2022 was an exciting year for space exploration. Artemis 1 made its maiden voyage around the moon and safely landed back on Earth. The James Webb Space Telescope has been sending back breathtaking images redefining what we know about the cosmos. SpaceX has been nailing landing after landing with their reusable rockets. NASA successfully smashed into a comet with pinpoint accuracy. To name a few.
2023 is shaping up to be just as spectacular. In this article, I’ll keep track of significant milestones this year and in the next few years. So check back often if you want to keep track of what is happening.
China National Space Administration
China has been making headlines with its own space station, the Tiangong space station. The station was upgraded this year with a new module that extends the occupancy from 3 to 6 crew members.
European Space Agency
In April of 2023, ESA plans to launch a mission called JUICE, which stands for Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer. I am particularly excited about this mission. I don’t feel we have given Jupiter’s moons enough attention. The mission will explore three of Jupiter’s icy moons, Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa. These three moons have the most significant potential for liquid water besides Earth in the solar system.
Indian Space Research Organization
The ISRO has a few planned missions upcoming, including another lunar lander. They will attempt a soft landing on the surface of the moon. This mission is a successor to their Chandrayaan-2 mission, which crashed while trying to make a soft landing.
The X-ray Polarimeter Satellite is planned to launch in mid-202; it will study the 50 brightest objects in the sky, such as pulsars, binary black holes, active galactic nuclei, and non-thermal supernova remnants. The results will help explain how radiation is polarized, giving away the strength and sources of the radiation.
2023 will also see the first in a series of launches of the Gaganyaan vehicle. The Gaganyaan is a crewed module. The third mission in 2024 is scheduled to be the first mission to send humans into space on the vehicle. If they are successful, it will make India the fourth country to successfully send humans into space.
The James Webb Space Telescope launched on Christmas day in 2021; it fully came online on July 12th, 2022. And has already dropped some fantastic images that will keep astronomers busy for years. Its infrared cameras have been able to peak through dust clouds that other telescopes simply couldn’t. Revealing new stars and giving us the science needed to help understand how stars form and how their radiation affects planet development—giving us even more clues as to where we may find other civilizations if they are out there.
International Space Station
Experiments aboard the ISS have been ongoing for the last two decades. These studies tend to get little attention because they need to possess that wow factor that images from telescopes have. But what goes on aboard the station is vital to our next step of putting humans back on the moon, not just for a game of golf and rock collecting this time. NASA and its partners will put humans on the moon for long-term missions. Extending the station’s life through the rest of the decade will hopefully come to fruition.
Ole reliable has still been chugging along. Hubble has more or less transitioned to being a scout for the JWST. She has been finding targets for the new telescope to check out. And it has proven to be very effective. The telescope is expected to stay in operation until the late 2030s, so she is still going. Having found a supernova that occurred over 11 billion years ago just recently, we are still getting great science from the telescope.
This year, NASA and SpaceX signed an agreement allowing designs to be drawn up for a possible mission to boost Hubble’s orbit. I’m hoping we hear more about this in 2023.
One day we will have to face an asteroid large enough to cause mass destruction on Earth. NASA is trying to ensure that doesn’t happen with the DART test. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test successfully altered the orbit of a small asteroid called Dimorphos. The asteroid orbits a companion called Didymos. The impact slightly altered the asteroid’s rotation around its partner. In the process, it flung 2 million pounds of dirt into outer space. Talk about a 6.8 million-mile bullseye.
ESA will be sending it’s own craft HERA towards the asteroid duo to analyze the aftermath of the collision.
SpaceX has had a fantastic year, with about 60 launches under its belt by the end of the year. In October, the Falcon 9 set a new record for the most successful launches by the same vehicle type in a calendar year with 48.
Starship got off the ground for the first time in May. The ship rose 6 miles into the air before making a controlled landing in a precise location and proving not only that the craft can fly, but it can also land precisely where needed as well.
I have done a terrible job keeping up with SpaceX, they have done some amazing things over the past several years. I’ll do my best to cover the company in more depth on Wisedocks in the future.
2023 could be the year that Starship hits the Karman line for the first time. When it does, I won’t need to write about it. It will make headlines around the world. But I will still be here to throw my 2 cents in. Hopefully, Twitter is still around for me to share these posts with by then. Sorry I had to, lol. But seriously, I hope it is.
New Space Programs
South Korea’s moon probe Danuri is expected to enter lunar orbit on December 17th. It’s the first extended-range mission for the country. It took five months to reach its current trajectory and was able to get some pretty cool images in the process. The photo below was taken at a distance of 1.5 million miles away. In August, the craft was launched into orbit via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
More to come
I plan to update this page for the next few years with overviews of specific missions. I will go into more detail with some of the missions and link them to their page so I keep this page clear. This will be an anchor page of sorts. So stay tuned. In the meantime, check out 20 space facts you probably didn’t know.
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