Background Info

A space probe is an unpiloted, unmanned device sent to explore space and gather scientific information. A space probe is launched from Earth with a set of scientific instruments and tools used to study the atmosphere and composition of space and other planets, moons, or celestial bodies. A probe may operate far out in space, or it may orbit or land on a planet or a moon. It may make a one-way journey, or it may bring samples and data back to Earth. Most probes transmit data from space by radio. There are different types of space probes because they collect different science information about very different environments. The probes must be able to withstand the various extreme environments to collect data. Humans have been sending space probes into space since the 1950s. The next generation of probes will study samples taken from comets, asteroids, and eventually Mars.



What are the three types of space probes?

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The three types of space probes are interplanetary probes, orbiters, and landers.


What does each type of space probe do?

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Interplanetary probes fly by celestial bodies. Orbiters are placed in orbit around a celestial body. Landers land on the surface of a celestial body.


What are some examples of each type of space probe?

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Examples of each type of space probe include Voyager 2 (interplanetary), Magellan (orbiter), and Pathfinder (lander).


What are two examples of data that space probes gather?

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Examples of data that space probes gather include photographs and information on the gravitational field of a celestial body.


How do scientists access the gathered data?

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Transmission antennae on the space probes send this data to Earth.

For Further Exploration


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Christina Riska, National Geographic Society

Educator Reviewer

Dianne Koval Butler, Manager, Education Outreach & Partnerships, Lockheed Martin Corporate Communications

Expert Reviewer

Buddy Nelson, Media Relations, Lockheed Martin Space Systems

National Geographic Program

Wildest Weather in the Solar System

Page Producer

Jason Wasser

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