Five space exploration missions to watch in 2023

This has been a busy year for space exploration, with successes such as the Artemis 1 mission that kick-started NASA’s new lunar program, the debut of the James Webb Space Telescope and the completion of China’s Tiangong space station. . And everything indicates that 2023 should be another busy year in this regard.

Check out five of the most exciting missions to watch below.

  1. Juice, explorer of Jupiter’s icy moons

In April, the European Space Agency (ESA) is expected to launch the Explorer of Jupiter’s icy moons (Juice), on what will be the first dedicated robotic mission from Europa to Jupiter.

The spacecraft is due to arrive at the planet in July 2031, after completing an incredible journey through the solar system. Once in orbit around the planet, the mission will make numerous flybys of its large icy moons: Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

Four years after this general survey, Juice will zoom around Ganymede, the solar system’s largest moon, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a moon of another planet.

Jupiter’s icy moons are interesting because they are all thought to harbor oceans of liquid water beneath their icy surfaces. Europa, in particular, is considered one of the most likely abodes for extraterrestrial life in our vicinity.

The Juice spacecraft will be equipped with ten scientific instruments, including an ice-penetrating radar to study the inland oceans. This use of radar is a practical first step in mapping subsurface oceans, paving the way for future missions involving submersible vehicles. The release window runs from April 5th to April 25th.

  1. SpaceX ship

Although no date has been announced by the aerospace company SpaceX, the first orbital test flight of the superheavy spacecraft Starship is expected to take place in early 2023.

Starship will be the largest spacecraft capable of carrying humans from Earth to destinations in space ever launched (the International Space Station is larger, but was assembled in space).

The colossal starship is poised to become the largest human transport vehicle ever launched into space. Image: SpaceX

It will be the most powerful launch vehicle ever to fly, capable of lifting 100 metric tons of payload into low Earth orbit.

Starship is the name of a two-component system formed by the spacecraft of the same name (which carries the crew and cargo) and the Super Heavy rocket, responsible for raising the capsule to an altitude of approximately 65 km before separating from it and returning to Earth in a controlled landing.

Several short test flights of the Starship portion of the system were made, with varying degrees of success. The upcoming flight, however, will represent the first time the entire system will be used to reach space together.

  1. dear moon

Financed by entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa, the long-awaited dearMoon project, which will take the public on a six-day trip around the Moon, will also be flown by Starship in 2023. The exact launch date will depend on the success of the flight. orbital test.

It will be the first tourist launch into deep space, which will feature a crew formed, in part, by a competition between eight ordinary people who will be joined by an unknown number of guests and Maezawa himself.

So far, only astronauts chosen on the basis of very strict criteria have managed to go into deep space, which indicates that dearMoon will be a revolutionary mission (disregarding brief missions of 10 minutes up to 100 km, such as Blue Origin’s suborbital flights).

A complete multi-day trip presents extreme risks, both in terms of health and infrastructure. Could the success or failure of the mission determine the future of deep space tourism: a possible reality or just a good sci-fi movie script?

  1. The asteroid explorer returns to Earth

OSIRIS-REx (Explorer of Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Identification of Resources and Security of Regoliths) is a NASA mission to the asteroid Bennu with the primary objective of acquiring samples of the space rock and sending them back to Earth. Earth. for analysis.

asteroid Bennu
Actual photo of asteroid Bennu taken by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Image: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

According to the website physical, the probe quickly returns to our planet with up to a kilogram of valuable samples from the asteroid stored on board. If all goes well, the capsule will detach from the spacecraft, enter Earth’s atmosphere and parachute down for a soft landing in the Utah deserts on September 24.

Bennu is an approximately diamond-shaped body just half a kilometer in diameter, which has four interesting characteristics:

  • It is believed to have split from a much larger asteroid within the first 10 million years of the solar system;
  • Some of the detected minerals were altered by water, implying that Bennu’s ancient parent body harbored liquid water;
  • It has an abundance of precious metals, including gold and platinum;
  • It is classified as a potentially hazardous object with a (very) low chance of impacting Earth within the next century.
  1. Launching Private Space in India

Although SpaceX is the most relevant private space launch company, many others are developing their own series of launch vehicles around the world. Skyroot Aerospace, which successfully launched its Vikram-S rocket in November this year, will soon become India’s first private company to launch a satellite.

At launch last month, the rocket reached an altitude of 90 kilometers, a distance that would need to be improved to put a constellation of satellites into orbit.

Skyroot’s first satellite launch is scheduled for 2023, aiming to be cheaper than competitors by producing its 3D-printed rockets in days.

If successful, the project could also provide a path to cheaper science mission launches, allowing for a faster pace of research.

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Clearly, interest in the space sector remains high. With many breakthroughs and bold launches planned for 2023, it looks like we are entering a new phase equivalent to the “golden age” of space launches in the 1960s and 1970s.

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