Exploring the Planets

A single large spacecraft hangs in the center of this gallery: a full-scale replica of a Voyager, two of which blazed a trail of discovery through the outer solar system. Like other robotic spacefarers, the Voyagers served as extensions of our senses. The data and dazzling images of planets and moons they sent back to Earth revealed each of them to be a world as real and unique as our own.

Exploring the Planets takes you on a tour of this remarkable realm, as seen and sensed by the Voyagers and other robotic explorers. Initial sections present some historical highlights and show the various means we use to study other worlds. Sections devoted to each planet form the core of the gallery.


Voyager Spacecraft

Voyager Spacecraft
The full-scale replica of the Voyager spacecraft displayed in the Exploring the Planets gallery approximates two sent to explore Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Launched on different trajectories, they passed Jupiter during March and July of 1979, and cruised on toward Saturn, Voyager 2 several months behind Voyager 1. The images of Jupiter they sent back revealed to scientists that Jupiter has rings and that Io, one of Jupiter's moons, has active volcanoes.

Surveyor III Television Camera

Surveyor 3 Television Camera
The Surveyor 3 television camera landed on the Moon as part of the Surveyor 3 mission on April 20, 1967. On November 24, 1969, the crew of Apollo 12 carried the camera back to Earth.

Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Model

Mars Exploration Rover
In mid-2003, NASA launched twin "robot geologists" to search for clues about the history of water on Mars. These surface rovers landed in January 2004, and operated long past their original 90-day mission plan. Each rover carries several science instruments designed to study a wide range of rocks and soils and each made a number of important discoveries related to the history of water on ancient Mars. Learn more about Spirit and Opportunity.

Lent by Cornell University