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Solar System Explored: Today's Deep-Space Spacecraft (Gallery)

Artist's Impression of Planck Spacecraft

ESA/C. Carreau

Artist's impression of the European Space Agency's Planck spacecraft. Planck's main goal is to study the Cosmic Microwave Background — the relic radiation left over from the Big Bang.

Progress of China's Chang'e 2 Moon Probe

CSLEP

This graphic from the China Lunar Exploration Program shows the progress of China's Chang'e 2 moon probe from its lunar orbit out to the L2 Lagrange point 1.5 million km from Earth.

Deep Impact's Comet Tempel 1 Visit

Ball Aerospace.

NASA's Deep Impact probe gave scientists their first close-up look at the interior of a comet when it hit. Here, an artist illustrates the 2005 encounter.

Europe's Mars Express Probe

ESA.

An artist's conception of the European Space Agency's Mars Express craft.

Mars Odyssey Spacecraft at Mars

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft passes above Mars' south pole in this artist's concept illustration. The spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since October 24, 2001. The spacecraft serves as a vital relay for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. [Related: Mars Rover Curiosity Landing Coverage]

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

NASA/JPL/Corby Waste

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter passes over the Red Planet's south polar region in this artist's concept illustration.

NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity

NASA / JPL-Caltech

During its 84th and 85th days (sols) on Mars in late 2012, NASA's huge Mars rover Curiosity snapped this newest mosaic self-portrait.

Opportunity Rover Studies Martian Rock

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Opportunity Mars rover used its front hazard-avoidance camera to take this picture showing the rover's arm extended toward a light-toned rock named Tisdale 2 on Aug. 23, 2011.

Dawn Probe Leaves Protoplanet Vesta

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Dawn spacecraft arrived at the giant asteroid Vesta in July 2011 and departed in September 2012 for the dwarf planet Ceres.

Europe's Rosetta Comet Mission

ESA

An artist's illustration of Rosetta's Philae lander on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta is due to arrive at the comet in mid-2014.

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Mike Wall
SPACE.COM SENIOR SPACE WRITER — Michael has been writing for Space.com since 2010. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.