The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft was launched in November 2013. MAVEN is intended to examine Mars’ upper atmosphere and ionosphere, and will also serve as a data relay in Martian orbit. This will facilitate communication between Earth and NASA’s assets currently on the surface and in orbit around Mars. MAVEN is expected to reach Mars in September 2014.
Mars is attracting interest from other nations as well. India’s government announced in August 2012 that it approved plans for their country’s first mission beyond the Moon. The Mars Orbiter Mission, slated to launch in late 2013, will make India the ## to launch a mission to the Red Planet, after the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan, and China.
The second category of space and robotic exploration systems involves seeing the Universe through the eyes of a satellite. The advantage is that the satellite is able to capture images unaffected by the Earth’s atmosphere, enabling researchers to more accurately decipher the mysteries of the Universe.
NASA’s Kepler spacecraft was launched in March 2009 aboard a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Kepler’s mission is to monitor the brightness of more than 100,000 stars in a single region of the sky for at least three years.
There are ## scientific satellites in orbit around Earth, as designated by the AGI satellite database. This number may vary slightly by source, as some satellites may be alternatively classified as either “scientific” or “remote sensing.”
Currently, ## scientific satellites are in orbit around the Earth. These satellites address a wide array of scientific issues. For example, NASA characterizes scientific satellites by the following types: astronomy, earth science, planetary science, solar physics, space physics, life science, and microgravity.