As exemplified by the jaw-dropping price tags associated with the world’s most expensive space missions, bold endeavors to unravel the mysteries of the universe have never been cheap. These missions have stretched the boundaries of human knowledge and technological innovation, from the awe-inspiring International Space Station (ISS) to the revolutionary Mars Science Laboratory and the highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Space missions are essential for advancing our understanding of the universe, discovering new scientific knowledge, studying the cosmos, and developing technologies that have practical applications on Earth. They represent humanity’s ongoing pursuit of exploration beyond our home planet and play a crucial role in the progress of space science and technology. Join us as we explore these groundbreaking endeavours’ complex nature, casting light on the scientific goals, key milestones, and findings that have permanently changed our perception of the universe. Prepare for an enthralling journey through the universe, where one’s pursuit of knowledge has no limits.

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8 New Horizons -$700 million

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New Horizons, a revolutionary NASA mission, has set its sights on Pluto and the mysterious Kuiper Belt. This courageous spacecraft was launched in 2006 on an epic voyage to uncover the secrets of these distant stars. New Horizons’ state-of-the-art scientific instruments and onboard scientific equipment captivated the world as it captured the first-ever close-up images of Pluto and its moons. Despite the immensity of space and its difficulties, the mission was accomplished at about $700 million, demonstrating the value of frugal yet grandiose space exploration efforts.

7 Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) -$2.5 billion

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An innovative NASA mission called the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) landed on Mars in August 2012. Curiosity, which weighs almost a ton and is equipped with cutting-edge scientific tools, has two main objectives: determining whether the planet is habitable and looking for evidence of past microbial life. Thanks to its groundbreaking landing technology, the Sky Crane, it could perfectly land in the Gale Crater. The explorations of Curiosity have revealed important information about the Martian ecosystem, including signs of ancient riverbeds and chemical molecules. This rugged rover keeps exploring the Red Planet and solving the puzzles of our neighbouring planet.

6 Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover -$2.8 billion

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The Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover, a testament to human ingenuity and ambition, marks NASA’s latest mission to the Red Planet. Launched in July 2020, this robotic explorer brims with cutting-edge technology and scientific instruments designed to unlock Mars’ geological history and search for signs of ancient life. Its advanced sample caching system aims to collect and store Martian rock and soil samples, eventually planning for a future return mission to Earth. Perseverance also carries the Ingenuity helicopter, a pioneering aerial vehicle to demonstrate powered flight in the thin Martian atmosphere. A marvel of modern engineering, this rover heralds humanity’s quest to unravel Mars’ mysteries.

5 Cassini-Huygens Mission -$3.26 billion

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NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) worked extraordinarily well on the Cassini-Huygens Mission to investigate Saturn and its mysterious moon, Titan. The mission launched 1997 was a huge success and revealed previously unknown details about Saturn’s rings, atmosphere, and magnetosphere. Titan’s surface was first imaged in its entirety thanks to the historic descent of the Huygens probe. At $3.26 billion, the mission’s comprehensive data and magnificent photos have revolutionized our knowledge of the Saturnian system and sparked a lifelong fascination with the mysteries of our immediate galactic neighbourhood.

4 Hubble Space Telescope (HST) -$5.8 billion

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Launched by NASA and ESA in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) changed astronomically with its unhindered view from orbit. The robust instruments aboard Hubble, which orbits the Earth at an altitude of approximately 547 kilometres (340 miles), have captured magnificent images and data that have revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos. Its ability to peer deeply into space and time has led to numerous revolutionary discoveries, such as estimating the cosmos’ age, identifying dark matter, and unveiling distant galaxies and nebulas in unprecedented detail. Its scientific contributions and iconic imagery have made the Hubble Space Telescope an enduring symbol of humanity’s pursuit of comprehension beyond Earth.

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3 James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) – $10 billion

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The James Webb Space Telescope will revolutionize astronomy by allowing us to reassess what we know about the universe. It’s a massive $10 billion cooperative effort between NASA, ESA, and CSA. Located at an additional Lagrange point, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, JWST can see deeper into space than ever, thanks to its large mirror and cutting-edge infrared equipment. It will usher in a new era of space travel with its extraordinary sensitivity. It is projected to shed light on topics such as the formation of stars, the evolution of galaxies, and the discovery of potentially habitable exoplanets.

2 International Space Station (ISS) -$150 billion

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The International Space Station is a huge sign of how the world can collaborate and explore science. This orbiting laboratory was launched in 1998 as a joint project between NASA, Roscosmos, ESA, JAXA, and CSA. It goes around Earth at more than 28,000 kilometers per hour. The ISS is a wonder of engineering. It is the scope of a football field and is home to a diverse group of astronauts doing groundbreaking microgravity studies. The ISS has been a testing ground for future space travel and a way for people from different countries to work together. It has helped us learn more about long-term human spaceflight and paved the way for future trips beyond Earth.

1 Space Shuttle Program -$209 billion

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The Space Shuttle Program, a crowning achievement of human space exploration, was a historic initiative by NASA that spanned several decades. Running from 1981 to 2011, it involved a fleet of reusable space shuttles that revolutionized space travel. Despite its groundbreaking contributions to scientific research and satellite deployment, the program came with a hefty price tag, with an estimated overall cost of approximately $209 billion. Despite its eventual retirement, the Space Shuttle Program stands as a testament to human perseverance and technological advancement in the quest to explore the cosmos.

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Sources: Secretsofuniverse, Rarest, Sciencefocus

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