Space Flight Events to Watch in 2019

first_img NASA Says 2 Asteroids Will Safely Fly By Earth This WeekendHubble Captures Saturn’s ‘Phonograph Record’ Ring System Just last week, the first ever lander deployed to the far side of Earth’s moon touched down. China’s Chang’e 4 rover is the first of its kind and represents just the first of a series of incredible milestones that we’re likely to see this year. But, because space is, quite famously, really damned hard, some of these missions may not quite make it. But from what we can tell, this is what we can expect in 2019. Later this month, SpaceX will be running the Dragon 2 spacecraft on its first major test flight. Crewed flights will be later this year, but for now, SpaceX is just hoping to get it human-rated by proving the craft’s spaceworthiness.Following that will be in the Indian Chandrayaan-2, the first lander that will survey the moon’s South Pole — a site that may contain lots more water for future human colonization efforts. It’s worth noting that this craft’s predecessor, Chandrayaan-1 actually recorded the data that was just recently shown by researchers to demonstrate the presence of water on the surface. So, look forward to that for sure.Next-up is NASA’s InSight lander. It touched down at the tail end of last year, but during the next few weeks, the craft will be driving sensors several meters into the ground to take the first proper geological readings.Also in February, SpaceX plans to deliver the first private lunar craft to the moon. Developed by the Israeli company SpaceIL, the craft was originally meant to cinch the Lunar XPRIZE. The contest was canceled by Google a few months ago, but SpaceIL still hopes that this mission will be a history maker regardless. And, they’ve already come this far, right?Also, Hayabusa 2, Japan’s asteroid explorer will drop down to the surface of the Ryugu asteroid to collect samples and then begin a return trip later in the year. The second-ever launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket, the wondrous behemoth that we covered near the beginning of 2018 will likely be in March. It’s expected to be a comparatively uneventful launch, besides the fact that all eyes will be looking to see that SpaceX can, once again, put a big-ass cargo load into space.Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will also have an uncrewed test flight in March, if all goes to plan. Skipping to May, Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit hopes to get its first space launch. But that should be it unless SpaceX can manage to get a third Falcon Heavy ready to launch a bevy of satellites for NASA in the first half of the year.Shortly thereafter, though, in June, SpaceX will ideally be running their first crewed flights of the Dragon 2. The launch would be huge for a variety of reasons, but not least of which being that it’ll be the first crewed launch from the US since the cessation of Space Shuttle program eight years ago. Originally, we were hoping to see the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble’s next-gen successor this year. And, as far as science goes, that will probably be the event of the year to watch — particularly given how critical to the field of astronomy Hubble has been. But with that, there are only two other big missions scheduled this year: OSIRIS-Rex and Chang’e 5. Both of which are sample returns.OSIRIS-Rex is a NASA probe currently excavating the surface of the asteroid Bennu. By September, it’s hoped that this probe will be on the route back to Earth so that we may study whatever it collects. China is also planning a sample return mission — the Chang’e 5. Hot off the success of their prior launch, China is hoping to cement itself as a moon-capable nation and commence the first sample return mission since the cold war. While there’s a few other launches scheduled throughout the year, these are the big ones. And they point to an increasingly diverse array of nations and companies that are capable of spaceflight of all kinds. It’s a shame that some of the major missions — namely James Webb — have been bumped, but it should be an exciting time to be a fan of rocket science.  More on Incredible Images of Earth’s Mountains and Volcanoes from SpaceNASA Chooses Landing Site for Mars 2020 Rover Mission40 Stunning Images of the Surface of Mars Stay on targetlast_img