2021 is here. So does the vaccine – at least in those countries that have prepared for it. Life isn’t going to get back to normal now, here or there, with or without a vaccine, but we’re going to have an exciting year in space exploration, between news and old promises.
The excitement should start with the Mars season. No fewer than three missions will arrive on Mars in February: the American Mars 2020 with the Perseverance rover, the Chinese Tianwen-1 with orbiter, lander and rover, and Al-Amal, an orbital mission of the United Arab Emirates. . The American jeep lands as soon as it arrives. The Chinese will try to go under from April. However, if it does manage to fully reach the ground, China will only be the second country after the US to successfully land on Mars. Russians and Europeans have tried over the decades, but with limited success (probes even landed but crashed before producing data on site).
In manned spaceflight, Boeing is expected to join SpaceX and qualify its CST-100 Starliner capsule for missions. It was supposed to happen in 2020, but a failure in late 2019 hurt the American aerospace giant’s schedule. SpaceX qualified its Crew Dragon capsule last year and is expected to continue promoting regular missions to the International Space Station and increasingly developing its next project: the Starship rocket, which can enable manned interplanetary flights. The company hopes to get it into orbit for the first time by the end of 2021, but Elon Musk’s schedules always need to be analyzed with a pinch of salt.
The lunar exploration will also take place, with the first commercial unmanned missions promoted by astrobotic and intuitive machines. The Indians will try again to land on the moon with their Chandrayaan-3 mission, and the first flight of NASA’s SLS super rocket is scheduled for November 2021 on the Artemis-1 mission, which will bring an Orion capsule into the lunar environment will bring (without crew). ). Unfortunately, it was difficult to trust NASA’s deadlines for Artemis. So don’t be surprised if this flight is due in 2022.
What seems to be the hardest move at this point is the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. As the virtual “successor” of Hubble, it will take off on October 31st with an Ariane 5 rocket. Originally, it was supposed to go into space in 2018, but development delays and budget overruns led to successive postponements. It looks like this in 2021, and the first results are eagerly awaited by the astronomical community.
In our battered corner of the planet, we can expect the launch of Amazonia-1, the first remote sensing satellite developed by Inpe (don’t get used to it as we don’t know when there will be money for another) with an Indian one PSLV missile (maybe in February). and the Sportmission, a joint project between the ITA (Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica) and NASA to develop a Cubesat (mini satellite) that will fly in the third quarter, who knows.
This column is published in Folha Corrida on Mondays.
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