About a month into the New Year on Earth, three spaceships will move close to Mars. Launched last July, these explorers will usher in a busy year of space exploration, launches, and astronomical events.
What follows is a preview of some of the key events expected in 2021. Private companies and the global space agencies are likely to announce more. The Times space and astronomy calendar will help you keep up with this data You can subscribe here.
While China has landed spacecraft on the moon three times in the last seven years, NASA has not landed there since 1972, the last Apollo mission. That could change in 2021 and deepen the commercial transformation of America’s space efforts.
NASA has relied on private companies for the past decade to build and operate spaceships that can bring cargo, and now people, to the International Space Station. It tries A similar approach with Commercial Lunar Payload Services. The program has signed contracts with a number of private companies to build robotic lunar landers that will carry cargo from NASA and other customers to the lunar surface.
The first company, Pittsburgh’s Astrobotic, is set to take its Wanderlander to the moon in June. Nova-C, a spaceship built by Houston-based Intuitive Machines, could follow in October.
NASA is also keeping an eye on Astronauts return to the moon this decade. The first step will be an unscrewed test flight of the massive space launch system built for future American space launches. The missile has faced numerous delays and balloon costsHowever, NASA is still planning a trip in 2021 known as Artemis-1. It will send Orion, a capsule for astronauts, around the moon and back to Earth. This test is provisionally planned for November.
Deeper into space
A second mission, Lucy, will start in October and will travel much further to fly through Jupiter’s orbit. There it will study the trojans – Asteroids that are in the same orbit as Jupiter, but hundreds of millions of miles in front or behind, trapped there by the gravity of the giant planet. Scientists believe these space rocks may hide secrets about how the solar system’s outer planets were formed.
Odysseys into orbit
Human space travel was changed in 2020 when SpaceX successfully launched a pair of crews to the space station. The company is likely to put more astronauts into orbit in 2021, and not all of them may work for NASA and other state space agencies. Several companies are partnering with SpaceX to bring paying customers to the Crew Dragon capsule. One of them, Axiom Space could send its first private tourists to the space station at the end of the year.
When NASA selected SpaceX to build transportation for its astronauts, it hired Boeing to do the same. During an unscrewed orbit test in December 2019 A series of mistakes resulted in the near catastrophic loss of Boeing’s Starliner capsule. To make up for this unsuccessful flight, Boeing will conduct a second test flight in March.
Other human journeys into space are also awaiting this year. Virgo Galactic and Blue origin could send paying customers on short trips to the edge of space and back in 2021. China could also begin launching parts of its next-generation space station later in the year for a regular human presence in near-earth orbit in the world for years to come.
Showtime of the solar system
If 2020 taught people anything, the unexpected was to be expected. While Covid-19 darkened the world on its journey around the sun, humanity was surprised Views of the comet NEOWISE in the summer months and enthusiastic about the connection between Jupiter and Saturn during the winter solstice. It’s a big universe and there is so much to see of our little part.
A lunar eclipse on May 26th will overlap with a time when the moon is closer to Earth than usual in what some refer to as the “super blood moon”. People in Australia and the Pacific Islands, as well as the western United States, will get the best glimpse of the event, and some of the events will be visible in other parts of the Americas, as well as in East and South Asia.
Most people in North America will have to wait until 2024 to see the next total solar eclipse like August 2017. On June 10th, some North Americans will get a glimpse of what will be in three years, when an annular solar eclipse darkens some skies.
Also known as the “ring of fire” eclipse, it occurs when the moon is too far from the earth to completely obstruct the sun, leaving a sunshine at its edges. This unusual solar eclipse will cross the North Pole on its journey, and only people in small parts of Canada and Russia will have the full effect. But those willing to wake up early enough on parts of the east coast and wear their goggles will see a partial solar eclipse that morning around sunrise.