This year is being set up to be a great one for space expeditions, with many different kinds of missions planned. From billionaires’ private space companies to NASA, here are the pioneering events to look out for:
SpaceX and Boeing to fly with astronauts
Both SpaceX and Boeing have set 2020 as the year they will begin their first manned expeditions. In 2019, both launched missions with dummies and no live crew on board to see conditions in their spacecraft. While Boeing’s didn’t make it to the International Space Station, SpaceX did in 2018. While the date for these missions hasn’t been set, SpaceX are planning an in-flight abort test in January, before putting their astronauts on board.
Chang’e 5 is the mission to the moon planned by the China National Space Administration (CNSA). A lunar rover will be sent to collect samples and return to Earth for study.
China hopes to become the third country to collect lunar samples, with the USA and Russia both having already achieved this. This is not the country’s first rover sent into space, the Chang’e 4 was launched but landed on the far side of the moon in January 2019.
NASA will finally be launching the Mars 2020 rover, which has been installed with improved instruments which will examine Mars for its habitability. It will search for signs of life, collect samples and test a new technique for producing oxygen. It is planned to launch in July/ August 2020.
US Airforce space plane
The mysterious US Airforce space plane, X-37B space plane (also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle) will be launched for its sixth uncrewed mission in 2020. No one is sure what this plane is doing while it is orbit. Read more about the strange plane here.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is hoping to send tourists into space in 2020. In specially designed spacesuits, paying customers will be able to go into suborbital spaceflight for $250,000 per ticket.
Another billionaire whose space company is preparing for 2020 is Jeff Bezos. His Blue Origin is preparing to send humans into space after successful test flights in 2019. The New Shepard spacecraft can hold up to six people and will launch them into suborbital space.
International Space Station Expedition 62
It’s time for the new crew of the International Space Station to go an take-over performing experiments and taking beautiful photographs from their special vantage point. Astronauts from Russia and the US will be making the trip near the beginning of the year.
Hope Mars mission
The United Arab Emirates are hoping to get into the space exploration game with their Hope Mars mission. While not a spacecraft, the country plans to launch the first uncrewed, interplanetary satellite. It is being sent to learn more about Mars’s atmosphere.