Category:Space probes

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  • A space probe is an unmanned robotic spacecraft that leaves Earth orbit and explores space.
    • It may approach the Moon; enter interplanetary space; flyby, orbit, or land on other planetary bodies; or approach interstellar space.
  • They are featured prominently in several xkcd comics, several times referenced in relation to a specific event, like a landing or flyby.
    • An entire subcategory has also been made just to cover all the comics about Mars rovers.

Click to expand for a more detailed explanation:

[edit] Explanation

  • Most mentioned are the Voyager probes as well as Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11.
    • One comic is even named after Voyager 1: 1189: Voyager 1. It tallies the number of times the space probe has left the solar system (22!)
    • In 482: Height Voyager 1 and Pioneer 10 are shown. (They are labeled but there is also a third space probe near Voyager 1 that is not labeled. Being close to Voyager 1 it could be assumed to be Voyager 2, but the “height” may rather indicate that is should be Pioneer 11).
    • In 502: Dark Flow the Pioneer Anomaly, observed for the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 space probes, is mentioned in the title text.
    • 1246: Pale Blue Dot references the Pale Blue Dot a picture of the Earth taken in 1990 by Voyager 1.
    • In 1276: Angular Size both voyager probes projections are shown in the last panel.
    • In 1461: Payloads several space probes are shown in the chart including both Voyager 2 and Pioneer 10.
    • One of the what if? entries is called Voyager about retrieving it again...
    • Voyager 1 is mentioned twice in Thing Explainer both in Worlds around the Sun (where 25 other probes were also mentioned including Voyager 2 as well) and in The sky at night. It is called Big Trip Taker One in the book.
  • Most prominent features of space probes are in these comics which all directly related to an upcoming or even ongoing event (with extra references to the same space probes included as well):
    • The latter was the case in 1446: Landing which was a stop motion live tracking of the progress of the Philae lander separating from the European Space Agency's Rosetta probe to land on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. (This was also one of the space probes shown in Payloads).
      • 1621: Fixion depicts Rosetta and the Fixion explains the flyby anomaly experienced the first time (of three) the probe got close to Earth.
      • This probe is also depicted in Thing Explainer in Worlds around the Sun where it is called Little world watcher.
      • When the Rosetta mission ended a new comic about it was released using the name of the probe as the title: 1740: Rosetta. This continues a trend of naming comics after space probes. Until recently only the mars rover had this honour but in the same year as this cosmic was released also the space probe Juno was used like this, see below.
    • In 1476: Ceres the photos taken by the Dawn space probe of Ceres, the largest known asteroid and the smallest known dwarf planet, is used in this comic, a few months before the probe went into orbit around Ceres. (This was also one of the space probes shown in Payloads).
      • This probe is also featured in Thing Explainer in Worlds around the Sun where it is called Special Engine Boat.
    • 1532: New Horizons is named after New Horizons, the NASA space probe sent to study the dwarf planet Pluto and its moons. In this comic, from 1½ month before the probe reached Pluto, it turns out an error has sent the probe back to Earth instead. (The Dawn mission is mentioned here as well).
      • 1551: Pluto was released on the day of New Horizons closest approach to Pluto on 2015-07-14 as a tribute to the achievement.
      • On the same day the what if? New Horizons was released.
    • 1547: Solar System Questions asks several questions about among other the Philae lander, about Pluto and Charon, stating we have the answer soon, a clear reference to New Horizons, about Ceres saying we are working on it, a clear reference to Dawn and about both the Pioneer Anomaly and the flyby anomaly, thus referencing at least five of the comics mentioned above.
    • 1703: Juno was written in honor of the Juno space probe, which made headlines the day before this comic aired when it fired its engines and successfully entered into orbit around Jupiter. See also above under Rosetta regarding naming comics after space probes.
  • The last Pioneer reference in Solar System Questions take these space probes up to four comics, but they still fall one short of the Voyager space probes with five comics.
  • These are the remaining comics related to space probes:
  • Space probes also features prominently in the what if? Blog.
    • As mentioned above one of the entries is called Voyager and another New Horizons. There may be more...
  • Space probes also features prominently in the book Thing Explainer
    • The Curiosity rover has it's own explanation Red World Space Car, it is also depicted in the last explanation Sky Toucher inside the skyscraper, and in Worlds around the Sun see below.
    • In The sky at night the location of Voyager 1 is also shown.
