Exploring the Planets

November 7, 1978 – July 8, 2019

National Air and Space Museum
655 Jefferson Drive, SW
Washington, DC

2nd Floor, West Wing, Exploring the Planets, Gallery 207 Floor Plan

A single large spacecraft hangs in the center of this gallery: a full-scale replica of a Voyager, two of which blazed a trail of discovery through the outer solar system. Like other robotic spacefarers, the Voyagers served as extensions of our senses. The data and dazzling images of planets and moons they sent back to Earth revealed each of them to be a world as real and unique as our own.

Exploring the Planets takes you on a tour of this remarkable realm, as seen and sensed by the Voyagers and other robotic explorers. Initial sections present some historical highlights and show the various means we use to study other worlds. Sections devoted to each planet form the core of the gallery.

Highlights include:

  • Voyager: full-scale replica of the spacecraft that explored Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune in the 1970s and 1980s
  • A Piece of Mars? A meteorite fragment discovered in Antarctica in 1979 and thought to be from Mars
  • Surveyor 3 television camera: retrieved from the surface of the Moon by the Apollo 12 astronauts
  • 3 generations of Mars Exploration Rovers
  • Full-scale model of the New Horizons spacecraft, the first spacecraft to explore Pluto