After a year 2022 that more than once made us roll our eyes at major milestones in our expansion into space, the coming year will have much promise to keep up. Especially since 2024 will also be a year full of symbolic moments, with the second flight of the Artemis program, the first with crew on board the Orion spacecraft.
However, the coming year will not lack great space moments for our species, even if it is not yet one of great manned voyages. Here’s what to expect from the stars.
1. JUICE and the secrets of the Jupiter moons
A European mission, the JUICE probe (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) will be launched in April 2023. It will leave for a very long journey that will take it, in 2031, around Jupiter for a first exploration of the gas giant on behalf of ESA. The mission will enter orbit around Jupiter and make numerous flybys of its large icy moons: Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, some of which are suspected to host large quantities of liquid water, or even an environment conducive to the emergence of life.
2. A first flight for the SpaceX starship
The superheavy spacecraft Starship’s first orbital test flight is expected to take place in early 2023, though the company hasn’t released a more specific timeline yet. It must be said that there have been many delays, while last October, Elon Musk still assured that it will be for 2022. This ship, which ultimately aims to take us to Mars, is in fact composed of two distinct but complementary machines. The Super Heavy launch vehicle which must overcome the earth’s gravity up to 65 km in altitude, and the Starship spacecraft itself, which carries the crew and cargo. It could carry up to 100 tons of cargo, an unprecedented amount.
3. The return of space tourism
This topic, which makes some teeth shiver, has been rather on hiatus in 2022, after some great moments of the previous year such as the brief passage into orbit of Jeff Bezos and co. At most we have witnessed the presentation of the lucky winners of DearMoon, invited by the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, and who will participate in a 6-day flight around the Moon, but probably not before 2025. However, next year has more adventures in store for the very rich. Polaris Dawn first, the first mission of Jared Isaacman and SpaceX’s private Polaris program, with 4 people going “as far as possible” aboard a Crew Dragon. And then the second tourist mission of Axiom Space aboard the International Space Station, always under the supervision of a professional astronaut. This time it is Peggy Whitsonthe first woman to have commanded the ISS, who returned to service.
4. The return to Earth of King Osiris
Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security – Regolith Explorer is better known as OSIRIS-REx; launched in 2020 by NASA bound for the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, it has begun its return to our planet. It should reach Earth next September, carrying about 1 kg of samples taken directly from the asteroid. This is only the second time this type of mission has ended, if completed.