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exploration of space

space exploration 1912 to 1949
space exploration 1957 to 1960
space exploration 1961 to 1965
space exploration 1966 to 1970
space exploration 1971 to 1975
space exploration 1976 to 1980
space exploration 1981 to 1985
space exploration 1986 to 1990
space exploration 1991 to 1995
space exploration 1996 to 2000
space exploration 2001 to 2005

space exploration timeline

1971 - 1975

  • Apollo 14 - USA Lunar Manned Lander - 44,456 kg - (January 31 to February 8, 1971)

      Crew: Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Edgar D. Mitchell, Stuart A. Roosa.
      Shepard and Mitchell landed on the moon on February 5, 1971, in the Fra Mauro highlands, located at 340' S and longitude 1728' E. They collected 42.9 kilograms of lunar samples and used a hand-held cart to transport rocks and equipment.

  • Mariner 8 - USA Mars Flyby - (May 8, 1971)

      Failed to reach Earth orbit.

  • Kosmos 419 - USSR Mars Probe - (May 10, 1971)

      Failed to leave Earth orbit.

  • Mars 2 - USSR Mars Orbiter/Soft Lander - 4,650 kg - (May 19, 1971)

      The Mars 2 lander was released from the orbiter on November 27, 1971. It crashed-landed because its breaking rockets failed - no data was returned and the first human artefact was created on Mars. The orbiter returned data until 1972.

  • Mars 3 - USSR Mars Orbiter/Soft Lander - 4,643 kg - (May 28, 1971)

      Mars 3 arrived at Mars on December 2, 1971. The lander was released and became the first successful landing on Mars. It failed after relaying 20 seconds of video data to the orbiter. The Mars 3 orbiter returned data until August, 1972. It made measurements of surface temperature and atmospheric composition.

  • Mariner 9 - USA Mars Orbiter - 974 kg - (May 30, 1971 - 1972)

      Mariner 9 arrived at Mars on November 3, 1971 and was placed into orbit on November 24. This was the first US spacecraft to enter an orbit around a planet other than the Moon. At the time of its arrival a huge dust storm was in progress on the planet. Many of the scientific experiments were delayed until the storm had subsided. The first hi-resolution images of the moons Phobos and Deimos were taken. River and channel like features were discovered. Mariner 9 is still in Martian orbit.

  • Apollo 15 - USA Lunar Manned Lander - 46,723 kg - (July 26 to August 7, 1971)

      Crew: David R. Scott, James B. Irwin, Alfred M. Worden.
      Scott and Irwin landed on the moon on July 30, 1971. The landing site was Hadley-Apennine at latitude 266' N and longitude 339' E. They collected samples amounting to 76.8 kilograms. A lunar Roving Vehicle was carried on this mission (and all subsequent ones) which allowed the astronauts to travel several kilometres from the landing site. The commander service module was the first to carry orbital sensors and to release a subsatellite into lunar orbit. Worden performed the first deep spacewalk to retrieve film from the service module.

  • Luna 18 - USSR Lunar Lander - 5,600 kg - (September 2, 1971 - 1972)

      Unsuccessful sample return attempt. Crashed during landing.

  • Luna 19 - USSR Lunar Orbiter - 5,600 kg - (September 28, 1971 - 1972)

      The orbiter is now in a lunar orbit.

  • Luna 20 - USSR Lunar Lander - 5,600 kg - (February 14, 1972)

      Landed on the moon and returned samples to the Earth. Landed on February 21, 1972 at Apollonius highlands located at latitude 332' N and longitude 5633' E. 30 grams of lunar samples were returned to the Earth.

  • Pioneer 10 - USA Jupiter Flyby - 259 kg - (March 3, 1972)

      Pioneer 10 flew by Jupiter on December 1, 1973. It passed 132,250 kilometres from Jupiter's cloud tops. It returned over 500 images of Jupiter and its moons. Pioneer 10's greatest achievement was the data collected on Jupiter's magnetic field, trapped charged particles, and solar wind interactions. The orbit boundary of Pluto was crossed on June 13, 1983. It has now left the solar system.

  • Venera 8 - USSR Venus Lander - 1,180 kg - (March 27, 1972)

      Venera 8 arrived at Venus on July 22, 1972. It measure wind speed variations as it descended through the atmosphere: 100 meters/second above 48 kilometres, 40-47 meters/second at 42-48 kilometres, and 1 meter/second below 10 kilometres. It returned data for 50 minutes after it landed.

  • Apollo 16 - USA Manned Lunar Lander - 46,733 kg - (April 16-27, 1972)

      Crew: John W. Young, Charles M. Duke, Jr., Thomas K. Mattingly II.
      Young and Duke landed on April 21, 1972, at the Descartes crater located at latitude 900' N and longitude 1531' E. They deployed instruments, drove the lunar rover, and collected 94.7 kilograms of samples during a 71-hour surface stay.

