While 2020 was an exciting year for space exploration, it’s got nothing on what’s to come in 2021. NASA recently shared their roadmap for the next 12 months. Here’s what you could look forward to.
NASA in 2021: What to expect
Artemis Moon mission
The Artemis programme initially kicked off back in 2017. It’s a U.S. government-funded spaceflight program with the goal of landing “the first woman and the next man” on the Moon by 2024.
This year, however, NASA plans to send the first uncrewed Artemis mission to the Moon, with the first fire test for the Green Run scheduled for 17 January 2021.
That’s the rocket that will power NASA’s next-generation human Moon missions. According to NASA, the “success of Green Run will set the stage for Artemis I uncrewed mission to the Moon in 2021”.
New rover on Mars
The car-sized Mars Perseverance rover left Earth in July 2020 during a two-hour launch window. If all goes according to plan, Perseverance will land on the Red Planet on 18 February 2021.
Perseverance was designed to search for astrobiological evidence of ancient microbial life on Mars. The rover will land at the Jezero Crater where it will gather rock and soil samples.
It will also “characterise the planet’s climate and geology and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet”. Perseverance weighs 1 043 kilograms and will be the first Mars rover equipped with a helicopter.
James Webb Space Telescope
NASA has massive plans for the James Webb Space Telescope, a space telescope set to succeed the Hubble Space Telescope as NASA’s flagship astrophysics mission. It’s 100 times more powerful than Hubble.
According to NASA, the James Webb Space Telescope will also have a significantly larger field of view than the NICMOS camera on Hubble, and better spatial resolution than is available with the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope.
The new space telescope will launch on 31 October 2021, at which time it will allow scientists to view exoplanets at infrared wavelengths they’ve never seen them in before.