Space missions in 2024 are set to follow the record-setting trends from 2023 (212 launches) and 2022 (135 launches). The new missions target the moon and other planets and beyond. Read here to learn about the spaceflights in 2024.
2023 saw the launches of the European Space Agency (ESA) Jupiter Icy Moons (JUICE) mission, its Euclid mission, and NASA’s long-awaited mission to the metallic asteroid 16 Psyche.
OSIRIS-Rex also returned its sample of asteroid Bennu to Earth, and India made its first successful landing on the Moon with Chandrayaan 3.
Meanwhile, iSpace’s Hakuto-R and Russia’s Luna 25 crashed on their lunar landing attempts.
Space Missions in 2023
Here’s a summary of some of the major events, including the much-awaited launch of SpaceX’s massive Starship Mars rocket and the successful landing of NASA’s first-ever clean asteroid sample on Earth.
JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer)
- JUICE will spend the next eight years traveling to the gas giant, completing several gravity-assist maneuvers around Earth and Venus during the interim years.
- Once JUICE arrives at Jupiter in July 2031, it will begin studying the big moons Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa, all of which are believed to contain liquid-water oceans beneath their icy, outer layers.
NASA’s Psyche probe
- Psyche is on a 2.2 billion-mile (3.5 billion kilometers) journey to an asteroid of the same name, which is composed primarily of nickel and iron.
- Scientists believe the asteroid 16 Psyche may be the remnant of an ancient protoplanetary core, and they hope its study will yield clues into the processes of planetary formation.
- The return capsule from NASA’s first mission to retrieve samples from an asteroid touched town in September of 2023.
- OSIRIS-REx launched in 2016 and spent two years traveling to its target asteroid, Bennu.
- After an extensive survey in orbit around the space rock, OSIRIS-REx maneuvered to the asteroid’s surface to collect its samples in October 2020.
- India became the fourth nation to successfully land on the moon’s southern hemisphere when its Chandrayaan-3 mission achieved the feat in August of 2023.
- Chandrayaan-3’s landing duo consisted of two vehicles, the Vikram lander and the Pragyan rover.
- The Chandrayaan-3 propulsion module remained in lunar orbit to perform its research.
- Following its scheduled launch on September 2, 2023, Aditya-L1 stayed Earth-bound orbits for 16 days, during which it underwent 5 maneuvres to gain the necessary velocity for its journey.
- Subsequently, Aditya-L1 underwent a Trans-Lagrangian1 insertion maneuver, marking the beginning of its 110-day trajectory to the destination around the L1 Lagrange point.
- Luna-25, the first Soviet/Russian lunar mission in 47 years, launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome, in Russia’s eastern Amur Region.
- Its mission was to land in the moon’s south polar region, near Boguslawsky Crater, but a malfunction during one of the spacecraft’s engine burns caused the probe to crash into the lunar surface.
- International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 68/69 Flight Engineer Frank Rubio broke the U.S. single-space flight duration record last year.
- Rubio and his Russian cosmonaut crewmates, Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, launched to the ISS on Sept. 21, 2022, and were originally scheduled for a six-month stint aboard the orbital laboratory.
- In total, Rubio spent 371 continuous days in space, breaking the previous U.S. spaceflight record of 355 days, held by NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei.
Virgin Galactic commercial space flight
- The company’s first mission, Galactic 01, took off in June 2023 and carried members of the Italian Air Force and Italy’s National Research Council on a research flight that provided the trio a few minutes of weightlessness at their trajectory’s apex.
Let’s see what’s lined up for 2024.
Space missions in 2024
2024 is shaping up to be another exciting year for space exploration with several new missions under NASA’s Artemis plan and Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative will target the moon.
- Artemis 2 will combine nearly all elements, including the Space Launch System rocket, the Orion capsule, and four crew.
- The mission will perform a lunar flyby, making the crew the first humans to leave low-Earth orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972.
- NASA’s interplanetary mission, Europa Clipper is due to launch on a Falcon Heavy rocket on October 10th, though it won’t reach Jupiter until 2030.
