LPL at a Glance



We have been on the forefront of space exploration from the beginning

  • LPL was founded by Gerard P. Kuiper with the purpose of exploring the solar system.  Faculty have served as either principal or co-investigators on many spacecraft instruments and missions, beginning with the Ranger missions to the Moon in the 1960s.
  • LPL faculty continue their work with spacecraft mission projects, including participation in Parker Solar Probe, Juno (Jupiter), MRO (Mars), WISE, MAVEN, LRO, and Mars Odyssey, as well as OSIRIS-REx.
  • LPL successfully led and managed surface operations for the PHOENIX Mars mission, becoming the first university organization to manage a mission to Mars. 
  • LPL has been the home to the operations for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) for more than 10 years. HiRISE continues to obtain the highest-resolution images of the Martian surface ever taken from orbit. 
  • LPL is home to the OSIRIS-REx sample return mission to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, an $800 million mission that will return samples in 2023.

We operate state-of-the art laboratories and telescopes

LPL is home to the Kuiper Materials Imaging and Characterization Facility, which provides instrumentation that combines 2D- and 3D-analysis of composition and structure from cm to atomic length scales. 

LPL’s SPACEWATCH® was the first program to discover an asteroid using electronic detection, and LPL’s Catalina Sky Survey has discovered most of the near-Earth asteroids found since 2005; combined, they have discovered approximately half of the known near-Earth asteroids.


We train new generations of space scientists

The Department of Planetary Sciences was established in 1973, thirteen years after the founding of LPL. Our alumni are active in a variety of disciplines and professions around the world.

Our students excel at independent research

For any given year, approximately one-third of PTYS graduate students are funded with national fellowships awarded for original research proposals.

UA LPL facilities support student academics

Our students work with planetary missions and instruments led and designed at LPL, such as the HiRISE camera, the OSIRIS-REx mission, and the Transmission Electron Microscope.


Public Education and Outreach

Public events

The faculty, staff, and students at LPL take every opportunity to share research and development with the community and to participate in community events whenever possible (evening lecture series, public talks, science fairs, hands-on science open-houses, etc.).

STEM Education and Support

LPL is home to the Arizona/NASA Space Grant Consortium Program office, the Space Imagery Center, and the Teaching Teams Program.