Space tourism, reconquest of the Moon and asteroid analysis… The program of the international space agencies is more than loaded for the year 2023.
Coming soon traffic jams in space? Given the vastness of the cosmos, there is no risk. But it is clear that candidates for the conquest of space have multiplied in recent years. 2022 was a prosperous year with almost 150 launches carried out by the United States and China, or the success of the American lunar mission Artemis, the operation DART that diverted an asteroid from its path, or the commissioning of the James Webb Telescope.
On the European side, let’s remember some failures like the loss of the Vega-C rocket or the suspension of the ExoMars program that was supposed to send a rover to the red planet. A Russian-European collaboration was interrupted by the conflict in Ukraine.
A delivery service on the Moon
So what to expect in 2023? First, the emergence of new players, such as the Japanese private company iSpace, which will put its first “delivery ship” on the Moon in March. The machine called Hakuto-R is intended to transport equipment into space. In this case, he will deliver several robots, including a machine designed by the United Arab Emirates. The federal state had already sent a probe to orbit Mars in 2021 and confirms its ambition with 800 million dollars invested for next year.
Elon Musk, the head of space
This Japanese and Emirati expedition would not have been possible without SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Elon Musk’s company also has serious plans for the coming months with no less than 100 launches planned, twice as many in 2022. Enough to consolidate its newly acquired status as a leader. The biggest project remains Starship’s first orbital flight, the most powerful launcher ever designed. This 120-meter mastodon will be able to carry a 100-ton payload into space. If successful, Starship will become the reference spacecraft for future manned flights to the Moon and even Mars.
In the spring, Spacex also plans to send a crew to an altitude of 1,400 km, the highest orbit ever achieved since the Apollo moon missions. The four astronauts, two men and two women, will exit the Crew Dragon capsule to conduct research and test Starlink laser communications.
Life on Jupiter’s moons?
The European Space Agency sees even further with the JUICE mission (for the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) to the moons of Jupiter. A probe will lift off before September on a 10-year journey to the gas giant’s outskirts. It will fly over its main natural satellites Callisto, Europa and Ganymede before hovering over the latter to study its composition. Purpose: To analyze the composition of Ganymede’s ice ocean and determine whether it could have harbored life.
The JUICE spacecraft will return to space aboard an Ariane 5 rocket, a machine that should have been supplanted by the Ariane 6 two years ago. The new European launcher could finally start its engines this year in Kourou, Guyana, probably in the fall.
Asteroids full of secrets
Finally, NASA hopes to learn more about the formation of our solar system. The answers are expected from September with the return of the Osiris-Rex mission, a probe that left seven years ago to find the asteroid Bennu. The dust was removed from the monolith and will be analyzed at the molecular level.
The American space agency will continue with the launch of another probe in October. This will approach the asteroid “Psyche 16”, a huge pebble 226 kilometers wide potentially composed of gold, iron and nickel and which can tell us about the formation of the Earth’s core.
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