- Despite launching more than a year after ESA’s JUICE, Europa Clipper will beat that spacecraft to Jupiter due to its more efficient trajectory.
VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration) & Lunar Trailblazer
- VIPER is NASA’s first automated rover to the moon’s south pole.
- The mission is designed to search for volatiles, which are molecules that easily vaporize, like water and carbon dioxide, at lunar temperatures.
- This mission is tagged with another launch Lunar Trailblazer as a rideshare.
- While VIPER will land on the moon’s surface, studying a specific area near the south pole in detail, Lunar Trailblazer will orbit the moon, measuring the temperature of the surface and mapping out the locations of water molecules across the globe.
JAXA MMX mission
- MMX (Mars Moons Explorer) will head to Phobos and Deimos in September.
- The spacecraft carries a sample-return mission, which will collect a piece of Phobos.
- JAXA has proven its ability to carry out asteroid rendezvous missions with Hayabusa 1 and 2, and a first-ever dedicated mission to Phobos is a natural extension.
- A small rover (Idefix) is also launching with MMX.
- NASA’s Escapade is also due to launch in early August on Rocket Lab’s first-ever interplanetary mission.
- The mission consists of two orbiters that will monitor Martian space weather.
- ESA’s Hera mission will return to the Didymos-Dimorphos asteroid system that NASA’s DART mission visited in 2022.
- Hera will launch in October 2024, making its way in late 2026 to Didymos and Dimorphos, where it will study the physical properties of the asteroids.
Active mission flybys in 2024
Beyond launches, there will also be plenty of rendezvous to anticipate this year as well.
- NASA’s Juno mission will complete the closest flyby of Jupiter’s moon Io on February 3rd, passing just 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) from the moon’s surface.
- That flyby will also tighten the spacecraft’s orbit. Juno’s mission has been extended until September 2025 and during this extended mission.
- NASA’s Lucy mission will also make its second Earth flyby on December 13th as it continues en route to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.
- BepiColombo, ESA, and DLR’s mission to Mercury will complete the fourth and fifth flybys of its target planet this year, on September 5th and December 2nd, respectively.
- It won’t be inserted into Mercury orbit until December 2025.
Parker solar probe
- NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will complete its seventh Venus flyby on November 6th at just 317 kilometers (197 miles) distant before completing its 22nd and closest perihelion on December 24th.
Indian Space missions
India is part of NASA’s Artemis program as it was the 27th country to sign the Artemis Accords, which establish a practical set of principles to guide space exploration cooperation among nations participating in NASA’s Artemis program.
PSLV-C58 with XPoSat
- India’s first X-Ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat), was launched in January 2023 aboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C58).
- This mission investigates the polarization of intense X-ray sources in the universe, focusing on pulsars, black hole X-ray binaries, and other celestial objects.
Mars Orbiter Mission 2 (MOM 2)
- MOM 2 is ISRO’s ambitious sequel to its successful MOM 1 which ended in 2022.
- The mission is aimed at studying the surface, atmosphere, and climatic conditions of Mars
- It will equip the orbiter spacecraft with advanced scientific instruments, including a hyperspectral camera, magnetometer, and radar.
- The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) may complete the first uncrewed flight test of their Gaganyaan 1 space capsule in early 2024.
- If successful, India may move ahead with crewed flights, perhaps becoming the fourth nation to launch humans into space by the end of the year.
- Under the Venus Orbiter Mission, ISRO plans to launch Shukrayaan-1, a spacecraft destined to orbit Venus for five years.
- It aims to study the atmosphere of Venus, marking India’s first foray into exploring the mysteries of the second planet from the Sun.
Previous year questions
Q. What is the main task of India’s third mood mission that could not be achieved in its earlier mission? List the countries that have achieved this task. Introduce the subsystems in the spacecraft launched and explain the role of the ‘Virtual Launch Control Centre’ at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre which contributed to the successful launch from Sriharikota. (2023)
Q. What is India’s plan to have its own space station and how will it benefit our space programme? (2019)
Q. Discuss India’s achievements in the field of Space Science and Technology. How the application of this technology helped India in its socio-economic development? (2016)
-Article by Swathi Satish