Can You Name the NASA Missions From the Last 20 Years?

By: Tasha Moore
Image: WikiCommons by NASA

About This Quiz

NASA is everywhere! Learn just how nosey the most technologically advanced organization in the universe has been over the past 20 years. We've got the skinny on NASA missions that will wow even the wildest imagination. Identify the right missions, and we'll explain what makes these expeditions so great!

Thank goodness for the inquisitive, busy minds of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA's investigations have led to remarkable discoveries that have radically revolutionized the way today's leading physical scientists and astrophysicists view the world. Surveillance has been of chief concern. State-of-the-art satellites propel high-powered telescopes and probing instruments that continually capture and transmit images of comets, the Sun and other celestial bodies. Starting in 2009, the Kepler observatory maintained a steady, unblinking lookout for Earth-like planets that orbit 100,000 stars that resemble our Sun and are buried deep in the Milky Way galaxy. In 2011, NASA sent its Juno spacecraft to spy the solar system's biggest planet, Jupiter. Not only did Juno collect data on the planet's cloudy outersphere, but the smart spacecraft was able to collect data concerning its inner makeup.

You'll soon see how NASA has long spearheaded ecological campaigns, as well. After taking this quiz, you'll know more about "SEAC4RS" data concerning air pollutants, "CINDI's" intel concerning Earth's fragile upper atmosphere and so much more cool NASA-mission stuff!


NEEMO is the acronym for NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations. Since an underwater environment is similar to the low-gravity conditions of space, NASA periodically sends scientists and engineers, known as aquanauts, to train for space missions in the 62-foot-deep Aquarius research station.

NASA began investigating the accelerating rate of change of polar ice heights in 2003 with the ICESat mission. Then in 2009, the organization conducted airborne analysis during Operation IceBridge. In 2018, ICESat-2 was launched into space to continue this work using more advanced techniques.

Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California designed the International Space Station (ISS)-RapidScat scatterometer. The machine was the first technological instrument created to function from outside the space station.

Lockheed Martin Corporation's Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, California crafted NASA's 6,800-pound Solar Dynamics Observatory. The instrument has collected up to 1.4 terabytes of data daily, capturing an image of the solar corona every 0.75 of a second.

The Kepler observatory was named for 17th-century astronomer Johannes Kepler, who was the first to establish the laws of planetary motion. In 2013, the spacecraft ended its mission due to worn-out reaction wheels.

Juno was launched in 2011 but didn't reach Jupiter until July 2016. NASA's spacecraft was commissioned to probe Jupiter's interior makeup, evolution and cloudy atmosphere, a considerable feat as Jupiter's the largest planet in the solar system. The mission has cost $1.1 billion.

NASA's Spirit rover failed to adhere to orders from Earth because of old data that confused the machine to assume it had gathered Mars data from the year 2053, at one point. Roughly 6,000 miles away on Mars' surface, the Opportunity rover confirmed proper functionality by relaying a crater image.

During its mission, NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft unhitched an impactor, which is an 820-pound copper projectile from which Deep Impact collected data after the projectile collided with Tempel 1. The comet was measured to be roughly half the size of Manhattan.

NASA's Jason-1 has orbited at 830 miles high, monitoring the coastal regions of the ocean and taking snapshots of Earth ocean circulation every 10 days using a radar altimeter. Jason-1 allowed researchers to obtain 50% more accurate coverage than previously.

IBEX, or Interstellar Boundary Explorer, is one of the first NASA spacecraft to capture images and detail how the cold expanse of space interrelates with hot solar wind. The launch position for IBEX was the Marshall Islands of the South Pacific Ocean at the U.S. Army's Reagan testing facility.

For three years, NASA's Genesis space capsule traveled in the sun's direction but crashed into the Utah desert after covering a span of two million miles. The 420-pound capsule plummeted to Earth at a speed of 200 mph, creating a partial dent in the desert's surface on impact.

A problem with the launch rocket's rudder sensor prompted ICON's launch site switch. NASA's ICON, which stands for Ionospheric Connection Explorer, has investigated the area where space converges with the Earth's atmosphere.

John Hopkins University operated NASA's FUSE, or Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, satellite. One significant finding that scientists discovered during its mission is that the Milky Way galaxy contains much more "heavy" hydrogen than was first predicted.

NASA's Aqua satellite has been used to facilitate Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument project. When the devices were launched in 2002, AIRS was predicted to outlast Aqua satellite's fuel capacity, which was expected to deplete as of 2017.

SolAero Technologies Corp. supplied the solar panels on the four Magnetospheric Multiscale spacecraft. Their mission has been to monitor magnetic reconnection, which is a common process that occurs throughout the universe whereby fields connect and disconnect to emit an explosion of accelerating particles.

NASA's Orion mission, which involved four people in a long-range, next-generation space capsule, propelled to a height 15 times that of the International Space Station. Orion was the first craft to transport humans to such a high elevation since the Apollo space program.

