Science & Tech

Space Missions to Keep an Eye on in 2024

  • Milestones in 2023: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission retrieved an asteroid sample, and India’s Chandrayaan-3 visited the lunar South Pole.
  • Prospects for 2024: The year ahead promises to be exciting for space exploration, with numerous missions aimed at the moon under NASA’s Artemis plan and Commercial Lunar Payload Services.

Missions to Watch in 2024

[1] Europa Clipper: Unveiling Jupiter’s Moon

  • The Europa Clipper mission will study Europa, one of Jupiter’s biggest moons noted for its frozen surface and probable subsurface saltwater ocean.
  • The mission will make close flybys to investigate Europa’s ice shell, geology, and underlying ocean for hints of habitability.
  • Launch date: October 10, 2024, with a 21-day window aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.

[2] Artemis II: Human Return to the Moon

  • Artemis II is part of NASA’s Artemis programme, which aims to return humans to the moon and maintain a permanent presence for future Mars missions.
  • Artemis II will send four people on a 10-day journey around the Moon, after the unmanned Artemis I mission.
  • Launch Date: As early as November 2024, with probable delays into 2025.

[3] VIPER: Searching for Lunar Water

  • VIPER, a golf cart-sized rover, will investigate the moon’s south pole in search of water and other volatiles.
  • Technical Difficulties: During its 100-day journey, the expedition will have to manage severe lunar temperatures and darkened zones.
  • Launch date: November 2024, after a delay for more lander system testing.

[4] Lunar Trailblazer and PRIME-1: Water Mapping and Drilling

  • SIMPLEx Missions: Lunar Trailblazer will orbit the moon to record water spots as part of NASA’s low-cost planetary missions, while PRIME-1 will test drilling technologies.
  • Both missions are secondary payloads, and their launch dates are dependent on the readiness of the principal payloads.

[5] JAXA’s Martian Moon eXploration (MMX) Mission

  • MMX’s mission is to examine Mars’ moons, Phobos and Deimos, in order to discover their origins and gather a sample from Phobos.
  • Scientific Goals: The mission will conduct science operations around Mars and its moons for three years.
  • Launch Date: Approximately September 2024.

[6] ESA’s Hera Mission: Asteroid Defense Study

  • Mission Hera will be a follow-up mission to the Didymos-Dimorphos asteroid system, where DART tested the kinetic impact approach for planetary defence.
  • Hera will investigate the physical features of the asteroids and examine the impact of the DART crash.
  • Launch and arrival: The launch is scheduled for October 2024, with arrival in the asteroid system scheduled for late 2026.
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