  • Apollo 17 - USA Manned Lunar Lander - 46,743 kg - (December 7-19, 1972)

      Crew: Eugene A. Cernan, Harrison H. Schmitt, and Ronald B. Evans.
      Cernan and Schmitt landed on the moon on December 12, 1972. The landing site was Taurus-Littrow at latitude 2010' N and longitude 3046' E. They returned 110.5 kg of rock and soil samples. The astronauts covered 30.5 kilometres in the lunar rover during a 75-hour stay.

  • Luna 21 - USSR Lunar Lander and Rover - 4,850 kg - (January 8, 1973)

      Made lunar landing with an automated Lunokhod 2 rover.

  • Pioneer 11 - USA Jupiter/Saturn Flyby - 259 kg - (April 6, 1973 - November 1995)

      Pioneer 11 flew by Jupiter on December 1, 1974 passing 42,900 kilometres from Jupiter's cloud tops. It took better pictures than Pioneer 10, and measured Jupiter's intense charged-particle and magnet field environment. As it flew by Jupiter it was given a gravity assist which swung it onto a course for Saturn. On September 1, 1979, Pioneer 11 flew past the outer edge of Saturn's A ring at a range of 3,500 kilometres. It travelled underneath the ring system and passed 20,930 kilometres from Saturn's cloud tops. It has now left the solar system.

  • Skylab - USA Space Station - (May 26, 1973)

      Skylab, which was America's first space station, was manned for 171 days by three crews during 1973 and 1974. The space station included the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM), which astronauts used to take more than 150,000 images of the Sun. Skylab was abandoned in February 1974 and re-entered the Earth's atmosphere in 1979.

  • Explorer 49 - USA Solar Probe - 328 kg - (June 10, 1973)

      Solar physics probe placed in lunar orbit.

  • Mars 4 - USSR Mars Orbiter - 4,650 kg - (July 21, 1973)

      Mars 4 arrived at Mars on February, 1974, but failed to go into orbit due to a malfunction of its breaking engine. It flew past the planet with in 2,200 kilometers of the surface. It returned some images and data.

  • Mars 5 - USSR Mars Orbiter - 4,650 kg - (July 25, 1973)

      Mars 5 entered into orbit around Mars on February 12, 1974. It acquired imaging data for the Mars 6 and 7 missions.

  • Mars 6 - USSR Mars Orbiter/Soft Lander - 4,650 kg - (August 5, 1973)

      On March 12, 1974, Mars 6 entered into orbit and launched its lander. The lander returned atmospheric descent data, but failed on its way down.

  • Mars 7 - USSR Mars Orbiter/Soft Lander - 4,650 kg - (August 9, 1973)

      On March 6, 1974, Mars 7 failed to go into orbit about Mars and the lander missed the planet. Carrier and lander are now in a solar orbit.

  • Mariner 10 - USA Mercury/Venus Flyby - 526 kg - (November 3, 1973 - March 24, 1975)

      Mariner 10 was the first dual planet mission. It flew past Venus on February 5, 1974 for a gravity assist to the planet Mercury. Mariner 10 was the first spacecraft to have an imaging system. It recorded circulation in the Venusian atmosphere and showed the temperature of the cloud tops to be -23C. Mariner 10 flew past Mercury 3 times on March 29, 1974, September 21, 1974, and March 16, 1975. These three encounters produced over 10,000 pictures with 57% planet coverage. It recorded surface temperatures ranging from 187C to -183C on the day and night sides. A weak magnetic field was detected but it failed to detect an atmosphere. Mariner 10 is now in a solar orbit.

  • Luna 22 - USSR Lunar Orbiter - 5,600 kg - (May 29, 1974 - 1975)

      Successfully entered lunar orbit.

  • Luna 23 - USSR Lunar Probe - 5,6000 kg - (October 28, 1974)

      Crashed on the lunar surface.

  • Helios 1 - USA & West Germany Solar Probe - 370 kg - (December 10, 1974 - 1975)

      Solar probe is in a solar orbit; came within 47 million kilometres of the Sun.

  • Venera 9 - USSR Venus Orbiter and Lander - 4,936 kg (June 8, 1975)

      Venera 9 arrived at Venus on October 22, 1975, three days before its sister spacecraft Venera 10. Both orbiters photographed the clouds and looked at the upper atmosphere. Differences in cloud layers were discovered at 57-70 kilometres, 52-57 kilometres, and 49-52 kilometres from the surface. The lander arrived on the Venusian surface on November 22, 1975. During a period of 53 minutes, it transmitted the first black and white images of the planets surface. It showed sharp-edged flat rocks and a basaltic terrain. The probe in now in a Venus orbit.

  • Venera 10 - USSR Venus Orbiter and Lander - 5,033 kg - (June 14, 1975)

      Venera 10 arrived at Venus on October 25, 1975, three days after its sister spacecraft Venera 9. Both orbiters photographed the clouds and looked at the upper atmosphere. Differences in cloud layers were discovered at 57-70 kilometres, 52-57 kilometres, and 49-52 kilometres from the surface. The lander arrived on the Venusian surface on November 25, 1975. During a period of 65 minutes, it transmitted black and white images of the planets surface. The terrain was more eroded than at the Venera 9 landing site.

