NASA is operating about 60 Science missions with over 70 spacecraft, most of which involve collaboration with international partners or other U.S. agencies. Work on over 40 missions in formulation and development continues.
Suborbital flights using aircraft, sounding rockets, and balloons are ongoing, as are more than 3,000 competitively selected research awards to scientists located at universities, NASA field Centers, industry, and other government agencies.
On December 9, 2016, NASA released an Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for the next New Frontiers mission. Two new Discovery missions (Lucy and Psyche) are now in formulation, after NASA selected them on January 4, 2018.


In Formulation

Psyche will spend 20 months orbiting 16 Psyche in four different orbital periods.

PSYCHE @ Metal Asteroid orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter
KDP-C: May 2019 - KDP-D: Jan 2021 - Launch: Jul 2022


In Formulation

The Lucy mission is conducting preliminary design activities in 2017.
KDP-C: Dec 2018 - KDP-D: Aug 2020 - Launch: Oct 2021

From 2027 to 2033, LUCY will explore six Jupiter Trojan asteroids.


Mars Atmospheric and Volatile EvolutioN

Active Mission

Give insight into the history of Mars' atmosphere and climate, liquid water and planetary habitability by determining how volatiles from the Martian atmosphere have escaped into space over time.

Launch: 18 Nov 2013 - Mars Orbit insertion: 21 Sep 2014.

Mission Extended at Ceres

DAWN: First to Explore a Dwarf Planet

Dawn is designed to study the conditions and processes of the solar system's earliest epoch by investigating in detail two of the largest protoplanets remaining intact since their formations.
The orbiter targeted the giant asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres, two main asteroid belt worlds that followed very differently evolutionary paths.
Dawn comprehensively mapped Vesta, revealing an exotic and diverse protoplanet.
Dawn spacecraft entered into its first science orbit at Ceres on 23 April 2015.
Launch: 27 Sep 2007 - Arrival at Vesta: 16 Jul 2011 - Departure from Vesta: 5 Sep 2012.

Mission Extended

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) was sent to the Moon to make high-resolution maps of the composition of the lunar surface and seek out potential sources of water-ice that may exist inthe bottom of dark polar craters. The spacecraft is seeking potential landing sites and resources for future human exploration of the Moon. LRO was launched with the LCROSS lunar impact mission.

Lauch: 18 Jun 2009 - Arrival in Lunar Orbit: 23 Jun 2009.
LCROSS launch: 18 JUN 2009 - CENTAUR IMPACT: 9 OCT 2009

Missions Extended... until the Crash!


Sept 15, 2017, Cassini was in its extended operations phase in orbit around Saturn, that altered our understanding of the planet, its famous rings, magnetosphere, icy satellites, and particularly the moons titan and Enceladus.
Cassini completed its Prime Mission in July 2008, completed its Equinox Extended Mission in July 2010, and began the Solstice Extended Mission in October 2010.
This Flagship Mission had made its Grand finale Course in September 2017 when it was launched into the atmosphere of Saturn. 

Mission Extended

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter(MRO)

Now in its fourth mission extension after a two-year prime mission, the orbiter and its suite of powerful instruments are investigating seasonal and longer-term changes on the surface of Mars.
Launch: 12 Aug 2005 - Science Mission:: 1 Mar 2006 - 1 Jul 2008 -Mars Orbit Insertion: 10 Mar 2006.

Data Rights, Safety, Restricted Sample Return to Earth... for Sciences Outcomes

Japan Hayabusa ... and More

Safety is the freedom from those conditions that can cause death, injury, occupational illness, damage to or loss of equipment or property, or damage to the environment. NASA’s safety priority is to protect: (1) the public, (2) astronauts and pilots, (3) the NASA workforce (including NASA employees working under NASA instruments), and (4) high-value equipment and property.
One of NASA’s strategic goals is to “Expand the frontiers of knowledge, capability, and opportunity in space.”
The NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is addressing this strategic goal through Strategic Objective 1.5: Ascertain the content, origin, and evolution of the solar system and the potential for life elsewhere.

Restricted Sample Return

If a mission plans on returning samples to the Earth from a Solar System body deemed by scientific opinion to potentially harbor indigenous life, a safety approval process with the Executive Office of the President will be necessary (see NPR 8020.12D). Specific planetary protection requirements for each planned mission will be determined by the NASA Planetary Protection Officer, in accordance NPR 8020.12D, and consistent with the policy and guidelines of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), recommendations of the Space Studies Board of the National Research Council (NRC), and advice from the NASA Advisory Council. The direct or indirect environmental effects that may be associated with sample return will have to be documented and the decision to approve the sample return will rest with the NASA Administrator and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Proposers are encouraged to review the Sample Return Primer and Handbook found in the Program Library. Additional constraints on Restricted Earth Return missions are outlined in NPR 8020.12D.
Discovery Research gives the research community access to samples and data and allows research to continue for many years after mission completion. Scientists in the U.S. planetary science community submit research proposals that NASA selects through competitive peer review.
Discovery Research also funds the analysis of samples returned to the Earth by the Stardust and Genesis missions as well as the development of new analysis techniques for samples returned by future missions.

