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This year promises to be out of this world when it comes to space missions, launches, and the next steps in cosmic exploration.
In 2023, NASA will embark on a journey to a world of metal, a spacecraft will drop unprecedented asteroid samples on Earth, a historic lunar mission will get its crew, and several new commercial rockets could make their launch debut.
there are long to waitaccording to NASA administrator Bill Nelson.
“More impressive discoveries of webb telescope, climate missions that will tell us more about how our Earth is changing, continued science on the International Space Station, groundbreaking aeronautical developments with the X-59 Y X-57 experimental aircraft, the selection of the first astronauts to go to the moon in over 50 years and more,” Nelson said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the European Space Agency will launch a mission to Jupiter and its moons, send out a satellite to create a 3D map of the universe, and begin training its new class of astronauts, which includes an astronaut with a physical disability.
INTERACTIVE: The best space photos of 2022
Here are some of the space headlines you can expect to see this year.
Last year, the maiden mission of NASA’s Artemis Program launched with a successful test flight that sent an uncrewed spacecraft on a historic journey around the moon. And while the program’s first crewed flight, the Artemis II mission, isn’t expected to lift off until spring 2024, the public may soon learn the names of the lucky astronauts on board.
The space agency has already reduced its astronaut corps to a field of 18 applicants who are eligible for Artemis crew assignments. And last month, NASA officials said they would announce the Artemis II crew in early 2023, so the news could come at any time.
The Artemis II mission is expected to send four people on a journey around the moon and back to Earth.
The next mission after that, Artemis III, will aim to land astronauts on the lunar surface for the first time since the 20th century Apollo program.
Although there may not be any crewed Artemis flights to look forward to this year, NASA has plans to place robotic landers on the moon as part of its effort to further study the lunar terrain and radiation environment, and search for resources. they could potentially be mined from the moon and used to fuel exploration deeper into space.
That program is called Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS, and it’s based on partnerships with more than a dozen companies that are privately developing their own lunar landers.
The first lander to fly under the program could be one built by Pennsylvania-based Astrobotic, which is slated to use its Peregrine lunar lander to obtain 11 science and exploration instruments to the lunar surface in the first months of 2023. It will land in Lacus Mortis, a larger crater on the near side of the moon.
Up to three other CLPS program missions could also take off in 2023, according to NASA website.
The highly anticipated Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer mission, known as JUICEIt will be released between April 5 and April 25.
The European Space Agency mission, which will take off from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana, will spend three years exploring Jupiter and three of its icy moons in depth: Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.
All three moons are believed to have oceans beneath their ice-covered crusts, and scientists want to explore whether Ganymede’s ocean is potentially habitable.
Once it reaches Jupiter in July 2031, the spacecraft and its 10-instrument suite will make 35 flybys of the gas giant and its moons. Some of the mission objectives include investigating whether life ever existed in the Jupiter system, how the gas giant shaped its moons, and how Jupiter itself formed.
Boeing has been working for a decade to develop a spacecraft capable of transporting astronauts to and from the ISS, and it is expected that in 2023 be the year that this new space taxi is finally up and running.
After years of delays and development problems, the spacecraft, named Starliner, completed a uncrewed test mission to the ISS last May which was deemed a success. And NASA officials have set their sights on April 2023 for the first manned launch.
The Starliner is expected to complete NASA’s plans to hand over the task of transporting astronauts to the ISS to the private sector. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule is already taking on that task, and the company aims to launch its seventh routine astronaut mission next month. When Starliner goes into operation, SpaceX and Boeing are expected to split the missions, hoping to keep as many personnel as possible on the ISS before NASA retires the aging space station in the next decade.
Continuing one of the most notable trends in spaceflight of the 2020s, some new commercial rocket companies are expected to debut new launch vehicles that are wholly owned and operated by the private sector.
SpaceX is expected to attempt the first orbital launch of its gigantic Starship spacecraft. The company wants to one day use the rover to put the first humans on Mars, and NASA also hopes to rely on the rover for its Artemis program.
Two other powerful commercial rockets are also in the works: the Vulcan Centaur, developed by the United Launch Alliance, and the New Glenn, which is a product of billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin. The Vulcan rocket is currently expected to lift off in early 2023, while New Glenn could make its flight debut sometime later. (Keep in mind, however, that new rockets are notorious for schedule delays.)
Several new smaller rockets, specifically designed to carry lightweight satellites into Earth orbit, could also enter the picture. Two US-based startups, Relativity and ABL Space Systems, could start the year with their first expected launches in Florida and Alaska, respectively.
A collection of rocks and soil from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu will finally reach their destination this year when NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft delivers them to Earth.
The spacecraft, NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission, made history when successfully collected a sample from Bennu in October 2020.
OSIRIS-REx will pass by Earth on September 24 and drop the sample, containing 2.1 ounces of material from Bennu’s surface, at the Utah Test and Training Range. If the spacecraft is still in good health, a new expedition to study other asteroids will begin.
The samples will reveal information about the formation and history of our solar system, as well as which asteroids may be on an eventual collision course with Earth.
After unexpected delaysNASA’s first spacecraft designed to study a metallic asteroid will launch in October.
The Psyche mission will embark on a four-year journey to an uncharted potato-shaped world in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The mission will study a metal-rich asteroid, also called Psyche, which appears only as a fuzzy blur to ground-based and space-based telescopes.
The unusual object may be a metal core left over from a planet or a piece of primordial material that never melted, according to POT. Psyche could help astronomers learn more about the formation of our solar system. If Psyche really is a nucleus, studying it would be like looking into the heart of a planet like Earth.
The mission missed its original launch window of 2022 due to delays in software and equipment testing. The mission team has increased its staffing to finish testing before launch.
A variety of other missions are expected to launch in 2023. NASA’s Tropospheric Emissions Pollution Monitoring mission, or TEMPOwill measure pollution every hour in North America.
The agency will partner with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the European Space Agency in the XRISM missionor the X-ray imaging and spectroscopy mission, to investigate cosmic X-ray objects.
The European Space Agency and NASA will also join in the euclid mission to explore dark energy, a mysterious and invisible form of energy that drives the accelerating expansion of the universe.
The Stratospheric Astrophysical Telescope for high spectral resolution observations at sub-millimetre wavelengths, or ASTROS missionwill launch a balloon larger than a football field from Antarctica to study what causes star formation to end in some galaxies.
And the little NASA satellite called lunar pioneer will use innovative instruments to collect data on the amount of water on the moon.
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