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Discovery Program Overview


NASA's Discovery Program gives scientists the opportunity to dig deep into their imaginations and find innovative ways to unlock the mysteries of the solar system. When it began in 1992, this program represented a breakthrough in the way NASA explores space. For the first time, scientists and engineers were called on to assemble teams and design exciting, focused planetary science investigations that would deepen the knowledge about our solar system.


As a complement to NASA's larger “flagship” planetary science explorations, the Discovery Program goal is to achieve outstanding results by launching many smaller missions using fewer resources and shorter development times. The main objective is to enhance our understanding of the solar system by exploring the planets, their moons, and small bodies such as comets and asteroids. The program also seeks to improve performance through the use of new technology and broaden university and industry participation in NASA missions.


Discovery was among the first NASA programs to require a plan for education and public outreach, as NASA recognized the importance of communicating the excitement and meaning of space exploration to students and the public. Innovative methods that support national education initiatives are being developed to reach students of all ages.


All completed Discovery missions have achieved ground-breaking science, each taking a unique approach to space exploration, doing what's never been done before, and driving new technology innovations that may also improve life on Earth.