This new year, 2020, is said to be an excellent year too. Here is what the space exploration agencies have scheduled for 2020.
The year 2020 is prone to be a rather big one for human spaceflight, more so for private companies. Both SpaceX‘s Dragon 2 capsule and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner are scheduled to have their first manned expeditions to the International Space Station (ISS). These missions have been munched with delays, but in the last few months, both companies have managed to complete a few successful pre-flight tests.
An unmanned orbital test flight conducted by Boeing on its Starliner spacecraft failed to reach its target, the ISS, as it was planned, because of a software issue. However, SpaceX has already concluded a first uncrewed flight of the Dragon 2 probe and is currently set to launch its first manned ISS expedition in the first quarter of this year.
In addition, NASA is scheduled to launch its Artemis-1 mission in November of 2020. This will be the first attempted take-off of its new Space Launch System, and also the Orion probe developed in a joint project between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).
This launch, even though it is not carrying astronauts, will take the spacecraft far beyond the orbit of the Moon, before making a comeback to Earth a few weeks later. If it is successful, it will stand as the furthest distance from our planet a spacecraft has even flown.
The Orion probe is composed of the crew capsule, developed by Lockheed Martin, with enough space to carry six people, and a service module developed in Europe by Airbus.
China has also scheduled the launch of the first section of a new orbital space station.
Life on Asteroids
The Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) has sent the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft to asteroid 162173 Ryugu in 2014 and managed to collect a handful of samples from the space rock. The probe should be coming back to Earth this year.
The mission gathered a sample from the inside of the space object, an area that has not been exposed to the interstellar environment or the solar wind. This difficult duty required firing a 2.5-kilogram object at high velocity into the asteroid and then shortly landing on it to gather material.
The samples taken by Hayabusa 2 will enable researchers to determine the composition of the asteroid and will give us an idea of where they might appear and if they are able to hold life.
Missions on Mars
The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has various plans for 2020. One of their most dashing plans is a Mars rover. The probe is scheduled to launch in the summer and should land on the Red Planet in 2021. It features a ground-penetrating radar to provide a sight into the internal structure of the planet.
NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, due to launch in July, is set to be the first in a line of expeditions, which will ultimately come back to Earth with Martian soil samples. The spacecraft will also be calculating the climate and magnetic settings of the planet.
ESA’s Rosalind Franklin Rover, Europe’s first attempt to land a probe on the Red Planet, is also set to take off in July. The rover will transport a series of instruments created to search for signs of past and present life on Mars.