Jules Verne Voyager: Planetary Missions


Planetary Missions Index:

For more information about our Voyager map tool, contact:   Lou Estey   (louunavco.org)
Last modified: 29 Apr 2016

Overview     Voyager can be used to find the sites of manned landings on the Moon, and other unmanned landings, impacts, crashes, instrumentation, etc. on the Moon, Venus, Mars, and Titan:

  • Moon
    • USSR Luna missions (including Lunokhod rovers)
    • USA Ranger impact sites
    • USA Surveyor landers
    • USA Apollo-Saturn S-IVB stage impact sites
    • USA Apollo LM descent stages (manned landing sites)
    • USA Apollo Lunar Ranging Retroreflectors (LRRR)
    • USA Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Packages (ALSEP)
    • USA Apollo LM ascent stage de-orbit impact sites
    • USA Lunar Prospector de-orbit impact site
    • ESA SMART-1 de-orbit impact site
    • India Chandrayaan-1/Moon Impact Probe (MIP) de-orbit impact site
    • China Chang'e-1 de-orbit impact site
    • Japan Kaguya de-orbit impact site
    • USA LCROSS (Centaur and SSC) de-orbit impact sites
  • Venus
    • USSR Venera missions
    • USA Pioneer Venus probes
    • USSR Vega lander sites
  • Mars
    • USSR Mars lander missions
    • USA Viking lander missions
    • USA Mars Pathfinder site (including Sojourner rover)
    • USA Mars Polar Lander impact/landing site
    • USA Deep Space 2 impact probe sites
    • ESA/UK Beagle 2 targeted landing site
    • USA MER-A and -B (Spirit and Opportunity) landing sites
    • USA Phoenix landing site
  • Titan
    • ESA Cassini-Huygens probe landing site

or, in other words, every significant object of human origin that found its way by one means or another to the surface of one of these worlds. (Note: USSR is listed first in the above lists since USSR craft were the first to reach the surface of these worlds. The gross mission order for each world above is roughly chronological.)


Voyager metadata on the missions     Currently, there are three types of metadata that can be displayed on Voyager about each of these missions:

  • country or agency which launched the mission
    • USA = cyan coordinate dot on map
    • USSR = magenta coordinate star on map
    • ESA = green coordinate triangle on map
    • India = dark blue coordinate dot on map
    • China = yellow coordinate star on map
    • Japan = red coordinate dot on map
  • name of mission or mission component
  • date of contact with the surface (expect for Apollo LRRR and ALSEP instrumentation)

One is tempted at first to distinguish between successful vs. unsuccessful missions, or landings vs. impacts, or some other criteria. But you rapidly realize that this would "flavor" the presentation with judgemental divisions. Consider, for example:

  • Venera 11 and 12 were successful landings on Venus, but didn't get to return any pictures of the surface as planned (the lens caps failed to pop off and melted over the lens), but other experiments returned valuable data.
  • The "Day" probe of Pioneer Venus, one of four atmospheric probes in the mission, survived a rough impact onto the surface and continued to transmit data for more than another 50 minutes — though none of these probes were designed for landing on the surface. (The "Night" probe survived for 2 seconds on the surface; the other two probes died upon landing/impacting.)
  • The Mars Polar Lander was lost (position shown is JPL's best guestimate as to were it landed or crashed if it wasn't lost in the atmosphere of Mars), but this was a difficult and first time attempt to land something that close to a martian pole (and perhaps it did land, but just tumbled down a slope).
  • The unmanned Apollo LM ascent and S-IVB stages after use were intentionally impacted to selected positions (in later Apollo missions, primarily to provide some known sources for the seismic stations in the ALSEPs)
  • The Deep Space 2 probes Amundsen and Scott were intended as impact penetrators — another first attempt — but, alas, were never heard from again.
  • The successful Mars Pathfinder/Sojourner and MER missions arrived by what could be described as (perhaps) soft balloon impact.

Consequently, all sites are given equal relevance: we humans gave it a try — and usually succeeded.


Information sources     Many sources were perused for coordinates, and many are only approximate. The main Web source used for coordinates was National Space Science Data Center at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, though coordinates from other sources were sometimes used:

Coordinates at NSSDC/GSFC for the Apollo landing sites were updated 1 Sept 2000. Coordinates for the impact sites of the Apollo LM ascent and the S-IVB stages were derived from the Manned Space Flight Network tracking data referenced to a mean spherical surface model of the Moon and may differ by several kilometers from coordinates based on lunar surface features; no attempt was made here to correct the positions based on more recent shape models of the Moon.