Recent Achievements

The Laboratory Analysis of Returned Samples (LARS) project successfully commissioned the new CHILI instrument, supported by the LARS program over the last five to six years for work on returned samples. CHILI (the CHicago Instrument for Laser Ionization) at the University of Chicago will measure isotopic and elemental analyses with unprecedented spatial resolution, sensitivity, and control of isobaric interferences. It uses a focused gallium ion beam to sputter atoms or a focused laser to thermally evaporated atoms from a surface, resonantly ionize them with a laser, and mass-analyze them with a time-of-flight mass spectrometer. This instrument enabled the first measurements of all of the isotopes of Fe and Ni simultaneously in pre-solar SiC (Trappitsch et al., 2016). Applications to returned samples from Stardust and Genesis are underway and will continue with Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx in coming years.

Example of Japan's Hayabusa's mission to the asteroid Itokawa

The primary scientific objective of the Hayabusa (formerly Muses-C) mission was to collect a surface sample of material from the small (550 x 180 meter) asteroid 25143 Itokawa (1998 SF36) and return it to Earth for analysis.
The spacecraft was launched on 9 May 2003 at 04:29:25 UT on an M-5 solid fuel booster from the Kagoshima launch center. 
The re-entry capsule was detached from the main spacecraft at a distance of about 300,000 to 400,000 km from the Earth, and the capsule coasted on a ballistic trajectory, re-entering the Earth's atmosphere on 13 June 2010. 

Hayabusa (formerly Muses-C) mission is to collect a surface sample of material from the small (550 x 180 meter) asteroid 25143 Itokawa (1998 SF36)

Hayabusa over Itokawa

Re-entry capsule


After Touchdown on Earth 

 Scientifics analysis the sample

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid
Sample Return Mission

The Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, spacecraft is the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth. 

The mission launched on 8 September 2016 and is en route to the primitive, near Earth asteroid Bennu. The spacecraft will reach Bennu in 2018. 

Once within three miles of the asteroid, the spacecraft will begin more than a year of comprehensive surface mapping. The science team then will pick a location from where the spacecraft's arm will take a sample. The spacecraft gradually will move closer to the site, and the arm will extend to collect more than two ounces of material for return to Earth in 2023. 

Data Rights

All science data returned from investigations led by NASA-funded PIs will be made available to the public as rapidly as possible. Following a short latency period, all data will be made available to the user community, to the extent consistent with the approved data management plan and the data rights clause incorporated into the award instrument. There is no period of exclusive access permitted. The principal investigator proposes and justifies any data product latency period for standard data products listed in the proposal, based primarily on the time required to produce, quality check, and validate the products. Barring exceptional circumstances, data product latency may not exceed six months.

Delivery of Data to Archive

Mission data will be made fully available to the public by the investigator team through a NASA-approved data archive (e.g., the Planetary Data System, Atmospheric Data Center, High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center, Space Physics Data Facility, etc.), in a readily usable form, in the minimum time necessary but, barring exceptional circumstances, within six months following its collection. The PI will be responsible for collecting the scientific, engineering, and ancillary information necessary to validate and calibrate the data prior to delivery to the archive.
Archival data products will include low-level (raw) data, high-level (processed) data, and derived data products. Archival data products will also include preflight and in-flight radiometric and geometric calibration data, ancillary and/or engineering data needed or simply useful for the full understanding of the experiment, observation geometry data (such as that supplied by valid SPICE (spacecraft, planet, instrument, C-matrix, events) kernels related to spacecraft, instrument, and body information). Complete documentation of the experiment, the instrument and the archived data is also necessary. If derived data products, such as maps, are to be considered a result of the proposed experiment, these must also be archived with suitable documentation. In some cases the inclusion of software in an archive may be appropriate, although this can present special problems and should be discussed with the relevant archive.
The PI will be responsible for generating data products that are documented, validated, and calibrated in physical units that are readily usable by the scientific community at large.


The process whereby proposed investigations are classified into four categories synopsized here as Category I (recommended for acceptance); Category II (recommended for acceptance but at a lower priority than Category I proposals); Category III (sound investigations requiring further development); Category IV (not recommended).

Co-Investigator (Co-I)

An investigator who plays a necessary role in the proposed investigation and whose services are either funded by NASA or are contributed by his/her employer. A NASA employee can participate as a Co-I on an investigation proposed by a private organization.

Complete spaceflight mission

A science investigation requiring an Earth-orbiting, near-Earth, or deep-space mission, that encompasses all appropriate mission phases from project initiation (Phase A) through mission operations (Phase E) and spacecraft disposal (Phase F), including the analysis and publication of data in the peer reviewed scientific literature, delivery of the data to an appropriate NASA data archive, and, if applicable, extended mission operations or other science enhancements.


Activities or effort aimed at the generation of new knowledge. NASA-sponsored investigations generally concern the generation and analysis of data obtained through measurement of space phenomena or Earth phenomena using spaceflight hardware developed and operated for that purpose.

