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The Planets -- Investigating Our Planetary Family Tree: A Family Affair
Featured Missions


Stardust-NExT
Illustration of the Stardust Spacecraft approaching a comet
Stardust-NExT is en route to study its second comet -- Tempel 1.


On January 15, 2006, the Stardust spacecraft made a rendezvous with Comet Wild 2, then approached Earth and jettisoned the capsule containing comet particles, which landed safely in Utah and are being studied. On its extended mission, this spacecraft visited to Comet Tempel 1 on February 14, 2011.

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MESSENGER
Illustration of the MESSENGER spacecraft
MESSENGER will be the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.



To become the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury, MESSENGER followed a path through the inner solar system, including one flyby of Earth, two flybys of Venus, and three flybys of Mercury. MESSENGER went into orbit around Mercury on March 18, 2011. This impressive journey is returning the first new spacecraft data from Mercury since the Mariner 10 mission over 30 years ago.

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Cassini
Illustration of the Cassini spacecraft
Cassini has been orbiting Saturn since 2004.


Cassini launched to Saturn in October 1997, and has been in orbit around the ringed planet since 2004. On its way, it flew past Venus, Earth and Jupiter. Its mission to study Saturn, its moons and rings has been extended to 2017.

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Last Updated: 16 Apr 2014