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The Moon will be the focus of space travel in 2024

The Moon will be the focus of space travel in 2024

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In 2024, one celestial body will be visited frequently: the Moon. But other celestial bodies are also within space travel's crosshairs.

FRANKFURT – 2024 will be the year when the moon will be the focus again. Accordingly, the new year begins with two planned launches to the Moon and three planned landings on the Moon's surface. But other celestial bodies are also still of research interest and should receive visits from space probes. Also exciting are the new rockets and spaceships, which are scheduled to make their maiden flight in 2024.

SpaceX carried out the largest number of rocket launches in 2023 by a large margin. Therefore, there is some evidence that the year 2024 will begin with the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket. It is already certain that a SpaceX rocket will launch to the moon carrying payloads between January 12 and 16. Intuitive Machine's Nova-C lunar lander is scheduled to touch down on Earth's satellite just a few days later (on January 19 or 21) and could thus herald an eventful lunar week.

Space travel in 2024: The moon is in focus again

Another space probe is scheduled to land on the moon on January 19. The Japanese “Slim” mission has been heading to the moon since last September, and is scheduled to attempt a landing on January 19. The third lunar mission in the group is the “Peregrine” lander from Astrobotic, whose launch was postponed from Christmas Eve to the beginning of January. He could also attempt to land on the moon in January.

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In the year of space travel 2024, many rockets will be launched towards the moon. (Avatar) © IMAGO/JOE MARINO

In addition to the mission objectives, all planned lunar landings revolve around prestigious titles: Japan could become the fifth country to successfully land on the lunar surface after the USA, the Soviet Union, China and India. Astrobotic and Intuitive Machine could become the first commercial companies to successfully land on the moon. But landing on the moon remains difficult even more than 50 years after the Apollo missions, as several failures in 2023 showed.

NASA is flying to the moon again — first with a rover, and then with humans

An important NASA mission to the Moon is scheduled to launch in November: the Viper rover is supposed to explore the water ice there — all in preparation for subsequent flights by a human crew to the Moon. However, in 2024, all missions that land on the Moon will remain uncrewed, and that is not expected to change until 2025 at the earliest. But at the end of the year, and according to current plans, a space crew will approach the Moon again for the first time: the American space organization NASA wants to launch the “Artemis 2” mission in November, which will be led by three astronauts. And a female astronaut orbits the moon — preparing for the next landing of a human crew on the moon, which won't happen until 2025 at the earliest.

It's not just the United States and Japan that have their eyes on the moon. China has also been involved in lunar exploration for several years. In May 2024, the country wants to send the “Chang'e 6” robotic mission to the Earth's satellite and return rock samples to Earth from its back. The Chinese mission is considered a precursor to a mission that will deliver humans to the moon by 2030.

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Test flights of SpaceX's new giant rocket, “Starship,” are also connected to the Moon. NASA chose the upper stage of the rocket, the Starship spacecraft, to serve as the lunar module for landing on the moon in 2025. Some test flights are expected in 2024. Both tests ended in 2023 with explosions.

The first flights of rockets and spacecraft are planned for 2024

Not only is Starship expected to be developed in 2024, other new rockets and spaceships are also awaiting their first flights. The long-awaited European launch vehicle, Ariane 6, is scheduled to fly for the first time in June or July 2024 after numerous delays. The Dream Chaser, a spacecraft developed for NASA, is also scheduled to launch for the first time this year. The spacecraft is scheduled to make regular supply flights to the International Space Station (ISS) from 2024. Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket could also make its maiden flight this year.

Boeing's Starliner vehicle is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) for the first time with people on board in April 2024 at the earliest. The spacecraft was intended to be a direct competitor to SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule. However, while SpaceX spacecraft have been transporting astronauts to the International Space Station since 2020, Boeing is making a name for itself due to problems and malfunctions. The Starliner-1 mission in April aims to put an end to that.

Space missions to Europa, the asteroid, Phobos and Venus

Beyond the Moon and human space travel, some big missions are also scheduled for 2024. NASA wants to send the Europa Clipper space probe towards Jupiter's moon Europa in October. Europa is considered a promising candidate for life in the solar system, and Europa Clipper intends to investigate this possibility in more detail.

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The European Space Agency has a particularly exciting mission on the calendar for 2024: the Hera space probe is scheduled to launch in October. It is part of the AIDA mission in cooperation with NASA. The Dart space probe has collided with a small asteroid to test theories of planetary defense. The European Hera probe is now supposed to head to the asteroid and collect more data.

No large missions to Mars are planned for 2024 – only Japan has a mission near the Red Planet: the “Mars Moons Exploration” mission is scheduled to launch in September 2024 and head to the Mars moon Phobos. The Japanese space organization JAXA wants to return samples of Phobos to Earth in 2029. The mission is also exciting from a German point of view: Germany and France are participating in the mission with the small rover “IDEFEX”.

India – a country serious about space travel since a successful moon landing at the latest – is also planning a major new mission for 2024: a “Venus orbital mission,” as its name suggests, set to blast off to Earth’s neighboring planet. , Venus, at the end of 2024. (unpaid bill)