Investigation Team

The group of scientists, engineers, and other professionals implementing an investigation.

Principal Investigator (PI)

The person who conceives of an investigation and leads implementation of it. The PI is invested by NASA with primary responsibility for implementing and executing selected investigations. A NASA employee can participate as a PI only on a Government-proposed investigation.

Total Mission Cost

The PI-Managed Mission Cost plus any Student Collaboration costs up to the student collaboration incentive, plus any additional costs that are contributed or provided in any way other than through the Program sponsoring the AO.

Spacecraft Integration, Assembly, and Test (IAT)

Spacecraft integration, assembly and test is the process of integrating all spacecraft subsystems and payloads into a fully tested, operational satellite system. The total cost of IAT for a satellite includes research/requirements specification, design and scheduling analysis of IAT procedures, ground support equipment, systems test and evaluation, and test data analyses. Typical satellite system tests include thermal vacuum, thermal cycle, electrical and mechanical functional, acoustic, vibration, electromagnetic compatibility/interference, and pyroshock.
Credit: FY 2018 Budget Request Executive Summary, Explanation of Budget Tables and Schedules (NASA)
For further details, go to:
. NASA Procedural Requirement 7120.5E NASA Space Flight Program and Project Management Requirements:
. NASA Procedural Requirement NPR 7123.1B - NASA Systems Engineering Processes and Requirements: .
. NASA Launch Services Web site:


That Some Spacecrafts Missions For Planetary Science Goals - Future, Active & Historical Missions.


Active Mission

The Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, spacecraft is the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth.

 Launched September 2016, the Spacecraft is en route to the primitive, near Earth asteroid Bennu, while will be reach in 2018. Two ounces of material for return to Earth in 2023. 

New Horizons

Mission to the Dwarf Planet Pluto

Mission Extended

The fastest spacecraft ever launched, New Horizons has traveled more time and distance - more than nine years and three billion miles - than any space mission in history to reach its primary target.

Pluto, the largest known body in the Kuiper Belt
Launch: 19 Jan 2006 - Jupiter Flyby:
28 Feb 2007 - Pluto Closest Approach14 Jul 2015.


Mission @ Asteroid 1999 JU3

Active Mission

Launching in 2014, Hayabusa 2 will be Japan's second asteroid sample-return mission.
Hayabusa-2 has been launched in Dec 2014, will arrive at Asteroid Jun 1, 2018, and, finally, will bring back Samples to Earth, Dec 1, 2020.


Mission in Development

BepiColombo @ Mercury
An Eupoeen Space Agency (ESA) mission in cooperation with Japan. 
The Launch is scheduled for the Oct 1, 2018.


In 2017, the project entered its preliminary design phase.

The Europa Clipper mission passed its KDP-B gate review in February 2017 and is in the preliminary design and technology completion phase (Phase B).
The Europa Clipper mission will advance from Phase B (preliminary design and technology completion) to Phase C (final design and fabrication) at the beginning of FY 2019. This flagship-class mission

The Europa Clipper mission will conduct a detailed reconnaissance of Jupiter's moon Europa to see whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life. To do so, it will spend four years in orbit around Jupiter, conducting its scientific observations by completing multiple close fly-bys of Europa, minimizing the spacecraft's exposure to the harsh radiation environment near Europa.
NASA will like Launched This mission the 1 Jan 2025 and, Finished it the 1 Jan 2030.

InSight - Lander on Mars

Mission in Development

The mission will investigate fundamental issues of terrestrial planet formation and evolution with a study of the deep interior of Mars.
NASA plans to launch InSight in May 2018, landing on Mars in November 2018.
May 2018
June 2018
Mars Landing
Nov 2018
End of Prime Mission
Nov 2020
"NASA started implementation of the SEIS instrument repairs and has so far demonstrated a validation and qualification of the new design."

Mission Extended... until Death

Voyager 1 & 2

Voyager 1 and 2 were designed to take advantage of a rare planetary alignment to explore the outer solar system. Voyager 2 targeted Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Like it's sister spacecraft, Voyager 2 also was designed to study the edge of our solar system beyond the planets.
Voyager 1 targeted Jupiter and Saturn before continuing on to chart the far edges of our solar system.

Mission Critical Design Review (CDR): Mar 2010 - Rebaseline/KDP-C Amendment: Sep 2011 - System Integration Review (SIR): Oct 2017 - Launch: Oct 2018 - Begin Phase E: Apr 2019 - End of Prime Mission: Apr 2024

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)

In Development

The 6.5-meter primary mirror consists of 18 actively controlled segments. A multilayer sunshield the size of a tennis court passively cools the mirror, telescope optics, and instruments to about 40 Kelvin. Webb will launch in 2018 from Kourou, French Guiana on an Ariane 5 rocket, contributed by the European Space Agency (ESA). Webb will operate in deep space about one million miles from Earth.

JWST will study every phase in the History of our Universe.
JWST will be launched in Jan 2018. Its End of Solar System Mission will be in Jan 2025.