October 4, 2016 by Ed Kennedy
Ready for Take Off: 5 Space Missions Set for Launch by 2025
In 1903 the Wright Brothers kicked off human flight. The achievement was wonderful but the technology humble, with a plane that resembled little more than a cardboard construction. 60 years thereafter – a blink of an eye in the history of Earth – humans we’re on the moon. One of those rare moments that literally had the world watching, and promised more to come.
Following the successful return of Apollo 11 much effort was put into busy plans for many more missions, moon bases, and even a bit more travelling about the galaxy to other planets. Thereafter though, to the minds of many things slowed down a little bit.
Sure, there were subsequent lunar landings, a rover or two sent abroad, the creation of the International Space Station, and a number of satellites sent up to orbit about and beam us content back to Earth. These are all notable achievements, but since Apollo 11 mission in July of 1969 the space exploration community have been waiting for the next ‘oooh’’ moment.
It’s been many decades since that first ‘one small step’ was taken. Yet, the next decade is set to see serious inroads made – from just outside our orbit to all the way across the solar system – these 5 missions shall be particularly notable.
This is the fun one. Keen on the whole space exploration thing but also not ready to sell your home in this market right now? For those who are resolute on a journey with a return ticket a trip on Virgin Galactic may be your best call. First formed in 2004, Virgin Galactic has faced a number of delays and setbacks in its timeline for first launch.
This notwithstanding, the Richard Branson-founded outfit has been a crucial part in renewing interest and engagement with space exploration in the past decade. So, for those with the means a flight with Virgin Galactic
shall represent the opening of a new chapter, as well as recognition of the work it took to get there.
Spacex Dragon probe to Mars (2018)
This is the test one. While we’ve done missions to Mars before with landers, this will be the first time Spacex has landed its own tech on the Red Planet. While by and large a test mission for now, the Dragon is envisioned as fit for purpose not only for landing on Mars unscrewed in 2018, but potentially for use in landing on other planets in future.
So, not only shall this first launch signify a new era commencing in the exploration of space, but also offer a window into how a rocket like the Red Dragon could come to be used for missions well before this first door knock in the new neighbourhood.
Deep Space Asteroid Landing (by 2020)
This is the complex one. Getting to Mars or going long on a trip to Europa is no easy feat; but landing on a moving asteroid and establishing the first private base in space shall require REALLY precise use of that calculator.
While an asteroid landing may not capture the public’s imagination in the same way a new establishing a colony on Mars does, nonetheless Deep Space’s trip shall be vital from a commercial perspective. Opening the door to asteroid harvesting, and the potential for profit thereafter; missions like these could be the ones that come to underwrite wider exploration in the gallery in time ahead.
The Europa Mission (2022)
This is the wild one. Mars landing notwithstanding the one with the potential to be most significant. One of Jupiter’s 67 moons, Europa is held to have an icy-crust and water beneath that it has set the scientific community abuzz with the potential for what lies beneath.
A plan to send a probe and lander is afoot, and it gets better still: with it theorised that the water beneath the surface could contain life forms. While previous landers taking rock samples on Mars is nothing to sneeze at, the potential for this mission to unveil the solar system’s greatest new aquarium has set hearts racing.
SpaceX to Land on Mars (2024)
This is the big one. Elon Musk, the Space X CEO and talented South African-turned Canadian student-turned American tech tycoon has laid down a plan to send humans off to space in 2024. While the Red Dragon shall garner attention certainly, it is this first trip of a crewed ship that holds the most attention in the years ahead.
One of the most compelling aspects to Musk’s plan is not merely the potential to make history. Approaching this as something of a realist, Musk is keen to get humans on Mars as a safety measure in event of catastrophe on Earth.
While this viewpoint is a cultural departure from the previous approach to promoting space exploration with optimism and inspirational photos, Musk’s driving impetus to progress with haste has been refreshing to many lamenting the perpetual delays seen in other space programs.
Countless words have been written about this prior, and the time to action is still a while away. Suffice to say though circle 2024 in your calendar, it’ll be a big flight.
Successor to Voyager? (by 2025)
This is the unknown one. At present the Voyager 1 is the furthest anything built on planet has ever gone into space. Due to switch off in around 2025, other satellites like the Voyager 2 and New Horizons shall continue efforts in its vein; but for now none shall go where Voyager 1 has done since its launch in 1977. Just as it’s served its original mission well, space exploration is always about what comes next.
The next couple of years will see efforts towards Mars celebrated, but the decade of radio silence at the edge of our solar system lamented. Just as SpaceX’s ambitions for Mars have reignited public interest in a mission to Mars, so will Voyager’s impending retirement bring with it new debate about going beyond once more. For now, the focus is Mars, but with renewed attention on the space program to come, keeping space free for new arrivals surely essential.
Guarantees with these missions remain ‘up in air’. So too is the potential for delays, setbacks, and even legal issues surrounding how governments on Earth can manage activity in space. There are also variables; If the Mars 2020 rover lands and discovers something henceforth unknown to Mars experts – a rapid change in the environment that gives rise to a new airborne virus – then Elon may need to reroute.
Yet, with the rising interest in space among a number of nations around the world, the rapid advances in technology, and the greater mix of government and private engagement in space exploration; it would take something right now unimaginable to take the wind out of the sails of so many intent to kick down the door of progress. And so we dare to imagine.
It’s true there are some who ask why explore space when we’ve problems that remain on Earth? It’s a fair point they raise in an era where the globe is afflicted by some serious challenges. It’s just also true that the counter case can be fairly made that you can pursue solutions to multiple tasks at once,that a space program that has been in second gear for the past 50 years has allowed ‘clear air’ to solve those other problems; yet afflictions like climate change, cancer & co remain, and ultimately a space program can actually help work towards solving problems.
What’s more, within space so far has held a longstanding peace, with promises from all nations to not weaponize space. Does that mean the potential for world peace is just a quick spin in space away? Surely not. Yet, just like how great powers have come to shared agreements on combating climate change, the shared challenges and ambitions in space can give new incentive to working together on a ‘local level’ to advance our efforts. You know, just like the way you and your neighbour got a truce going for sharing bin space on garbage day.Ed Kennedy is a journalist and web designer proudly from Melbourne, Australia. Say hi to Ed via firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Edkennedy01