Asteroids Exploration

NASA has sent several robotic spacecraft to encounter asteroids up close. The agency also uses space and ground-based telescopes to scan the skies for asteroids. Here are highlights from some of those missions.

Asteroids Overview

Featured NASA Asteroid Missions

  • Black, top-shaped sample return capsule sits on the desert ground with flags surrounding it.

    OSIRIS-REx/OSIRIS-APEX

    Launched on Sept. 8, 2016, NASA's OSIRIS-REx arrived at near-Earth asteroid Bennu in 2018, and collected a sample of dust and rocks. On Sept. 24, 2023, the spacecraft flew by Earth and dropped off the asteroid sample capsule. It didn't land, and has a new assignment and a new name: It's now called OSIRIS-APEX and will explore asteroid Apophis.

    Explore OSIRIS-REx/OSIRIS-APEX

  • An illustration of asteroid Psyche in space. The asteroid appears gray with reddish patches. It has several craters, including two very large ones.

    Psyche

    The Psyche spacecraft is on its way to a unique metal-rich asteroid with the same name, orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. By August 2029 the spacecraft will begin exploring asteroid Psyche, which scientists think may be the partial core of a planetesimal, a building block of an early planet.

    Explore Psyche

  • Lucy

    NASA's Lucy mission will explore a record-breaking number of asteroids in the solar system’s main asteroid belt, and Trojan asteroids that share an orbit around the Sun with Jupiter. Launched on Oct. 16, 2021, Lucy has already made discoveries. On Nov. 1, 2023, Lucy made its first asteroid encounter - an asteroid with a contact binary asteroid as its moonlet.

    Explore Lucy

  • A larger asteroid on the left, and a smaller one on the right.

    DART

    NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) – the world’s first planetary defense technology demonstration – successfully impacted asteroid Dimorphos on Sept. 27, 2022, in the agency’s first attempt to move an asteroid in space. Dimorphos is a moonlet to asteroid Didymos.

    Explore DART

  • A mostly round asteroid Vesta with large craters visible.

    Dawn

    NASA's Dawn spacecraft was launched in 2007 to explore asteroid Vesta, the second most massive body in the main asteroid belt. Dawn arrived at Vesta in 2011, then orbited and explored Vesta for over a year before leaving in September 2012 to explore dwarf planet Ceres.

    Explore Dawn

  • A close view of asteroid Gaspra in the darkness of space.

    Galileo

    NASA's Galileo mission was the first spacecraft to fly past an asteroid. It flew past asteroid Gaspra in 1991, and asteroid Ida in 1993.

    Explore Galileo

  • A close-up image of the cigar-shaped asteroid Eros with a large crater near the center.

    NEAR Shoemaker

    NASA's NEAR was the first spacecraft to orbit an asteroid, and also was the first spacecraft to land on one. Launched on Feb. 17, 1996, NEAR flew by asteroid Mathilde on June 27, 1997. Then on Feb. 14, 2000, NEAR began orbiting asteroid Eros. On Feb. 12, 2001, NEAR touched down on Eros – the first time a U.S. spacecraft was the first to land on a celestial body.

    Explore NEAR Shoemaker

  • A fuzzy image of asteroid Braille taken by the Deep Space 1 spacecraft.

    Deep Space 1

    Deep Space 1 (DS1) was designed to test new technologies for future deep space and interplanetary missions. As a bonus, the spacecraft also flew by asteroid 9969 Braille on July 29, 1999, at a range of about 16 miles (26 kilometers).

    Explore Deep Space 1

  • A composite image of the three worlds visited by NASA's Stardust spacecraft: an asteroid and two comets.

    Stardust/Stardust NExT

    NASA's Stardust was the first spacecraft to bring samples from a comet to Earth. Launched on Feb. 7, 1999, the spacecraft flew within 155 miles (250 kilometers) of comet P/Wild 2 and collected samples of dust and volatiles from the comet's coma. On Nov. 2, 2002, it flew by and imaged asteroid 5535 Annefrank. The spacecraft was given an extended mission known as New Exploration of Tempel 1 (NExT) that included a flyby of Comet Tempel 1.

    Explore Stardust/Stardust NExT

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