Suggested Searches


Unlocking the Mysteries of the Solar System

NASA is helping humanity answer profound questions about the nature of the solar system and our place in it. How did the solar system form and evolve? What are the hazards to Earth? Is there life out there? These are the questions we seek to answer, as we work to expand the frontiers of knowledge and opportunity in space.

Through the Planetary Missions Program, we’re sending a steady cadence of robotic spacecraft to the planets, moons and smaller bodies that make up our galactic neighborhood. Our fleet of space robots is out there right now exploring destinations from the innermost planet to the farthest reaches of our Sun’s influence.

Solar System

About the Program Office

In 2014, NASA formed the Planetary Missions Program Office to bring the Discovery, New Frontiers and Solar System Exploration missions into a common management system. The missions in each series are independent, with their own unique science goals. Our main job is to help them succeed.

We provide oversight and insight throughout the life of each mission. We ensure that missions meet their goals safely and make wise use of NASA’s investments. We also advocate for the use of new technology to improve performance. And we strive to broaden university, industry and public participation in NASA’s planetary missions.

Our office is located at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. We’re part of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

About Our Flight Programs

We’re overseeing a fleet of missions led by NASA and scientists around the world. The missions vary in size, cost and complexity. Our programs also include “missions of opportunity” that enable the U.S. science community to participate in non-NASA missions or to use existing NASA spacecraft for a new mission.


Discovery is a series of small planetary missions selected and funded by NASA through open, peer-reviewed competition. Discovery missions are led by a principal investigator, who assembles a team of scientists and engineers, to address key science questions about the solar system.

•    Established in 1992
•    $450 million cost-cap per mission excluding launch vehicle mission operations, data analysis or partner contributions
•    Launch every 36 months

New Frontiers

New Frontiers is a series of mid-size planetary missions that fills the gap between small and relatively inexpensive Discovery missions and the much larger and more costly flagship missions. New Frontiers missions are led by a principal investigator and competitively selected like Discovery missions, but New Frontiers missions take on high-priority goals established by the planetary science community.

•    Established in 2003
•    $850 million cost-cap per mission excluding launch vehicle, mission operations, data analysis or partner contributions
•    Launch every 60 months

Solar System Exploration

Solar System Exploration missions vary in scope — from small, focused investigations to large, strategic missions of national importance. These include our “flagship” missions to answer the most compelling and challenging questions about our solar system. Because of their complexity, NASA usually assigns these missions directly to a NASA center or other implementing organization.