The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is a high-powered gamma-ray satellite that has provided some of the most detailed views of the universe. The satellite has investigated pulsars, gamma-ray bursts and other galaxies.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe was launched on a United Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The probe's intended path was a loop beyond Venus toward the sun.

NASA's ECOSTRESS mission has measured the temperature of plant life on Earth. Scientists have used the instrument's data to help determine the amount of water that plants need and how vegetation reacts to stress.

The June 1999 launch of NASA's QuikSCAT (Quick Scatterometer) mission was delayed for 24 hours. Ultimately, the spacecraft was successfully launched from Lockheed Martin Corporation's Titan II rocket out of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Scientists at Orbital Sciences Corporation launched NASA's HETE-2, or High Energy Transient Explorer 2, satellite from a Pegasus rocket on October 9, 2000. Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers crafted the 275-pound satellite, which has monitored gamma-ray bursts.

The aim of the Luna Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, has been to retrieve data concerning surface conditions and environmental factors that affect lunar dust. When LADEE launched, it was the first mission of the Minotaur V rocket and the first use of a high-data-rate laser system.

SEAC4RS, pronounced "Seekers," is an abbreviation for Studies of Emissions, Atmospheric Composition, Clouds and Climate Coupling by Regional Surveys. The mission has analyzed the effects of air pollutants and natural emissions on the Earth's climate and atmosphere.

NASA's LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observing and Sensing Satellite) mission cost $504 million to implement. The rear of a polar crater was an intended collision target during the spacecraft's attempt for a moon landing. Scientists aimed to study the material composition of resultant collision debris.

Launched on July 15, 2000, NASA's CHAMP (Challenging Mini-satellite Payload) instrument was used to monitor Earth's magnetic field and gravity measurements over time. Data recovered from the CHAMP satellite has been used to analyze geomagnetic storms, among other phenomena. The image here is an artist's interpretation of the satellite.

The 690-pound GALEX, which stands for Galaxy Evolution Explorer, was launched into a circular orbit 420 miles above the Earth's surface. The Pegasus rocket has been used to launch various small satellites into low-Earth orbit.

WIRE, which stands for Wide-Field Infrared Explorer, is a telescope built by Utah State University. NASA constructed the telescope-carrying WIRE satellite, which spun out of control during the spacecraft's 1999 launch. Eventually, engineers managed to gain control of the machine.

RHESSI (Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager) was built by Spectrum Astro, Inc. and first launched February 5, 2002. This NASA satellite was designed to monitor solar phenomena.

First launched as Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), NASA's NEOWISE has amassed a vast image catalog of celestial objects. The sensitive telescope has been tasked with detecting Earth-bound asteroids, in particular.

NASA's $1.2 billion Terra satellite was launched by a Lockheed Martin Atlas IIAS rocket and carried five highly technological instruments, including devices from Japan and Canada. NASA described the project as the "flagship" of the company's Earth Observing System.

PACE, or Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem, is the first mission to use DTN capabilities transfer data in a similar way as the internet. The PACE mission has utilized optical instruments to delineate the type and amount of phytoplankton available in the ocean.

Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) launched on April 28, 2006, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. CALIPSO has offered a 3-D view of Earth's clouds and airborne particles known as aerosols.

NASA's ARCTAS mission has helped scientists to better understand how air pollution affects climate change in the Arctic region. The ARCTAS acronym stands for Arctic Research of the Composition of the Troposphere from Aircraft and Satellites.

Launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in 2000, the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite was built by Swales Aerospace and packaged with less-expensive earth-imaging technology than that of previous satellites. The EO-1 has operated years beyond its intended duration of one year.

NASA's Herschel infrared spacecraft technology can detect light that the human eye cannot see. In 2014, scientists using the observatory discovered the first trace of water vapor on Ceres, the largest celestial mass of the asteroid belt.

Information collected during NASA's Coupled Ion Neutral Dynamics Investigation mission, or CINDI, has led investigators to determine that the border between space and the Earth's upper atmosphere has moved to drastically low altitudes. The CINDI project was launched aboard C/NOFS in April 2008.

The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, otherwise known as WMAP, has increased the accuracy of scientific estimates, including the density of non-atomic matter, the density of atoms and the age of the universe.

Dartmouth's Robyn Millan was the principal investigator of the NASA-funded mission dubbed BARREL, or "Balloon Array for Radiation-belt Relativistic Electron Losses." Millan has used 40 high-altitude balloons to retrieve information concerning the Van Allen Belts discovered in 1958.

NASA outfitted a Delta 2 rocket with nine fuel boosters for the Dawn mission, which launched in 2007. The goal has been to study the asteroids Vesta in 2011 and Ceres in 2015, both positioned between Jupiter and Mars.

NASA's AIM (Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere) mission was the first endeavor dedicated to investigating peculiar ice clouds of the planet's polar zones that rim the border of space. The clouds of interest are "noctilucent," meaning they are observable from Earth only at night.

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