  • Viking 1 - USA Mars Orbiter/Lander - 3,399 kg - (August 20, 1975 - August 7, 1980)

      Viking 1 and 2 were designed after the Mariner spacecraft. They consisted of an orbiter and lander. The orbiter weighed 900 kg and the lander 600 kg. Viking 1 went into orbit about Mars on June 19, 1976. The lander touched down on July 20, 1976 on the western slopes of Chryse Planitia. Both landers had experiments to search for Martian micro-organism. The results of these experiments are still being debated. The landers provided detailed color panoramic views of the Martian terrain. They also monitored the Martian weather. The orbiters mapped the planet's surface, acquiring over 52,000 images. Viking 1 orbiter was deactivate on August 7, 1980 when it ran out of altitude-control propellant. Viking 1 lander was accidentally shut down on November 13, 1982, and communication was never regained.

  • Viking 2 - USA Mars Orbiter/Lander - 3,399 kg - (September 9, 1975 - July 25, 1978)

      Viking 1 and 2 were designed after the Mariner spacecraft. They consisted of an orbiter and lander. The orbiter weighed 900 kg and the lander 600 kg. Viking 2 went into orbit about Mars on July 24, 1976. The lander touched down on August 7, 1976 at Utopia Planitia. Both landers had experiments to search for Martian micro-organism. The results of these experiments are still being debated. The landers provided detailed colour panoramic views of the Martian terrain. They also monitored the Martian weather. The orbiters mapped the planet's surface, acquiring over 52,000 images. Viking 2 orbiter was deactivate on July 25, 1978 when it ran out of altitude-control propellant. Viking 2 lander used Viking 1 orbiter as a communications relay, and had to be shut down at the same time as the orbiter on August 7, 1980.

       

       

       

       

       

       

1976 - 1980

  • Helios 2 - USA & West Germany Solar Probe - (January 16, 1976)

      Solar probe came within 43 million kilometres of the Sun.

  • Luna 24 - USSR Lunar Lander - 4,800 kg - (August 9, 1976)

      The landing site was Mare Crisium at latitude 1245' N and longitude 6012' E. Samples amounting to 170 grams were returned from the moon.

  • Voyager 2 - USA Jupiter/Saturn/Uranus/Neptune Flyby - 800 kg - (August 20, 1977)

      Voyager 2 flew by Jupiter on July 9, 1979, Saturn on August 26, 1981, Uranus on January 24, 1986, and Neptune on August 24, 1989.

  • Voyager 1 - USA Jupiter/Saturn Flyby - 800 kg - (September 5, 1977)

      Voyager 1 flew by Jupiter on March 5, 1979, and Saturn on November 12, 1980.

  • Pioneer Venus 1 - USA Venus Orbiter - 582 kg - (May 20, 1978 - October 8, 1992)

      Pioneer Venus 1 (also known as Pioneer 12) arrived at Venus on December 4, 1978. It operated continuously from 1978 until October 8, 1992, when contact was lost with the spacecraft. It was expected to burn up in the Venusian atmosphere 6 days later. The orbiter was the first spacecraft to use radar in mapping the planet's surface. The electron field experiment detected radio bursts presumably caused by lightening. No magnetic field was detected. From 1978 to 1988 the amount of sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere decreased by 10%. The reason for this decrease is unknown. Perhaps a large volcano erupted just before the orbiter arrived and the amount of sulfur dioxide slowly declined.

  • Pioneer Venus 2 - USA Venus Atmosphere Probe - 904 kg - (August 8, 1978)

      Pioneer Venus 2 (also know as Pioneer 13) carried four atmospheric probes. One large and three smaller ones. They arrived at Venus on December 9, 1978 and plunged into the atmosphere. The four probes descended through the atmosphere by parachute while the spacecraft burned up high in the atmosphere. At a height of 70-90 kilometres the probes encountered a fine haze layer. Between 10-50 kilometres there was little atmospheric convection and below 30 kilometres the atmosphere was clear.

  • International Sun-Earth Explorer 3 - USA Interplanetary Monitor - 479 kg - (August 12, 1978)

      The Internation Sun-Earth Explorer was renamed to International Cometary Explorer (ICE). On September 11, 1985 it passed through the plasma tail of comet Giacobini-Zinner.

  • Venera 11 - USSR Venus Flyby/Lander - 4,940 kg - (September 9, 1978)

      Venera 11 landed on Venus on December 25, 1978, and returned data for 95 minutes. The imaging systems failed.

  • Venera 12 - USSR Venus Flyby/Lander - 4,940 kg - (September 14, 1978)

      Venera 12 landed on December 21, 1978 and returned data for 110 minutes. Electrical discharges, probably from lightning, were recorded.

  • Solar Maximum Mission - USA Solar Probe - (February 14, 1980)

      The Solar Maximum Mission (SMM) was designed to provide coordinated observations of solar activity, in particular solar flares, during a period of maximum solar activity. The spacecraft suffered an on-orbit failure. A repair mission on STS-41C in 1984, during which shuttle astronauts rendezvoused with SMM, was successful. SMM collected data until Nov. 24, 1989, and re-entered on Dec. 2, 1989.