NASA Planetary Science

NASA’s planetary science program explores the objects in our solar system to better understand its history and the distribution of life within.

An artist’s concept – composed of rusty browns, reds, and dusky purples – depicting two Artemis astronauts collecting rock samples on Mars. The scene is surrounded by a spherical frame, which resembles the planet Mars on the outside, and forms the rocky cliffs of the Jezero Delta formation on the inside. The landscape is composited with real images captured by NASA’s Perseverance Rover in June of 2022. In the right foreground an astronaut kneels, using a shovel to dig up soil samples. On left, the other astronaut stands, holding a rock sample in their left hand. The Artemis 1 launch can be seen reflected in the helmets visor. Behind them at left, a rover explores the surrounding area, leaving tracks in the sand. In the sky, a trajectory leads upward, curving around from right to left, then dividing into various paths at top. These paths represent the many past and future missions to visit the red planet. A futuristic Mars helicopter drone hovers in the sky on the left, and a satellite passes over in the upper right. The spherical scene is surrounded by space and stars.

Advancing Knowledge of Other Worlds

For decades, NASA’s planetary science program has advanced scientific understanding of our solar system in extraordinary ways, pushing the limits of spacecraft and robotic engineering design and operation.

NASA spacecraft have visited every planet and a variety of small bodies, and current and upcoming missions will bring back samples from exciting destinations, allowing detailed study and analysis back on Earth.

Using recommendations from the National Academies' Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023-2032 as our guide, NASA planetary science missions and research inform us about our solar system's origin and evolution, which will enable the expansion of humanity beyond Earth.

Jupiter is in the upper right corner with moon Io to the bottom left.
Just hours before NASA's Juno mission completed its 53rd close flyby of Jupiter on July 31, 2023, the spacecraft sped past the planet's volcanic moon Io and captured this dramatic view of both bodies in the same frame.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

Planetary Science Happenings

Wedge-shaped silver metal container holding dark gray and black rocks and regolith

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Samples Now Available to World’s Scientists

The curation team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston has released the OSIRIS-REx sample catalog detailing the small rocks and dust that scientists around the globe can request for their research.

Black-and-white panoramic landscape of Mars' rocky terrain

NASA’s Curiosity Searches for New Clues About Mars’ Ancient Water

NASA’s Curiosity rover has begun exploring a new region of Mars, one that could reveal more about when liquid water disappeared once and for all from the Red Planet’s surface.

Dimorphos

NASA Study: Asteroid’s Orbit, Shape Changed After DART Impact

After NASA’s historic Double Asteroid Redirection Test, a JPL-led study has shown that the shape of asteroid Dimorphos has changed and its orbit has shrunk.

This stylized illustration, created for the 2024 total solar eclipse, shows Earth’s Moon blocking the Sun from view and revealing the Sun’s corona, or outermost atmosphere. The Sun’s magnetic field affects charged particles in the corona, causing elaborate streamers and plumes that are depicted in this artist’s interpretation.

Total Solar Eclipse 2024: The Moon’s Moment in the Sun

On April 8, 2024, much of North America will experience a solar eclipse. The Moon’s shadow path will make landfall on Mexico’s Pacific coast, cross the U.S. from Texas to Maine, and exit North America via Newfoundland. 

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A full globe view of Mars

Exploring our solar system's inner, rocky worlds as NASA develops new missions to extend human presence beyond Earth.

A deep blue planet with wispy white clouds moving across its face.

Unlocking the secrets of distant worlds to understand more about the formation of our solar system.

Revealing the foundational materials of our solar system with asteroids, comets, meteors, and objects in the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud.

Looking for the origins of life on this planet and signs that it may exist elsewhere in the universe.

Planetary Science Missions

NASA’s robotic explorers gather data to help scientists understand how the planets formed, what triggered different evolutionary paths among planets, what processes have occurred and are active, and how Earth among the planets became habitable.

In searching for evidence of life beyond Earth, scientists use these data to map zones of habitability, studying the chemistry of unfamiliar worlds, and unveiling the processes that lead to conditions necessary for life. With this knowledge, NASA is enabling safe and effective human missions to destinations beyond low Earth orbit.

Blue spiral graphic against space background showing planetary science mission icons
NASA Planetary Science Division missions. (January 2024)
NASA

NASA missions continue to explore from the innermost planet, Mercury, to the outer reaches of the solar system, where Pluto orbits among many Kuiper Belt Objects. We have orbited and traversed the surface of Mars, finding evidence of liquid water and ancient habitable environments.

Closer to home, the Planetary Science Division uses Earth-orbiting telescopes and ground-based sensors in coordination with other organizations, including the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Air Force. These telescopes and sensors are used to survey space to detect, track, catalog, and characterize near-Earth objects (NEOs), which may pose hazards to Earth or provide destinations and resources for future exploration.

A robotic arm laden with science instruments extends toward a rocky outcrop on Mars.
NASA’s Perseverance rover puts its robotic arm to work around a rocky outcrop called “Skinner Ridge” in Mars’ Jezero Crater.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS
An illustration shows a spacecraft in silhouette above an icy moon's surface with reddish fractures. Beyond the moon's horizon, the planet Jupiter sits in the distance.
Illustration of NASA's Europa Clipper spacecraft above Jupiter's ocean moon Europa. The spacecraft will use its powerful suite of science instruments to determine if the moon has the ingredients to support life as we know it – that is, "Is Europa habitable?"
NASA/JPL-Caltech
Falcon heavy rocket carrying Psyche spacecraft emits fire and smoke as it lifts off
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket with the Psyche spacecraft onboard is launched from Launch Complex 39A, Friday, Oct. 13, 2023, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA’s Psyche spacecraft will travel to a metal-rich asteroid by the same name orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter to study it’s composition. The spacecraft also carries the agency’s Deep Space Optical Communications technology demonstration, which will test laser communications beyond the Moon.
NASA/Aubrey Gemignani
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