    • Seven space probes going through our solar system as well as 29 that came close to Mars are displayed in the description of the Solar system in Worlds around the Sun.
      • One probe is shown in both drawings (Rosetta).
      • One probe is shown in one drawing and the rover (Curiosity) in the other.
      • One mission deployed both a rover and a lander, both are depicted (Pathfinder)
      • Two mission also deployed landers, which are shown but not named)
      • One probe is shown but not named
    • From the above it can be found that the 36 drawn probes represents 31 missions, only one of which failed (unclear which this was see below), and only one not named, and thus also a bit unclear.
    • In the book the probes have of course been given different name using the 1000 most common words. Some of these have been mentioned above when the probe has also been featured in comics and for the named mars rovers these have also been listed with more detail in the explanation for that category.
    • Here is a list of the probes shown on the page with the entire solar system giving first the name used in Thing Explainer:
      • Big Trip Taker One - Voyager 1 (see above).
      • Big Trip Taker Two - Voyager 2 (see above).
      • Big World boat - Galileo was the only probe to enter into orbit around Jupiter, until Juno (see above).
      • Ring World boat - Cassini–Huygens is the only probe to enter into orbit around Saturn.
      • Special Engine Boat - Dawn (see above).
      • Red World Space Car - Mars Science Laboratory i.e. the probe that delivered Curiosity.
      • ? - A probe is shown but not named which visits Mercury after a flyby of Venus. It is probably Mariner 10 but MESSENGER would also fit the bill, except that it took two flybys of Venus. However both missions also took three flybys of Mercury and only one is shown...
      • ? - One of the Apollo missions is shown on the Moon, but also not named, although this is not a space probe since it was manned, and the two men are shown next to the landing module.
    • The other side only shows mars and the probes that either went into orbit, landed or just visited Mars. Here is a list of the probes that just visited but didn't stay, the last two of these used Mars to get to other places:
      • Boat Rider Four - Mariner 4
      • Boat Rider Six - Mariner 6
      • Boat Rider Seven - Mariner 7. Note that Mariner 9 which was the first to successfully go into orbit is called Sea Goer? See below.
      • Red World Four - Mars 4
      • Red World Six - Mars 6
      • Red World Seven - Mars 7
      • Wrong Turn Boat - It is unclear which probe this relates to, as it seems the wrong turn took it away from Mars. There have been two crash landings on Mars recently, one of which is the Mars Climate Orbiter (see above), where a wrong turn took it too steep into the atmosphere were it burned up, but that is not what is depicted. A Russian mission Mars 4 made a unintended flyby but it was due to loss of signal, and not a wrong, but a missed turn. And it is also shown as one of the other probes (see above).
      • Special Engine Boat - Dawn (was also shown in the image of the entire Solar System and mentioned above).
      • Little world watcher - Rosetta (see above).
    • These probes went in to orbit around Mars, here are their names:
      • Red World Sky Watcher - MAVEN.
      • Red World Visitor - Mars Orbiter Mission
      • Red World Watcher - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
      • Fast Red World Boat - Mars Express
      • Twenty Oh One Red World Trip - 2001 Mars Odyssey
      • Red World Looker - Mars Global Surveyor
      • Red World Moon Two - Phobos 2
      • Old North Person Two - Viking 2 - the lander that was successfully deployed from this probe was not named but it is shown on the surface below the probe.
      • Old North Person One - Viking 1 - the lander that was successfully deployed from this probe was not named but it is shown on the surface below the probe.
      • Red World Five - Mars 5
      • Red World Three - Mars 3
      • Red World Two - Mars 2
      • Sea Goer (The One After Eight) - Mariner 9 seems like a mistake that Randall switched the name for those Mariner probes not going into orbit from Boat Rider, to Sea Goer for this one that did... Maybe there were a long time span between drawing the first part and the other, and he forgot that he had already given a name to the Mariner series in the first part?
    • These last probes are the named probes that landed on Mars (see above for un-named), mainly rovers, so see more detail in the Mars rover category, but here are the names:
      • Road Finder - Mars Pathfinder.
      • Road Taker - Sojourner rover, which means "traveler".
      • Good Chances car - Opportunity rover.
      • Good Feelings car - Spirit rover.
      • Fire Bird lander - Phoenix.
      • The Feeling of Wanting to Know Things car - Curiosity rover. The probe that send this rover down, is the only mars probe shown in the drawing of the entire solar system - it is the Mars Science Laboratory which is also mentioned under the name for Curiosity (Red World Space Car).


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