Space News To Expect In 2021: A Big Year For Space Exploration

Space News To Expect In 2021: A Big Year For Space Exploration

Jan 06, 2021Kelly Cavill

2020 may have delayed some space missions, but it's full steam ahead in the world of space exploration in 2021. 

Yep, this year, multiple missions are set to explore Mars, a giant telescope will be the next great detective in the universe, and NASA is getting ready to send humans back to the moon -- more specifically -- the first female to land on the moon! There is a lot to look forward to this year, so let's dive in.

Further Exploration of Mars 

In 2020, multiple space missions launched into Mars -- China's Tianwen-1, the United Arab Emirates' Hope Probe and NASA's Perseverance rover
Interestingly, these missions were all launched during a period during a certain alignment between Mars and Earth that happens every 26 months, when the two planets are on the same side of the sun. This allows for quicker, more efficient trips. All missions should arrive on Mars in February. 
We're most fascinated by NASA's Perseverance rover. This rover is equipped with multiple cameras, and microphones. In fact, NASA expects to have the sound, images, and video back on Earth within a few weeks of the landing. Within the rover lives a helicopter named Ingenuity. If all goes to plan, this will be the first helicopter to fly on another planet! The rover will seek out a flat surface area for the helicopter to land for it's test flights before finding a safe spot at a distance to watch and record Ingenuity's flight for the two year mission. The rover will also begin searching for evidence of ancient life, study Mars' climate and geology, as well as collect samples that will eventually be returned to Earth.


Exploring Exoplanets 

2021 will also -- hopefully-- be the year that the James Webb Space Telescope will launch! This telescope could be the next great detective in the universe. From answering questions about our solar system, to studying exoplanets (planets outside the solar system) in new ways, this new space technology is set to answer some big questions for NASA scientists. 

The launch of this observatory has been delayed due to the pandemic but is now set to launch on October 31, 2021 -- making for an even more exciting Halloween. What's fascinating about this telescope is that it has a massive mirror that extends out 21ft by 4ft. This will allow it to collect more light from objects that it observes. It's the largest mirror that NASA has ever built!

Eric Smith, who's NASA Webb's program scientist at the agency's headquarters, said "The observatory will detect light from the first generation of galaxies that formed in the early universe after the big bang and study the atmospheres of nearby exoplanets for possible signs of habitability." Pretty stellar, huh?


The NASA Artemis Program 

Great strides are set to be made in 2021 with NASA's Artemis program. The Artemis program plans to land the first woman and the next man on the moon in 2024. The astronauts will explore the moon's south pole and focus on conducting experimental science and learning more about the origin of water on the moon. 

With this program, NASA will collaborate with commercial and international partners and establish sustainable exploration by the end of the decade. The hope is to use what they learn on and around the Moon to take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars!

In 2021, the first Artemis mission will be an un-crewed flight test. Then the Artemis II will be a crewed flyby of the moon in August 2023.
Those missions will pave the way for Artemis III -- when astronauts will return to the surface of the moon. Of course, NASA has it's work cut out for them this year prior to the Artemis III mission in 2024, so stay tuned for updates about humanity's return to the moon!

Vera C Rubin Observatory 

The Vera C. Rubin Observatory is set to make observations in 2023 from its location in Chile. This observatory is named after one of the most influential astronomers who passed in 2016. Rubin mentored fellow aspiring female astronomers and actively advocated for women in science.

This observatory is a large car-sized camera that will capture complete panoramas of the southern sky every few nights. It's the world's largest digital camera that's able to spot a golf ball from 15 miles away while capturing stunning 3,200-megapixel images! 

The camera will begin its testing this year and the "first light" of the observatory is set to happen, as well. The "first light" is the first astronomical image captured by a telescope. We're excited to see what mysteries this magnificent camera will be able to unlock in our universe!

 Vera C Rubin Observatory