.

Hubble Space Telescope
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 1990

Powerful space telescope using visible, ultraviolet and infrared spectrums. Has helped us better understand star formation, star death, black holes and pulsars.

I

Interstellar Boundary Explorer IBEX
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2008

Mission to detect the formal parameter of our solar system by monitoring the point where solar wind meets interstellar materials.

Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) 1 & 2
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2003

Studied everything about Earth, from topography to ice sheet mass.

Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2017

Mission to better understand neutral-ion coupling in the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

IMAGE
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2000

Studied the Earth magnetosphere’s reaction to changes in solar winds.

InSight
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2016

Mission to land on Mars and deeply study the planet’s interior to better understand how Mars formed and evolved.

International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2002

Mission to study and understand the most violent, high-energy processes in the universe.

International Space Station
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 1998

International low Earth-orbit space habitat to conduct various scientific and astronomical experiments.

Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2013

Mission to better understand how the Sun’s atmosphere becomes energized.

J

James Webb Space Telescope
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2013

Infrared space telescope to advance the discoveries of Hubble Space Telescope by utilizing longer wavelengths and much sharper sensitivity. Will probe the time period of the universe in which stars and galaxies began forming.

Jason-1
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2001

Ocean-based mission to better understand oceanic behaviors on Earth. Helped to make better predictions for things like El Niño and climate change.

Juno
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2011

Spacecraft mission to Jupiter to conduct detailed experiments on the planet’s magnetosphere, internal structure (including possible core), polar auroras and more. Arrived and entered Jovian orbit on July 4, 2016.

K

Kepler
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2009

Mission to observe local region of the Milky Way to locate and study Earth-sized planet within the human-friendly “Habitable Zone” from their stars.

L

Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2013

Mission to orbit the Moon and further understand the composition of its atmosphere and dust.

Laser Geodynamics Satellites (LAGEOS) 1 & 2
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 1976

Satellite missions to survey and analyze Earth’s geodynamic processes, such as tectonic plate movement.

Landsat
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 1999

Multi-spectrum survey of Earth’s land and surfaces.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2009

Mission to orbit and deeply study the Moon. One of the steps in NASA’s master plan to re-visit the Moon, prior (and as part of) sending humans to Mars.

M

Magellan
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1989

Mission to completely study Venus, including tectonics, impacts, erosion, depositions and interior chemical composition.

Mariner
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1962

10 missions from 1962 to 1973 to visit inner-solar system planets Mercury, Venus and Mars. Included secondary visits to Venus and Mars for further observation.

Mars 2020 Rover
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2020

Future mission to conduct longterm remote vehicular exploration of Mars.

Mars Express
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2003

Orbiting Mars’ polar regions to understand its atmosphere and surface.

Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity)
Currently Active: NO/YES
Launched: 2003

Remote vehicular missions to conduct studies of Mars’ terrain, surface and climate.

Mars Global Surveyor
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1996

Mission to get extremely deep data regarding Mars’ atmosphere, surface and magnetic activity.

Mars Odyssey
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2001

Orbiting mission to intimately study Mars’ overall composition. Primary mission to better understand previous/current life-inhabiting areas and continued search for water on the planet.

Mars Pathfinder
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1996

Mission to exhibit new technologies to be used in future Mars missions. Also delivered and deployed scientific equipment for ongoing observational data.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2005

Orbiting mission to receive close-up examinations in order to seek water in the planet’s history.

Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2011

Remote, longterm vehicular science laboratory on Mars to enhance our understanding of the planet’s surface and conduct advanced sample collection.

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2013

Explores Mars’ atmosphere, upper and lower, and better learns how it reacts to the Sun’s solar wind.

N

Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2004

Part of the Discover program, this spacecraft observes and studies our solar system’s least-visited planet, Mercury.

NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2004

Part of the Discover program, this spacecraft observes and studies our solar system’s least-visited planet, Mercury.

New Horizons
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2006

First close-reconnaissance mission to Pluto to study the planet’s climate, composition and more. Granted extended mission to visit at least one Kuiper Belt object in upcoming years.

Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2017

NASA Mission of Opportunity to deeply study and learn about the extreme astrophysical processes occurring within neutron stars.

NOAAN-N
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2005

Collects advanced data about Earth and distributes its to scientists worldwide for research use.

NuSTAR
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2012

First advanced study of the sky in the X-ray spectrum.

O

Operation IceBridge
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2009

Aerial mission to intensely study changes in Earth’s polar ice sheets and sea ice.

OSIRIS-REx
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2016

Future mission that will travel to an asteroid, use robotic technology to retrieve samples and return them for study. Will help us better understand our solar system’s formation and possible ways that life began.

P

Phoenix
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2007

Mission exclusively to seek water and habitable zones on Mars.

Pioneer 10 & 11
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1972

Missions to visit the Asteroid Belt and study Jupiter and Saturn. Both crafts continued onward to outer solar system and lost contact.

Pioneer Venus
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1978

Mission consisting of an orbiter and a probe to further study Venus.

Planck
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2009

Collect hi-res imagery of micro changes in the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation to learn more about the formation and evolution of the universe.

Polar
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1996

Mission to further understand the flow of energy, mass and momentum of terrestrial planets.

