Space Probes

11.26 - Understand the advantages and disadvantages of the major types of space probe:
a) fly-by
b) orbiter
c) impactor
d) lander

11.27 - Know an example of each type of space probe, including target body and major discoveries, including:
a) fly-by – New Horizons (Outer Solar System)
b) orbiter – Juno (Jupiter) or Dawn (asteroids Vesta and Ceres)
c) impactor – Deep Impact (comet Tempel 1)
d) lander – Philae (comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko)

Space probes have several advantages over manned spaceflight. They can go further away from Earth and can travel for longer periods. They do not need extra room for life support.

It is the tools that they carry on them that give us so much information about objects in the Solar System.

Here are just a few missions and the tools they bring with them.

  • Probes such as those carried by Cassini- Huygens onto Moons such as Titan, to measure atmosphere, beam back images, record sounds etc.
  • Spectrometers to record chemical composition of planets (or of material around them such as Saturn's rings) e.g. Cassini-Huygens.
  • Missions to capture comet material and send back to Earth for analysis e.g. Stardust.
  • Rovers that explore surface and can examine rocks and other finds e.g. Mars Exploration Rovers.
  • Landers that can examine and run basic experiments and beam back results to Earth e.g. Phoenix (Mars).
  • Radar probes that can show geographical features underneath the clouds e.g. Magellan.