Moon, Mars and asteroids .. What will happen in space in 2022?

Despite the global context that the pandemic has made uncertain, 2021 has been particularly prolific in terms of space news. The past months have spawned several large-scale missions. Thus marked the last days of the year The launch of the famous James Webb Space Telescope, which promises to disturb our knowledge of the universe thanks to its giant mirror capable of analyzing objects in the distant universe, where the first galaxies formed.

end of november, Launching the DART مهمة mission It marks the beginning of a multi-year scientific adventure to test for the first time an asteroid deflection technology that could threaten humanity in the long run. Funny experience in the abyss after a month The movie happened at the end of the year, Don’t Seek: Cosmic Denial .

A few weeks ago, this fall, France witnessed in astonishment On Thomas Peskett’s second return to Earth, the national hero has now turned into moon conquest And the horizon of Mars in the future. The conquest of the red planet has become a reality this year The first returns sent by NASA’s persistent rover which has been exploring its surface for signs of past life since the end of February.

The year 2021 has also been designated The emergence of space tourism, amid the impetus of private companies funded by billionaires eager for new horizons. It was also the scene of a certain escalation of tensions between the United States and Russia after that Russian anti-satellite missile accused of endangering the safety of ISS astronauts mid-November.

The next few months promise to be particularly busy with new explorations of Mars, the start of the US Artemis program to return to the moon, a NASA ship encounter with an asteroid or even the first images provided by the James Webb Telescope. An overview of events not to be missed in space over the coming months.

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January: First orbital flight of SpaceX’s massive Starship rocket

In recent months, SpaceX has certainly established itself as a premium partner for NASA. In addition to returning two crew of astronauts from the International Space Station, including Frenchman Thomas Pesquet, Elon Musk has developed another rocket, the future Starship spacecraft, designed to propel a payload of more than 100 tons into space and transport future human colonies to Mars.

Prior to that, NASA had selected the craft to return Americans to the Moon. Several sub-orbital flight tests have already been initiated, which consist of flying at an altitude of about twelve kilometers and then returning to Earth on a base in the Gulf of Mexico. corn Most of them ended up in huge fireballs, Before First successful attempt in May. Tests should continue into 2022, and in particular the highly anticipated first orbital flight, which Elon Musk had hoped would take place in January or February.

February: Artemis’ mission to the moon

2022 is expected to be a pivotal year for man’s return to the moon. From the beginning of the year, with Artemis Mission 1 launchedThe Space Decade’s most ambitious goal is to return Americans to our natural satellite. The mission is set to take a new step in February with the inaugural flight of the Space Launch System, a new NASA rocket and Orion capsule. But without an astronaut on board, and without landing at first. Americans are not expected to return to the moon until 2025.

Mid-2022: James Webb’s first comeback

If all goes as planned, the telescope James Webb, who took off on December 25, will give its first observations this year. The observatory is currently on its way to the L2 Lagrange point, located 1.5 million km from our planet, which should arrive at the end of January.

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Once its dangerous propagation is completed and its mirrors calibrated, it will search for its first targets, looking for light emitted by the first galaxies. The first scientific data is not expected before the middle of the year, possibly in the summer.

James Webb Space Telescope

Credit: Chris Gunn/NASA/AFP

June: European mission to explore Jupiter and its frozen moons

2022 will see Europe set out to conquer Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, which has more than 60 moons in its orbit. The European Space Agency is preparing to launch a space probe to explore these unknown worlds. The robotic probe will spend at least three years studying Jupiter and three of its largest icy moons Ganymede, Callisto and Europa, which are believed to harbor subsurface oceans. Juice (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) mission is scheduled to launch in June.

Artist's impression of the ESA juice mission

Artist’s impression of the ESA juice mission

Credit: ESA

August: Asteroids encounter like no other

In early August, the space probe spirit I’m going to visit the asteroid Psyche. This 300-kilometre large pebble has the distinction of being one of the ten largest objects in the main belt, but it is also made primarily of metal.

It is located more than 450 million kilometers from Earth, and can hardly be seen with telescopes. NASA wants to see it more closely to understand how it formed and to verify the hypothesis that it could be the remnants of an ancient planet’s core.

September: Europe invades Mars

After Curiosity, Perseverance, and Zhurong, Mars is preparing to welcome a new craft to its surface. European robot Rosalind Franklin You should leave the red planet this fall To survey its steep terrain from June 2023 as part of the ExoMars 2022 mission. Target, Oxia Planum Basin for biometric fingerprints to determine if Mars has crossed life forms.

Six years after the Exomars program began, the European Space Agency and the Russian space agency Roscosmos are finally hoping to give fresh impetus to the already-tested mission. Lots of setbacks and delays.

Autumn: The culmination of the DART mission

An unprecedented planetary defense exercise should take place in an unenviable scenario for the best science fiction films at the end of 2022. NASA will for the first time test a kinetic collider method for deflecting a potentially Earth-threatening asteroid.

History of the NASA DART . mission

History of the NASA DART . mission

Credit: AFP

The task should reach its climax in the fall, when The probe will be launched at the end of November 2021 against the asteroid Demorphos. The US space agency hopes the impact will be violent enough to modify the object’s velocity by 1% and derail it. This rehearsal will provide insight into space agencies’ ability to save humanity if an asteroid ever threatens our planet.

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