Q

QuickSCAT
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 1999

Measures and studies Earth’s sea-surface winds under all climate and weather conditions.

R

Ranger
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1961

The US’s first program designed to send probes to the Moon. Probes returned images on their approach and crashed into the Lunar surface.

Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscope Imager (RHESSI)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2002

Studies the Sun’s solar flares in the X-ray and Gamma-ray spectrums.

Roentgen Satellite (ROSAT)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1990

Multi-country international effort to provide a combined X-ray observatory.

Rosetta
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2004

Mission to examine comets and the way they interact with interstellar materials. Data is intended to help understand the formation of our solar system.

Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1995

Studied the longterm variations is X-ray-emitting sources in the universe.

S

Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2010

Part of NASA mission called “Living With a Star” (LWS), flagship and first of mission fleet to study our Sun.

Shuttle MIR
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1994

Collaborative space laboratory between the US and Russia.

Skylab
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1973

Known as the first space station. Earth-orbit and observational mission.

Soil Moisture Active-Passive (SMAP)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2015

Measures and studies the thaw-freeze state of soil on Earth.

Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: unknown

World’s largest aerial observatory. Studies our universe in a broad range of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 1995

Studies the structure, chemical composition and dynamics of the Sun’s interior.

Solar, Anomalous, and Magnetospheric Particle Explorer (SAMPEX)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1992

Investigates the partial composition of interstellar matter and solar particles near Earth.

Solar Probe Plus
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2018

Will be the first exploration to travel into the Sun’s Coronal atmosphere.

Solar Orbiter
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2018

Collaborative effort with European Space Agency to travel closer to the Sun than any other mission and yield unprecedented images and data.

Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2003

Provides advanced measurements and data of solar radiation across multiple spectrums.

Space Shuttle
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1981

Large spacecraft capable of transporting satellites or up to seven astronauts into space while the shuttle remained in Earth-orbit.

International Space Station
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 1998

Most recent generation of multi-national, collaborative space station efforts. Aerial station to conduct multiple scientific research projects.

Spitzer
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2003

Powerful space telescope conducting advanced infrared observations.

STARDUST New Exploration of Tempel-1 (Stardust-NExT)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: unknown

Observational mission for comets. Continuation of previous mission, STARDUST.

Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO)
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2006

Studying the origin and behaviors of our Sun’s Coronal Mass Ejections (CME).

Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite (SWAS)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1998

Investigates the composition of dense interstellar clouds.

Suomi NPP
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2011

Longterm study of Earth’s climate changes and biological activities.

Surveyor
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1966

Program after Ranger. Focused on engineering advancements needed for Apollo. In particular, landing and takeoff from the Moon’s surface.

Suzaku
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2005

Studies and monitors regions of space to help us understand how matter behaves under extreme conditions within our universe.

Swift
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2004

Multi-telescope space observatory for studying the location, brightness and properties of Gamma ray bursts.

T

Terra
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 1999

Provides global data on the state of Earth’s atmosphere, land and oceans.

TESS
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2018

Telescope array that will survey the entire sky to locate exoplanets of all sizes orbiting their star in the Habitable Zone.

THEMIS
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2007

Studies magnetic storms occurring within the tail of Earth’s magnetosphere.

TIMED
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2001

Studies energy transfer processes in and out of different layers in the Earth’s atmosphere.

TOPEX/Poseidon
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1992

Monitored ocean behaviors to help enhance climate change predictions and monitor El Niño.

Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS-EP)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1996

Measures and maps the distribution of ozone in Earth’s atmosphere.

TRACE
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1998

Monitors magnetic reactions that occur deep within the Sun and flow to the outer corona.

TWINS A & B
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2008

Returns advanced imagery of Earth’s magnetosphere and the Van Allen Radiation Belt.

U

Ulysses
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1990

Orbited the Sun nearly perpendicularly to the planet’s orbital plane in order to study interstellar space in the higher Solar latitudes.

Upper Atmosphere Radiation Satellite (UARS)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1991

Orbited the Earth 78,000 times to collect chemical composition about Earth’s atmosphere.

V

Van Allen Probes
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 2012

Study the Earth’s radiation belts to understand more about the Sun’s impacts the space near our planet.

Viking
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1975

Combination of orbiter and lander that explored Mars’ surface, collecting soil samples and valuable information about the red planet’s atmosphere.

Voyager 1 & 2
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 1977

Conducted close-up examinations of Jupiter, Saturn and both planet’s largest moons. Voyager 1 is the farthest man-made object, now drastically farther from the Sun than Pluto and traveling into interstellar space outside of our solar system.

W

Wide Field Infrared Explorer (WIRE)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 1999

Searched for distant galaxies and helped further understand starburst galaxy evolution.

Wind
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 1994

Studies the Sun and solar wind’s effects on the space near Earth.

Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2009

Surveyed and imaged the entire sky in the far infrared spectrum.

Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP)
Currently Active: NO
Launched: 2001

Sought fundamental cosmological answers for the universe’s shape, how other shapes like galaxies form, and what is the universe made of?

X

XMM-Newton
Currently Active: YES
Launched: 1999

X-ray observatory allowing astronomers to conduct advanced and precise observations of various cosmic sources.