Space Mission Types: Advantages & Disadvantages

Space Mission Types: Advantages & Disadvantages
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  • 0:03 Flyby Space Missions
  • 1:21 Orbiter Spacecraft
  • 2:04 Rovers
  • 2:52 Human Space Missions
  • 4:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson will go over four different types of space missions scientists have conducted, including flyby, orbiter, rover, and human space explorations.

Flyby Space Missions

For decades now, scientists have been sending up all sorts of spacecraft to gather information about our solar system, like private eyes try and gather information about people on Earth. But not every space mission has been exactly the same, just like every private eye mission is kind of different.

One space mission type is known as a flyby, a space mission where a spacecraft passes by a celestial object but isn't held in orbit by it. As the spacecraft passes by, it uses its instruments to observe its target and it sends the information it collects back to Earth. So, this is like a private eye zooming past a house to take a few pictures to scope out the place they're going to spy on later in more detail. But the private eye doesn't stop, nor does he circle around; he just keeps going past the house.

One advantage of a flyby mission has already been sort of revealed; it's used as a quick initial reconnaissance of something that may later be explored with more expensive and technically difficult missions.

A disadvantage is that once the spacecraft flies past, it can't return for further investigation. So if something important was missed, that's kind of too bad.

Orbiter Spacecraft

Unlike a flyby spacecraft, an orbiter spacecraft is a type of spacecraft that enters and stays in orbit around a planet. Here, the private investigator doesn't do a drive-by; instead, he drives towards the house and then begins circling it over and over again to take pictures and videos, measure distances, use heat sensors to see if anyone is inside, and collect other data.

Anyways, the advantage of an orbiter is that you can collect a lot more data and get more detailed information about the object you're investigating, namely a planet.

A disadvantage is that you can't land the orbiter onto the surface of the planet to conduct some more serious scientific experiments.


For a more serious investigation, you can turn to a rover spacecraft, an electrically powered spacecraft that can roam around the celestial object they land on to take detailed pictures, soil samples, and perform other specific tasks for scientific purposes. This would be the same thing as our private eye sending in a robot into the home to take objects inside the house or to swab a surface for DNA - stuff like that.

The advantage to rover spacecraft is that they can do a lot of incredible stuff, including chemical experiments, to give us really detailed insights about a planet.

The disadvantage is cost, estimated to be $2.5 billion for the most recent Mars Exploration Rover Mission.

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