I was going to do this whole post where I'd list the current missions and include their status and it was going to be all cool and informative and with pictures and stuff. But then I saw how many of them there actually are, and well, what am I, getting paid to be NASA's PR guru? (Hint: the answer is 'sadly, no') So, I've had to scale back the original plans to just a bit of a list thing, 'cause I'm still a fan of our space missions:
Advanced Composition Explorer - Studying intra-solar space - especially "samples [of] low-energy particles of solar origin and high-energy galactic particles".
Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere - Studying clouds of polar ice which form about 50 miles above Earth... I never heard of this one.
Aqua - Part of the Earth-orbiting satellite network, AQUA is studying - unsurprisingly - water. "The water variables being measured include almost all elements of the water cycle and involve water in its liquid, solid, and vapor forms. Additional variables being measured include radiative energy fluxes, aerosols, vegetation cover on the land, phytoplankton and dissolved organic matter in the oceans, and air, land, and water temperatures."
ARCTAS - A mission designed to study the polar climate and how pollution and wildfire smoke affects both sea ice and the general arctic atmospherics.
Suzaku - aka, the Astro-E2 mission. This satellite is a joint mission with Japan's JAXA and carries aboard three different X-Ray detectors. Due to a mishap, the instrument has lost one of these detectors, but two other
sensors are still functioning well.
Aura - Studying the Earth's atmosphere, with special attention to the Ozone layer. "Aura's measurements will enable us to investigate questions about ozone trends, air quality changes and their linkage to climate change."
CALIPSO - "The Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) satellite mission." This is another Earth-scanning mission focusing on questions of climate, weather and air quality.
Cassini-Huygens - Though Huygens went to its death on the surface of Titan, the 'mother ship' continues to study and return information about the Saturn system. The most recent update is 10/15/09.
Chandra - This X-Ray observatory is busily peering back in time, looking for the oldest and far away sources of X-Rays in the universe. The site is also regularly updated with the latest entry being even newer than Cassini - 10/22/09.
CINDI - A collaboration with the U.S. Airforce to study the atmospherics of the equatorial regions of Earth. "They come out at night over the equator -- giant bubbles of plasma, a gas of electrically charged particles, silently rise in the upper atmosphere. While invisible to human eyes, they can disrupt crucial radio communication and navigation signals, like the Global Positioning System (GPS)." How creepy.
CloudSat - Another satellite (of 5) in the Earth studying 'A-Train' program. Cloud Sat is, unsurprisingly, studying cloud formation, global rainfall patterns, storm activity and tracking the melting of Arctic sea ice.
CHIPS - This satellite is studying interstellar-solar plasma. "CHIPS data will help scientists determine the electron temperature, ionization conditions, and cooling mechanisms of the million-degree plasma believed to fill the local interstellar bubble." A lot of big words to say that they're studying hot gas.
Constellation - This is the current testing of the 'new generation' of rockets that will hopefully be carrying us to the moon, again, and then to Mars. They are testing new, less toxic fuels currently.
Cluster - This is a partnership mission with the European Space Agency and is studying Earth's magnetic field and its interactions with the solar wind, in 3-D. And as we know, 3-D makes everything cooler if not better.
Dawn - A satellite using an ion-drive, it is currently sailing through the solar system on its way to study the asteroids Ceres and Vesta.
Deep Impact - Technically, this mission isn't really on-going in the way the others are. The 'impact' of the mission name occurred back in 2005, but NASA scientists continue mining the data collected. Get it? 'Impact' 'Mining' ... oh, never mind.
EP-TOMS - This ones a mouthful: Earth Probe Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer. Guess what this satellite is doing. This is actually an old mission from '98, but it is apparently still collecting data (though the updates are very sparse at the site).
Earth Observing- 1 - Clever name. Part of the New Millenium Program, the mission was designed to test new instrument designs for future missions. Alas, there isn't much information about the program available, unless you want to buy images of Earth from the site. This was a USGS mission from 2000 and it doesn't appear to still be collecting data... I'm only including it here because its on NASA's current mission listing.
EPOXI - Currently this satellite is being used by scientists to refine how to locate Earth-like planets by studying images of Earth taken from far, far out in the system. It also has a 2010 mission for a flyby of comet, Hartley 2.
Fire and Smoke - Any guesses on what this Earth orbiting satellite is studying? The satellite is equipped with the ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer) instrument and was instrumental recently in capturing data on the California's wildfire's affects on the carbon monoxide levels across the U.S. In addition, the satellite images wetlands, glaciers and other formations to see how they are being impacted by human activity over time.
GALEX - This mission, begun in 2003, is studying how galaxies far beyond ours were born and died as well as discovering new information on star types and distribution in the cosmos.
GLAST - aka, the Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope is studying gamma bursts caused by supermassive black holes, pulsars and - perhaps - even new sources of Gamma Rays that astrophysicists don't know about yet. They've just updated a few days ago, so you should take the jump....
Jeez -- and this is about where I'm thinking this post is getting crazily long and I'm only partially through the mission's list. I will no doubt get to a Part II and Part III listing but you can check out the entire list HERE.
Maybe I'll do some 'focus' posts on some of the missions that are updating their pages with new information in the future, instead of trying to do a whole, comprehensive list (unless that NASA PR position comes through).