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Here are the top 10 space missions to follow in 2024

Here are the top 10 space missions to follow in 2024

The inaugural flight of the Ariane 6 spacecraft, a manned mission around the Moon, the recovery of extraterrestrial samples… 2024 is marked by some major space events. Here are the top 10 things we think deserve your full attention.

2024 promises to be a busy year for space conquest enthusiasts. We have several key meetings over the next 12 months. There will be new vehicles entering service, such as Ariane 6, New Glenn and Dream Chaser. We also expect some manned missions and scientific adventures far into the solar system.

For those who follow space news closely, there’s a bit of repetition in this list. It is inevitable: timelines are not always respected in this area. For example, the Ariane 6 rocket was originally scheduled to depart in 2020. But the COVID-19 pandemic and internal and external difficulties were all obstacles to the schedule. Others have faced the same problem.

Please keep in mind that this calendar is intended for information purposes only. That is likely to change in the coming months.

April 2024: First flight of the Space Shuttle Dream Chaser to the International Space Station

A reusable shuttle, similar to the American Space Shuttle: this is the Dream Chaser (Dream catcher). Objective? Transport passengers to low orbit and return them to Earth as easily as in an airplane. It is scheduled to be built by the American company Sierra Space, and it is scheduled to make its first trip to the International Space Station in the spring of 2024.

May 2024: Chang’e 6 departs for the far side of the Moon

The Chang’e 5 mission consists of returning lunar soil samples from a site located on the visible side of the satellite. Chang’e 6 has the same target, but on the other side of the moon this time. This would be the first time, if Beijing succeeds. Not even the United States and the Soviet Union tried this. Note: Some European participation, including France.

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This is the visible side of the Moon. China will go the other way. // Source: Canva

Q1 2024: Launch of SpaceX’s Polaris Dawn mission

SpaceX’s Polaris space program, announced in early 2022, is behind schedule. The events of the first part, Polaris Dawn, were scheduled to take place at the end of 2022, then in March 2023. We are waiting for that now In the first quarter of 2024. The goal? The first EVA outing was organized by a private company – SpaceX – with only civilians aboard a Crew Dragon capsule.

First quarter of 2024: New spacecraft test

The spacecraft’s second test flight was better than the first. Several additional stages were therefore validated. According to Elon Musk, the new version of the rocket launcher should be ready by Christmas. If the green light from the US authorities does not take long, a third test can be expected in the first quarter of 2024. But will the spacecraft be ready for the moon? not sure.

Starship
The spacecraft during its second flight. // source : SpaceX

Mid-June/end of July: First flight of the Ariane 6 rocket

The long-range test firing of the first stage of the Ariane 6 rocket went well. The launch pad still has to undergo some tests in December, but we can now get an idea of ​​the date of its first flight. It will be between mid-June and the end of July 2024. It’s about time! We have been waiting for this since 2020. Europe must regain its ability to access space independently.

September 2024: Sample return from the Martian moon using MMX

Mars Moon Exploration (MMX) is a Japanese mission that consists of sending a spacecraft to Phobos, one of Mars’ moons, to collect a soil sample. Said sample must then be returned to Earth. France is a partner in the project. Furthermore, there will be a small Franco-German vehicle that will be sent to the site. its name ? Dogmatics.

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Phobos is one of Mars' moons.  // Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona (image has been cropped and modified)
Phobos is one of Mars’ moons. // source : NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona (Image has been cropped and modified)

October 2024: Exploration of Jupiter’s moon using Europa Clipper

The mission of the Europa Clipper is to leave the United States for Europe. Not the continent, but the satellite of Jupiter. This includes studying Jupiter’s moon using a probe, especially whether there are favorable conditions for life to arise. The journey to reach Europe would take six years. The probe will be launched by a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.

October 2024: Hera mission departs for planetary defense

ESA is also working on a planetary defense mission: the Hera mission. The goal above all is to confirm the results of NASA’s DART mission in situ. This included sending the American spacecraft at high speed to the asteroid Didymos to divert its course. Hera will thus provide information about this test, which will be used in future conversion missions.

Dimorphos' orbit around Didymos, excerpt from animation.  // Source: NASA YouTube screenshot
Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos, excerpt from animation. // source : Screenshot of NASA on YouTube

End of 2024: Launch of the manned Artémis 2 mission around the Moon

The next phase of the Artemis program is scheduled to take place at the end of 2024. Using an SLS (Space Launch System) rocket, NASA will send a crew to fly over the moon. This manned mission – called Artemis II – will last for ten days. There will be four astronauts on board. NASA conducted its first test at the end of 2022 without anyone on board.

During 2024: First flight of the New Glenn Heavy rocket

Launch is expected to take place in 2022, then in 2023, and the inaugural flight of the New Glenn rocket is scheduled for 2024. Its first mission will consist of sending two probes to Mars. New Glenn is a new generation launcher assembled by the American company Blue Origin. It was unveiled in 2016 and has exceptional specifications, which classifies it as a super-heavy missile.

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New Glen
Artist’s impression of New Glen. // source : Blue original

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