We assume that 2022 is going to be an important year for space exploration, with NASA hoping to return the US to the moon as a part of the agency’s Artemis deep space exploration programme within 3 years there is much to do
NASA has been attracting the attention of the space community, with particular focus on a new space launch system. Currently the most powerful rocket they have designed. It has the capability to carry astronauts to the moon and further as a part of the agency’s Artemis deep space exploration programme, they hope to forge a permanent link between Earth and the moon allowing for endless exploration and discovery to benefit future missions elsewhere.
The programme’s first launch is scheduled for February where a SLS rocket standing more than 300ft high will complete an unmanned Orion capsule to enter a highly elliptical orbit around the moon. Orion is deigned to carry between four and six astronauts when fully operational.
If February’s mission is successful a crewed mission could take place in 2024 with plans for a following 2025 launch which would bring humans to the lunar surface once again, the last time humans landed on the surface was 53 years ago when Apollo 17 touched down in December 1972.
This mission will mark the beginning of NASA’s hopes to establish a lunar colony where astronauts would develop technologies to then support future expeditions to mars.
To support their efforts in establishing a lunar colony NASA plans to back a programme of robot missions through their $2.6 billion commercial lunar payload services sending robot spacecraft to the moon these probes will attempt to map underground water deposits alongside releasing rovers to investigate the lunar surface.
Founded in 2007 by roboticist and research professor Red Whittaker, Astrobotic will work with NASA to send their newly designed Peregrine lander to a plain of basaltic rock carrying 11 different payloads of instruments alongside another US company Intuitive Machines which will send a spacecraft carrying six payloads to the Ocean of Storms.
Further missions will continue to take place over the next three years although head of NASA Science, Thomas Zurbuchen warms as many as half of these could go wrong.
Humanities hunt for alien life will take another step forward in 2022 with the late September launch of a joint European-Russian ExoMars mission which hopes to land a robot rover on a 125-mile-wide clay bearing plain in the planet’s northern hemisphere. Launch is scheduled for September 22nd with touchdown expected on 10th June 2023
Hopes of a successful mission are tentative, neither Europe nor Russia has any previous luck with landing on mars, nineteen Russian and soviet missions and two European bids to land have all failed, one notable European mission was the Schiaparelli lander which crashed on the planet in 2016
One of the more spectacular missions of 2022 will be NASA’s attempt to test an anti-asteroid defence system. Launched last year the spacecraft will crash into the moonlet Dimorphos in September, the 1,340lb probe will hopefully change the orbit of Dimorphos If successful NASA is encouraged to follow up by developing craft which could deflect larger astroids and avert any disaster for example if Dimorphos were to crash into Earth it could wipe out a city the size of Manhattan
NASA has other asteroid missions next year, launching the probe known as Psyche, the spacecraft will visit an asteroid called 16 Psyche which is though of as the leftover core of a planet
In 2022. Boeing will attempt to get its crew capsule into orbit so that they can begin ferrying astronauts to and from the ISS, known as Starliner it failed to reach the ISS in 2019 and another mission failed when fuel valves wouldn’t open. Boeing now plans to launch a crewless Starliner early 2022 followed by a crewed flight later into the year. The plan is to use Starliner along with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship on a rota to ferry astronauts and cargo to the ISS
Two private companies succeeded in launching maiden sub-orbital flights in 2021, Blue origin (Founded by Jeff Bezos) and Virgin Galactic (Set up by Richard Branson). Both companies expect to begin offering regular spaceflight missions for paying customers in 2022, offering groups of tourists a few minutes of weightlessness before safely returning to earth.