Missing in action     You will notice that a few missions are missing, i.e. reliable coordinates could not be found. They are "missing in action", so to speak:

  • USA Ranger 4: impact, 26 Apr 1962
  • USA Ranger 6: impact on eastern edge of Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility), 2 Feb 1964
  • USSR Luna 5: impact on Mare Nubium (Sea of Clouds), 9 May 1965
  • USSR Luna 7: impact on Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms), 4 Oct 1965
  • USSR Luna 8: impact on Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms), 3 Dec 1965
  • USSR Venera 3: first man-made object to reach the surface of another planet, 27 Feb 1966
  • USA Surveyor 2: impact SE of Copernicus, 22 Sept 1966
  • USSR Venera 4: parachuted descent to Venus, 18 Oct 1967 (see sources above)
  • USSR Venera 5: parachuted descent to night-side of Venus, 16 May 1969 (see sources above)
  • USSR Venera 6: like Venera 5, 17 May 1969 (see sources above)
  • USA Apollo 10 LM descent stage: lunar impact on or after 23 May 1969 (ascent stage in heliocentric orbit, see NSSDC summary of Apollo 10: The tanks of the ascent stage had a large amount of extra fuel since the Apollo 10 LM didn't land and only approached to within 14 km of the lunar surface. The ascent stage was remotely fired after returning to the CM and being jettisoned, thus putting it into solar orbit. This action presumably allowed the engines to fire to completion to test full thrust and engine behavior. It may be that the only way to reliably test a full burn was to put the ascent stage into heliocentric orbit rather than crashing it into the Moon. Thanks to Dr. David Williams at NSSDC/GSFS for supplying this bit of Apollo trivia.)
  • USA Apollo 11 LM ascent stage: lunar impact on or after 21 July 1969
  • USSR Venera 7: first man-made object to return data after landing on another planet, 15 Dec 1970 (see sources above)
  • USA Apollo 16 LM ascent stage: lunar impact on or after 23 Apr 1972
  • USSR Vega 1 balloon: deployed with lander at Venus 11 June 1985 enroute to Comet Halley
  • USSR Vega 2 balloon: deployed with lander at Venus 15 June 1985 enroute to Comet Halley

If you have information about the approximate resting places of these missions, or other missions that are not listed, please let us know.


Miscellaneous     One site coordinate is somewhat fabricated, that of Luna 23, which landed on Mare Crisium (Sea of Crises). One Web page, Mark Wade's Encyclopedia Astronautica page on the Luna missions, describes the location as being "several hundred meters away" from that of Luna 24. This almost certainly is a typographical error; Luna 23 and 24 are probably separated by one or two hundred kilometers. The position shown is roughly that shown in the National Geographic Society Altas (though there is no reason to suspect that NGS has the location right for Luna 23, given the NGS locations of some of the other Luna missions), though Luna 23 is probably somewhere in the southern half of Mare Crisium, given that Luna 24 was basically a mission retry of Luna 23 and fairly reliable coordinates for Luna 24 are known. Further help in pinning down the location of Luna 23 relative to Luna 24 would be appreciated.

Also on the Voyager Moon map, the site of Surveyor 3 is not shown as 2.94°S 336.66°E, as listed at NSSDC/GSFS, since this places the site too far to the NNE from the Apollo 12 LM descent stage; rather it is shown about 160 m to the SE of the descent stage (see e.g. Apollo 12 tranverse at 3.016°S 336.582°E, this position being more consistent with recent IAU Mean Earth Polar Axis coordinate system (see Apollo landing sites at NSSDC) used for the updated Apollo positions.

Not shown on the Voyager Venus map is the approximate coordinate of the Pioneer Venus bus — the portion that delivered the four Pioneer Venus atmospheric probes — since the bus probably more or less burned up in the atmosphere. If any parts of it did make their way to the surface of Venus, they are at roughly 37.9°S 290.9°E.

Finally, you will notice that only the S-IVB stages for Apollo 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 were impacted on the Moon. The other S-IVBs that were in lunar missions (e.g. Apollo 8, 10, 11, and 12) went into geocentric or heliocentric orbit — at least for a while. For more on the tale of near-Earth object J002E2, believed to be the S-IVB of Apollo 12, and how it went into solar orbit, came back into Earth orbit (late April/early May 2002), and will go back into solar orbit (probably early June 2003) passively using the L1 Lagrange portal of the Earth-Sun system), see e.g. http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/j002e3a.html, http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/space_junk_020919.html, and other sites discussing J002E2 — including how it may one day finally impact on the Moon or reenter into the Earth's atmosphere.


Comments, questions, problems about Jules Verne Voyager? Send mail to   Lou Estey   (louunavco.org)

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Jules Verne Voyager: Planetary Missions last modified on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 17:14 UTC
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