Space: the 10 events that will put stars in their eyes in 2023

Takeoffs galore and new horizons: that’s what the space industry has to offer for the coming year. Can he do better than that in 2022? While stunning new images from the James Webb Space Telescope are still awaited, China may also launch a Hubble-like space observatory later this year, Xuntian. Other actors, public or private, must also be observed. Overview of key events to mark in your sky diary.

“In the coming months”: Starship’s maiden flight

Starship, SpaceX’s “star” rocket, could soon make its first orbital flight. If no date has been announced so far, the take-off must in no way take place before January 20, believes Mario Billiani. “Elon Musk and SpaceX say the flight is likely to take place in the coming months. But they’ve been saying that for more than a year”, comments this amateur scientist, who brings together launch dates from around the world in a calendar. Proof, however, that D-Day is approaching, tests take place regularly at the Texas base, like this one, whose images were captured by a drone in December.

Originally scheduled for 2021, the mission will attempt to circumnavigate the globe before landing near Hawaii. Powered by the Falcon Heavy, this “Big Falcon Rocket” would be the most powerful rocket ever to reach space. This launch is a prerequisite for the Starship flight that is supposed to transport Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and eight artists around the Moon. If we know the composition of its crew since last month, the date of this #dearMoon mission, initially announced for 2023, is uncertain. It is also a variant of the Starship, the HLS, which is due to land NASA astronauts in 2025. In addition to the Starship, other heavy launchers could make their first spaceflight this year, such as the United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur and Blue Origin’s Novo Glen.

January: a comet may be visible to the naked eye

She wouldn’t have visited earthlings since Neanderthal! Called C/2022 E3, a comet discovered last March could soon be bright enough to be visible to the naked eye, with its closest flyby scheduled for February 1-2. Since icy bodies of this type are unpredictable, however, it may be necessary to use binoculars or a telescope to discern them. According to NASA, it is in this month that it should be visible in the northern hemisphere, early in the morning. The new moon on January 21 can be a good opportunity to observe it, because the light from the satellite will not flood the night sky. In terms of astronomical events, the most “enthusiastic” will be attentive to the partial lunar eclipse of October 28, 2023, the only one visible this year in metropolitan France.

Not Before March: The First Private Spacewalk

After Inspiration4, the first 100% civilian mission, last year, billionaire Jared Isaacman will return to space aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft with a new crew. Scheduled for March at the earliest, Polaris Dawn aims to transport them into the highest Earth orbit ever achieved by a spacecraft. With the last manned trip to the moon occurring in 1972, it would also be the farthest astronaut flight in fifty years. The highlight of the show: the first private spacewalk, this type of maneuver being until now the prerogative of professional astronauts.

April: The Juice mission, heading towards Jupiter and its moons

The European Space Agency (ESA) will launch between April 5 and 30 a mission to Jupiter and three of its largest satellites, Ganymede, Europa and Callisto. More than 400 years after their discovery by Galileo, the probe, named Juice for “Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer”, is set to examine these Jovian moons, which are believed to harbor enormous amounts of water beneath their surfaces, greater than that of Earth’s oceans. . . Worlds conducive to the appearance of life? Remarkable fact: the liftoff will be the last of the Ariane 5, European heavy launcher replaced by the Ariane 6. Expected arrival near the gas giant in 2031.

April: the Starliner, a new vehicle for the ISS

If SpaceX is the first private player to send astronauts aboard the ISS, it will soon no longer be the only one. After a successful but unmanned flight last year, Boeing will transport humans aboard its Starliner vehicle in April. It will also be a test flight: the two experienced astronauts who will pilot it will only spend a week on the ISS. If all goes well, the reusable vessel will now allow NASA to have two ways to reach the station, with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, and not depend on the Russian Soyuz.

An Emirati robot on the moon

Launched in December by SpaceX, the M1 lander from the Japanese company Ispace will try in the spring to be the first private vehicle to successfully land on the moon. In that case, it will deploy a UAE rover called Rashid and a Japanese robot on the surface of the Moon. Other machines designed by private companies should land this year on the Moon, which could also be the destination of the first Russian probe since Soviet times (Luna 25) and the Indian probe Chandrayaan-3.

Between July and September: sending the Euclid space telescope

Rich year for ESA which, after the departure of the Juice mission, will launch its Euclid space telescope into orbit, destined to unveil the secrets of dark matter, hypothetical matter that would represent more than a quarter of the mass of the Universe. Euclid will create a three-dimensional map of the Universe by observing billions of galaxies up to 10 billion light-years away. It was originally to be sent on a Russian Soyuz rocket, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine thwarted those plans. Ultimately, it’s a SpaceX Falcon 9 that will take care of that.

September 24: Return of Bennu Samples

Leaving in 2016, the American spacecraft Osiris-Rex will return in autumn loaded with precious samples from the asteroid Bennu, a large pebble 500 meters in diameter whose composition will provide information about the first ages of the solar system. The spacecraft will eject a capsule that will be parachuted over a military base in Utah, USA. Its charging should be studied for several decades by scientists.

October 10: Liftoff from Psyche to… Psyche

One asteroid can hide another. In October, it is towards an object made of metal and located in the main asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter) that NASA will send a probe called Psyche, which is believed to be the nucleus of an ancient embryo. planet. Initially planned for 2022, the release was delayed due to a software delay. The mission will enter orbit around the asteroid in 2029, three years later than originally planned.

End of year: an Ariane 6 in the air?

The year 2022 had ended badly for Arianespace, with the failure of the first commercial flight of the Vega-C rocket. Its older brother Ariane 6, eagerly awaited since 2020, could end the year on a good note. The name’s first launcher was fully assembled last October in Kourou. Manufactured in two versions, Ariane 6 will be able to position heavy or light satellites in different orbits, for scientific (meteorology, Earth observation) or commercial purposes.

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