2022 was the year of the Artemis 1 lunar mission and the first breathtaking images from the James Webb Telescope. What awaits us this year?
No big moon trips anyway. Artemis 2 is only scheduled for 2024. There is another one firstThe first tourist spacewalk. Boeing is also waiting for an important step. The Starliner spacecraft will take astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time.
It’s a bit of a gap year, agrees science journalist and presenter Anna Gempreer, known for science programs like wild space. “We’re waiting for big moon missions. But 2023 will be back in the books, because there will be a few big rocket launches for the first time.”
She herself is looking forward to the first flight of the Starship, SpaceX’s new multifunctional spacecraft. With this, Elon Musk’s company wants to go to the Moon and Mars, and also to connect the cities of the world. The giant should serve as a landing pad for the first Artemis astronauts to land on the moon in a few years.
“Starship should become the largest carrier of astronauts. It’s the largest rocket ever, so I’m curious about that,” says Gimbrère. The test flight is planned for the first half of 2023.
Another massive rocket is also experiencing its first spaceflight: New Glenn of Blue Origin, the space company of Musk’s rival Jeff Bezos. Like SpaceX, it wants to carve out a place in the competitive satellite market with its reusable behemoth.
Gimbrère is not a fan of Bezos. “I always hope his missions fail. But I also find them exciting again. This means that the race between SpaceX and Blue Origin is on again.”
Just because people won’t go to the moon doesn’t mean something won’t go there. Two commercial and two Japanese landers are already planned to land on the moon in the coming months, and a Russian and an Indian one will also be on the way later this year. Gimbrère is particularly curious about how research can be done to make the moon habitable.
India also wants to test its own spacecraft for astronauts this year. It will be exciting if all goes well. “India is very proud of that, but a previous moon landing failed, for example. It may seem easy to land on the moon because we’re going to shoot people there again, but it’s very exciting every time. Especially for those start-up countries.”
Astronomer Karl Kobichar is also looking forward to lunar flights, but he is also looking forward to launching Juice, a European probe for the icy moons of Jupiter, Ganymede, Callisto and Europa. “Juice takes years to make this trip, but of course the launch also has to go well. It’s so much fun, this mission to three moons covered in ice.”
Beneath this ice are oceans in which scientists believe life may have originated. Juice needs to know more about that.
The probe won’t land, Kupchar says, which isn’t a good idea. Because he believes that even microscopic life, if it exists, is worth protecting, and an Earth drop would only disrupt that. “You shouldn’t be messing around there and throwing ground contamination in there. Even if the probe is disinfected, something bacterial will always remain. You have to stay away from it.”
What we won’t see in 2023 is a Dutch presence in space. The selection of the European Space Agency’s new astronauts did not include citizens this time. Anna Gempreer, who participated in the selection herself, is still hoping for a trip in the future. But at the moment, that is not the case. “They have a mountain of reserve astronauts at ESA now, commercial flights? I don’t think so. Maybe if I win the lottery, who knows.”
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