After Perseverance Here Are The Next Exciting Space Missions
From flying a helicopter on to redirecting an asteroid human is all set to achieve a new milestone in space.
2021 will see humans take a step forward in becoming an interplanetary species. So here are the five most thrilling space missions that you shouldn’t miss this year.
The first is the launch of the much-awaited James Webb Space Telescope. The 10 billion dollars telescope is the successor of the Hubble Space Telescope. In its 30 years of exploration, Hubble revealed that nature is much more of an artist than a scientist or an engineer. With Webb, we will be able to see the remotest regions of the cosmos.
That’s because Hubble worked in the optical and UV region. Webb will work in infrared. As compared to Hubble, the telescope is a beast. It is half the size of a 737 aircraft with a mirror 5 times larger than Hubble’s. Webb plans to image exoplanets, novas, and stars directly.
The second is the exploration of Mars.
In 2021, three countries will arrive at the Red Planet. The first is the United States with the Perseverance rover, which will search for microbial life on Mars. The rover will also collect and store soil samples, that will be taken back to earth in future Martian missions.
However, the highlight of the mission is the Mars Helicopter Ingenuity. For the first time, a helicopter is going to have a flight on any planet beyond Earth. Ingenuity will fly 5 times during its 30-day test campaign. The second country is china with its Tianwen-1 mission. Designed to search for past life on Mars, the mission carries a lander, a rover, and an orbiter. Its success would make china the second country to land on Mars. The third mission to arrive at Mars will be the UAE, with the orbiter called Hope. The spacecraft will study weather patterns on Mars. If successful, the UAE will become the first Arab country to reach the planet.
The third is Chandrayaan 3. After its previous lunar mission’s partial success, India will go back to the Moon for the third time. In 2019, India had launched Chandrayaan 2 with a lander, a rover, and an orbiter. Due to a communication snag, the lander crashed on the lunar surface. the orbiter is working well and sending back data to the India Space Agency. If successful, India will become the fourth country to make a soft landing on the moon, only after the USSR, the United States, and China.
The fourth space mission to look for in 2021 is NASA’s Lucy which will be the first mission to the Trojan asteroids. The Trojan asteroid mainly refers to swarms of rocks that move along the orbiter of Jupiter. They orbited the Sun in two groups, one leading ahead of Jupiter in its path, the other trailing behind it. These asteroids hold the secrets of the early solar system. Lucy will launch in October 2021.
It gets its name from the fossilized human ancestor whose skeleton provided a unique insight into humankind’s evolution. Similarly, scientists believe Lucy will provide important clues on how the solar system formed. Lucy’s team has developed a complex trajectory, that will carry the spacecraft to both groups of Trojan asteroids.
The fifth and one of the most exciting missions on the list are Dart, which stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test. It is human Kind’s first planetary defense mission. The 500 kg spacecraft will travel to the double asteroid system, called Didymos. There it will collide head-on with its orbiting moonlet Diphormos. After the collision, the time taken by Diphormos to orbit its parent body will decrease by several minutes, as its enters a new orbit. As seen from the earth, this double asteroid system is an eclipsing binary, which means, Diphormos passes in front of Didymos as its orbits the larger body.
Now, the earth-based telescopes can easily track the regular variation of its brightness and determine the new time duration taken to complete one orbit around the parent asteroid.
Dart’s success would help us prepare to tackle any potentially hazardous asteroid headed our way. Besides these 5 missions, it’s important to mention NASA’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and the man on the moon by 2024. In 2021, NASA will proceed with uncrewed spaceflights as part of the Artemis program. Let hope that the efforts of millions of scientists and engineers bear fruit in 2021, as they take our civilization to another level.