Science & Tech

Five space exploration missions to keep an eye on in 2023

The year 2023 is expected to be another busy one. Here are five of the most thrilling missions to keep an eye out for.

(1) Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer

  • In April, the European Space Agency (ESA) is set to launch the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice), in what will be Europe’s first dedicated robotic mission to Jupiter.
  • Juice is scheduled to arrive on the planet in July 2031 after an incredible journey through the Solar System.
  • The mission will enter Jupiter’s orbit and fly by its three large icy moons, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
  • After four years of moon flybys, Juice will enter orbit around Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit another planet’s moon.
  • Jupiter’s icy moons are fascinating because they are all thought to contain oceans of liquid water beneath their frozen surfaces.
  • Europa, in particular, is regarded as one of the most likely locations for extraterrestrial life in the Solar System.

(2) SpaceX Starship

  • The Starship will be the largest spacecraft capable of transporting humans from Earth to space destinations (the International Space Station is larger, but it was assembled in space).
  • It will be the most powerful launch vehicle ever flown, capable of transporting 100 tonnes of cargo into low-Earth orbit.
  • The Starship system consists of two components: the Starship spacecraft (which carries the crew and cargo) and the Super Heavy rocket.
  • The rocket component will lift the Starship to a height of 65 kilometers before separating and landing safely on Earth.
  • The upper Starship component will then use its own engines to propel itself to orbit.

(3) dearMoon Project

  • The long-awaited dearMoon project, which will take members of the public on a six-day journey around the Moon and back, is set to launch on Starship in 2023.
  • It will be the first launch of true deep space tourism.
  • This mission will usher in a new era in the way we think about space, as previously only astronauts chosen using extremely stringent criteria were able to travel to deep space.
  • The success or failure of the dearMoon mission could determine whether deep space tourism becomes the next big thing or remains a pipe dream.

(4) OSIRIS-REx returning Earth

  • Security — The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification The Regolith Explorer mission, better known as OSIRIS-REx, is a NASA mission to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu.
  • One of the primary objectives of this robotic mission was to collect samples of Bennu and return them to Earth for analysis.
  • OSIRIS-REx is now on its way back to Earth, carrying up to a kilogram of valuable asteroid samples.
  • If everything goes as planned, the capsule will detach from the spacecraft, enter the Earth’s atmosphere, and parachute to a soft landing in Utah’s deserts.
  • Only once before has an asteroid sample been returned, by the Japanese Space Agency’s Hayabusa 2 mission in 2020.
  • Bennu is a diamond-shaped world about half a kilometer in size, but it has many interesting features.
  • Water has altered some of the minerals found within it, implying that Bennu’s ancient parent body contained liquid water.
  • It is also rich in precious metals such as gold and platinum.
  • It is, however, classified as a potentially hazardous object with a (very) small chance of colliding with Earth in the next century.

(5) India’s private space launch

  • Skyroot Aerospace, which launched its Vikram-S rocket successfully in November 2022, will soon become the first private Indian company to launch a satellite.
  • The rocket itself reached an altitude of 90 kilometers, a distance that would need to be increased in order to place a constellation of satellites into orbit.
  • Skyroot’s first satellite launch is scheduled for 2023, with the goal of undercutting private space launch competitors’ costs by producing 3D-printed rockets in a matter of days.
  • If successful, this could pave the way for cheaper launches of scientific missions, allowing for faster research.

@the end

With many daring advances and launches scheduled for 2023, we are entering a new era reminiscent of the “Golden Age” of space launches in the 1960s and 1970s.

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