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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – Astronauts have entered orbit from the U.S. for the first time in nearly a decade, three astronauts launched an orbiting spacecraft toward Mars, and robotic researchers captured rocks from the moon and gravel from an asteroid to return to Earth. .
A place provided moments of hope and glory in a difficult, difficult year.
He promises to do the same in 2021, with the end of February at Mars and the planned next collapse of the Hubble Space Telescope successor – the next-generation James Webb space telescope.
Boeing hopes to capture SpaceX in the astronauts launch sector, and space tourism may eventually begin.
“2021 promises to be a real place of space exploration, perhaps even bigger,” said Scott Hubbard, “Mars Czar” who at NASA now taught at Stanford University.
While a global panavic coronavirus became a global mission in 2020, most high-priority missions were on the way, led by the US, China and the United Arab Emirates in stampede to Mars in July.
The first UAE interplanetary spacecraft, an orbiter, will study the Martian atmosphere. NASA’s sustainability mission is expected to land on Feb. 18 at an ancient delta river and lake bed where microscopic life could once have flourished. The rover drills into the dry crust, collecting samples for return to Earth.
The Chinese orbiter-rover duo Tianwen-1 – seeking celestial reality – will also be hunting for signs of a past life.
The European and Russian space agencies jumped the 2020 Mars launch window, the Mars rover took their life to 2022 due to technical issues and COVID-19 limitations.
China also posted its views on the moon in 2020, landing and then launching the lunar surface in December with the first lunar rocks collected for return to Earth since the 1970s.
Japan returned pieces of Ryugu asteroid – the second batch of asteroid in ten years. More asteroid samples are on the way: NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft put up a handful of gravel from the Bennu asteroid in October for return in 2023.
Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s SpaceX was live in 2020. In May, it became the first private company to put humans into orbit, a previously announced achievement by just three global superpowers. The two test pilots were the first NASA astronauts to fly the new spacecraft logo in nearly 40 years and the first to explode from Florida since the shuttle program ended in 2011.
In November, four more astronauts rode a SpaceX Dragon capsule to the International Space Station. Three weeks later, SpaceX launched the largest cargo yet into the space station for NASA.
“This is an incredible achievement that Americans should be proud of,” said astronaut Senator Mark Kelly on the double-headed Dragon capsule.
Until the SpaceX flights, Soyuz capsules with three in Russia were the only way to get astronauts to the space station once NASA shuttles closed.
NASA’s other hire crew carrier, Boeing, is scrambling to get its Starliner capsule back in action after a software damage test flight in December 2019. The overflow – again without man on board – focused for spring. If the repair work and the capsule reach the final space station, the first Starliner astronauts could be flying in the summer.
Musk ended the year with a stratospheric test mission of Starship, the rocket he is building to transport humans to the moon and to Mars. The Dec. 9 demo went better than anyone thought until a fire explosion occurred at a touchdown. Nevertheless, Musk was ecstatic.
Meanwhile, SpaceX is expanding its Dragon-march clientele. Late next year, SpaceX plans to launch its first privately funded Dragon flight in a deal arranged by Houston-based Axiom Space.
Axiom astronaut and former president of the Spaceflight Commercial Alliance will be joined by Axiom astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria and will be joined by Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe and two other paid customers for the space station. Former fighter pilot Stibbe was a good friend of Israel’s first astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 2003.
Will Tom Cruise join them? The actor was in talks with NASA this year about filming a movie at the space station.
“This is the very beginning of private space and will get the member to several private missions into orbit each year,” Lopez-Alegria said in an email. “I have been preaching for almost ten years __ that the next big leap is the light of commercial human space. ”
Two other space travel companies – Richard Branson’s Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic – are still piloting flights and have yet to set strict deadlines for launching customers on flights- short air to the edge of space and back.
NASA is still aiming for a November launch of their new lunar rocket, the Space Launch System, with an Orion capsule launching unmanned. The Trump administration had set a 2024 date for the first moon to land with astronauts from NASA’s Apollo program fifty years ago. Just this month, NASA introduced the 18 astronauts who will be training for the lunar program named for Artemis, the sister of the mythical couple Apollo.
It remains to be seen how President Joe Biden could change the lunar landing program.
“Whatever may be said about the four years of the Trump administration, they have been positive for the U.S. civil space program,” said John Logsdon, professor emeritus at the George Washington University Space Policy Institute. “No major programs have been postponed, the human research program has been given clear direction, and funding for existing programs has been increased.”
“This is a legacy that Biden’s administration can build on, so that there can be a series of continued successes in the years to come. ”