Over the last few decades, space research has accomplished great heights. The innovations like the use of solar panels, radioactive power sources, and many more have allowed space agencies across the globe to take up various ambitious space missions. Let’s see some of the most advanced space programs of all time.
Apollo 11 was the first and to date only spacecraft to take a man to the Moon. Apollo 11 was composed of two sections. The first was the lunar module and the second was the command module. The command module orbited around the Moon with Micheal Collins onboard and the Lunar module landed on the Moon with astronauts Niel Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Apollo 11 was also the first spacecraft to bring back celestial stuff from the Moon which greatly advanced our scientific understanding of our natural satellite. It was further sent back and it completed five successful missions to the Moon.
Curiosity is a rover launched by NASA on 26th November 2011 toward Mars. It entered the Martian atmosphere and then successfully landed on the surface of Mars in August 2012. Curiosity rover was equipped with the most expensive and most advanced scientific instruments to analyze the Martian land. The goals of the mission are to study whether Mars ever has supported life, any availability of water on the Martian surface, study its climate, and its geology. It found that about 4.2 billion years ago, Mars was more habitual and had liquid water. The curiosity rover was initially a 2-year mission on Mars but in December 2012 it was extended for an indefinite time. As of March 2022, Curiosity is still operational and has marked 3513 days on Mars since its landing.
Venera probes mission is one of the most successful missions of the Russian space agency. Russia launched 23 probes to Venus. Among these, 10 probes landed on the Venusian surface, while thirteen others successfully entered the atmosphere of the planet. As Venus is the hottest planet in our solar system, each probe that landed and operated for 2 hours was a great technical achievement. Venera is the first man-made device to enter the atmosphere of another planet, the first device to make a soft landing on the surface of another planet, the first to send back pictures from the surface of another planet, and the first to record sounds on another planet. It is also the first device to perform high-resolution radar mapping scans.
NASA’s Viking probe 1 is the first human-made device to successfully land on the red planet i.e. Mars. It was launched in August 1975. Viking probe sent the first-ever color picture of the Martian surface. Viking consisted of a Lander and an Orbiter. The orbiter of Viking consisted of some advanced scientific equipment like 2 videocon cameras for imaging, an infrared spectrometer for water vapor mapping, and infrared radiometers for thermal mapping. Viking was the longest-operated Mars surface mission until the record was broken by Opportunity rower in 2010.
Cassini-Huygens probe is the NASA- ESA joint mission launched in 1997. It flew by the largest planet in our solar system (Jupiter) and reached its destination Saturn in 2004. Cassini orbited Saturn and sent back amazing images of the rings, moons, and atmosphere of Saturn. While Huygen separated from Cassini and landed on one of the Titan, which is one of the moons of Saturn. Huygen sent back images of Titan’s surface. As it was powered by isotope plutonium-238, the mission was extended till 2017 to get more data.
New Horizons was launched in 2016 by NASA on a flyby mission to Pluto. It was the fastest probe to leave Earth’s orbit until Nasa’s Parker Solar Probe. On the way to Pluto, New Horizon also studied Jupiter and its moons. In January 2015 it began its approach to Pluto. In July 2015 it flew 12500km above Pluto and become the first spacecraft to explore the dwarf planet Pluto.
NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe was a spacecraft that measured the temperature differences across the sky in the cosmic microwave background. It was launched in 2001 in Florida and was switched off in 2010. The research done through WMAP provided information about cosmology. The information from WMAP plays a key role in the current model of cosmology.
The main goal of Voyager mission was to explore Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus. Voyager probes receive power from 3 radioisotope thermoelectric generators and a plutonium-238 to provide continual energy. After the exploration of the planets, the Voyager probes were still operational and hence the mission was extended for an indefinite time. Now the mission includes the study of the edge of the solar system, the boundary into interstellar space. Launched in 1977 Voyager 1 and 2 are operating for 44 years now.
NASA’s pioneer mission had the purpose of learning about the outer reaches of the solar system. Pioneer 10 and 11 contained several advanced technical instruments. Charged particle instruments to measure the Sun’s influence, ultraviolet photometers are some of the instruments among them. At the time of launch, these were the most scientifically advanced spacecraft to venture into the solar system.
Mangalyaan was launched on 5th November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organization. It is India’s first interplanetary mission. It entered the Martian orbit on 24th September 2014 and is orbiting the red planet since then. It is known to be the cheapest Mars mission. Mangalyaan carriers five advanced scientific Equipment.