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Space Probes
Some space probes, such as Pioneer 10, fly out of our solar system and never come back. Other space probes, like the Hubble Space Telescope, stay in orbit around the same planet their whole life.

Space probes are made to conduct science experiments. They do not have people on them. Space probes have helped scientists get information about our solar system. Most probes are not designed to return to Earth. Some have landed on other planets! Others have flown past the planets and taken pictures of them for scientists to see. There are even some space probes that go into orbit around other planets and study them for a long time. The information they gather is used to help us understand the weather and other changes which happen on planets other than the Earth. This information is important in helping to plan other space missions such as ones to Mars and to Saturn.

During the summer of 2003, NASA launched twin robotic rovers named Spirit and Opportunity. The rovers were launched approximately 3 weeks apart, but they had the same destination. Spirit and Opportunity were headed to Mars. The rovers landed in January of 2004 on different parts of the planet. They were sent to Mars to look for evidence of water. Each rover carried scientific instruments to help scientists explore the planet from Earth. The Earth-bound scientists tell the rovers where to go and what to examine. As the rovers move across the surface, they examine soil and rocks. This information is sent back to Earth. The rovers were built to last approximately 90 days. Spirit went silent on March 22, 2010. Opportunity is still working as of November 1, 2015! And they have found lots of evidence that water was once all over the surface of Mars!

The Cassini probe to Saturn was launched on October 15, 1997. It is the biggest and most expensive probe to ever visit another planet. The Cassini spacecraft went into orbit around Saturn in July 2004. It has studied the planet, its ring system, and many of its moons for more than ten years!

The New Horizons spacecraft was launched in 2006, and flew past Pluto in the summer of 2015. It was the first spacecraft to visit that dwarf planet, and is now moving farther away from our Sun to explore more distant objects for the first time.

Satellites orbiting the Earth

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A Question

True or False

Most space probes safely return to Earth and are picked up in the Pacific Ocean.

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The Answer
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The StarChild site is a service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA/ GSFC.

StarChild Authors: The StarChild Team
StarChild Graphics & Music: Acknowledgments
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