Join us as we recap some of the major events surrounding the space community in 2021, as coronavirus ripped through our communities our progress beyond the stars continued
February 18th – NASA’s Perseverance rover lands on Mars
Starting off this review with news from February, NASA’s fifth Mars rover known as Perseverance successfully landed on Mars’ Jezero crater.
A big story for many this defined the early months of 2021, NASA plans to bring back a sample of mars collected by Perseverance within early 2030 which will allow for continued study of our red planet
“I don’t think we’ve had a mission that is going to contribute so much to both science and technology,” NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk told Space.com shortly before Perseverance touched down. “It’s going to be truly amazing.”
April 19th – NASA flies first controlled helicopter flight on another planet
On April 19th, NASA made history with the first-ever controlled flight of a helicopter on another planet, named Ingenuity the helicopter spent 30 seconds hovering at the planned altitude of 10 feet, logging a total of 39 seconds airborne.
“Ingenuity is the latest in a long and storied tradition of NASA projects achieving a space exploration goal once thought impossible,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “The X-15 was a pathfinder for the space shuttle. Mars Pathfinder and its Sojourner rover did the same for three generations of Mars rovers. We don’t know exactly where Ingenuity will lead us, but today’s results indicate the sky – at least on Mars – may not be the limit.”
May 8th – Chinese rocket booster falls back to earth
On May 8th China came under fire for allowing a booster to fall back to earth, organisations and specialists alike argued that it could endanger multiple lives and cause reckless damages. The booster however fell to earth anyway and re-entered over the Arabian Peninsula at around 10:15pm according to U.S. Space Command
The 23-ton core of a Long March 5B booster crashed back to earth ending 10 days of controversial debates on orbital debris and responsible spacefaring.
“We are willing to work with other countries including the United States to strengthen cooperation in the use of outer space, but we also oppose double standards on this issue,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.
June 2nd – NASA releases plans for two missions to study Venus
In June NASA announced that they are going to complete two missions to study the planet’s atmosphere and geological features, the timeframe is anywhere between 2028 and 2030.
These missions have each received $500m and represent the first dedicated NASA missions to Earth’s closest planetary neighbour in over 30 years. NASA aims to map the surface of Venus and determine the planets geological history alongside solving why Venus developed so differently to our earth
We will be mapping the composition of Venus’s atmosphere right down to the surface. Telling us if Venus ever had an ocean
July 11th – Richard Branson reaches space
On July 11th, Billionaire Richard Branson alongside 5 crew mates launched into space, managing to beat Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos by nine days.
He is the first person to fly on a spacecraft of their own making, on July 11th the VSS Unity launched from New Mexico, taking Branson and the 5 other crew mates on a 90-minute suborbital flight to an altitude of 85km
The flight to 85 kilometres passed the US government’s definition of the boundary of space. The passengers, including Branson, were presented with commercial astronaut wings upon landing by Canadian former astronaut Chris Hadfield.
November 15th – Russian weapons threaten ISS
On this day a Russian weapons test created more than 1,500 pieces of space junk which threated the astronauts aboard the ISS, at the time four Americans and one German astronaut alongside two cosmonauts were on board the ISS
The crew were immediately told to take shelter in the docked capsules because even a fleck of paint can do major damage when orbiting at 17,500mph
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who’s midway through a yearlong mission, called it “a crazy but well-coordinated day” as he bid Mission Control good night. “It was certainly a great way to bond as a crew, starting off with our very first workday in space,” he said.
A similar weapons test by China in 2007 also resulted in countless debris. One of those pieces threatened to come dangerously close to the space station last week. While it later was dismissed as a risk, NASA had the station move anyway.
December 14th – NASA craft ‘touches’ sun for first time
On December 14th, NASA’s Parker probe explored the solar atmosphere known as the corona, scientists reported that it took a few months to get the data back and then a few more to confirm it.
The Parker solar probe was launched in 2018 to explore the sun by traveling closer than any spacecraft before, the information gathered by this probe can help us understand solar wind patterns. Parker will keep drawing ever closer to the sun and diving deeper into the corona until its grand finale orbit in 2025.