A stunning eclipse, race to the moon and other space events in 2024
NASA wants to land American astronauts on the lunar surface in the coming years with the Artemis III mission. However, before that can happen, several things have to go right, and the two most important things are scheduled for 2024.
The first is the Artemis II mission. NASA introduced four Artemis II astronauts last year. Come November, all four could travel around the moon and back. They will be the first humans to visit the Moon since 1972, when the Apollo 17 mission ended. To fly in 2024, NASA will need to resolve heat shield issues on the astronauts' spacecraft, as well as overcome other potential delays.
The second limitation is that the Orion capsule can only orbit the Moon – it does not land. Astronauts need a second vehicle to get to the surface. At the moment, it is a version of Starship, the spacecraft being built by SpaceX, the private space flight company founded by Elon Musk. But Starship needs a lot of work before it's ready to carry astronauts to the Moon.
Prototypes of Mr Musk's Starship launched twice in 2023, and each mission ended in a fiery explosion. SpaceX has said it wants to fly the next Starship test early 2024, Whether it succeeds or fails, more prototype flights may follow. If SpaceX gets the next Starship flights right, NASA's chances of sending the next man and first woman to the Moon in the coming years will improve.
total eclipse over north america
The astronomical spectacle of 2024 will be the “Great North American Eclipse”. On April 8, the Moon will cross the Sun's path, causing darkness to cover Earth during the day. The broad path of the eclipse begins in Mexico, crosses into Texas, continues through Arkansas and Missouri to southern Illinois, crosses into Indiana and Ohio, then western New York and New England before ending in the eastern provinces of Canada. Darkens the kingdoms.
If you live down the road, be prepared for visitors. (You can't book a trip along the path of totality that early.) And if you're planning to view the eclipse from anywhere – now's the time to order eclipse glasses or other protective viewing.
New rocket and space ride
The Falcon 9 rocket, built and operated by SpaceX, has become the dominant way to reach space. The launcher or its Falcon Heavy version flew 96 times in 2023, and each flight into orbit was successful. But SpaceX should expect new competitors on the launchpad in 2024. These include:
Vulcan is a rocket built by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The rocket's engines are made by Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon's Jeff Bezos. It can take off on January 8.
Ariane 6, a European rocket. The European Space Agency has until recently been without a dedicated vehicle to orbit, leaving Europe to rely on SpaceX and others to get spacecraft to the solar system. After several delays, the first flight of the Ariane 6 could take place in June.
H3, a Japanese rocket. The vehicle launched for the first time in March 2023, but failed in its attempt to place an imaging satellite into orbit. The second attempt may take place on February 15.
New Glenn, a rocket from Blue Origin. Mr Bezos's company has transported tourists to the edge of space in its tiny New Shepard vehicle. Its larger orbital launcher could launch in 2024, which if proven successful would shake up private space flight.
The new vehicles may also visit the International Space Station. Dream Chaser, a space plane built by Sierra Space Co., may carry cargo to the station for the first time this year. Additionally, Starliner, a capsule built by Boeing, could finally carry a crew of astronauts to the orbiting outpost on April 14 after years of delays.
lunar traffic jam
Three missions attempted to land on the Moon in 2023. Only one, India's Chandrayaan-3, succeeded. Four additional missions – and perhaps even more – will attempt to accomplish lunar landings in 2024:
SLIM, a Japanese mission, is scheduled to make the first lunar landing attempt on January 20, 2024. The small, experimental spacecraft was launched in September and is already in orbit around the moon.
The two other missions come from private companies, whose primary customer is NASA. Pittsburgh company Astrobotic will launch its Peregrine lunar lander on January 8, which may attempt to land near the moon's Ocean of Storms in February. Houston's Intuitive Machines will send its lander toward the moon's south pole in mid-February.
China is also planning its fourth moon landing. Chang'e-6 In May it may head to the far side of the moon and collect samples of moon rock and dust to bring to Earth for study.
Other missions are more temporary. Japanese company iSpace, which crashed its first lander last year, may make a second attempt later this year. And Intuitive Machines has ambitions to send two more NASA-sponsored missions to the Moon in 2024.
Trips around the solar system
There is a vast solar system out there, and missions large and small will be launched to explore it.
The largest is Europa Clipper, a NASA spacecraft that headed toward Jupiter's moon, Europa, in October. Europa's exterior is icy and behind it lies a vast ocean that scientists say may have conditions suitable for life. After Clipper reaches Europa in 2030, the spacecraft will not attempt to land there, but will study the moon during dozens of flybys.
Two new spacecraft could also visit the Red Planet before August as part of the smaller NASA ESCAPADE mission. The spacecraft will orbit Mars and study the magnetic bubbles present around it.
In October, the European Space Agency will launch the Hera mission to the asteroid Dimorphos. It will study the effects of an earlier mission, NASA's Double Asteroid Redirect Test, which collided with Dimorphos in 2022 to test whether altering the trajectory of a space rock could protect Earth from future asteroid strikes. Is.