Space exploration gave moments of hope in a difficult year.
Three countries shipped spaceship in the direction of Mars in 2020. Astronauts launched into orbit from the United States for the first time in almost ten years. And robot explorers collect rocks from the moon and from a asteroid.
High expectations for 2021
Expectations are also high for 2021. Landings on Mars are expected next February and the planned launch of the James Webb Space Telescope will take place in the autumn. The large telescope takes the place of the famous Hubble Space Telescope.
Other developments are also expected. The airline Boeing hopes to catch up with SpaceX with the launch of astronauts. And space tourism can eventually come off the ground.
Scott Hubbard was the first Mars program director of the US space agency (NASA). He now teaches at Stanford University. He said: ‘2021 promises to be so much of a space exploration kol, maybe even more. ”
Big projects moving forward
Although the coronavirus crisis in 2020 created problems for all space programs, the major projects continued.
The US, China and the United Arab Emirates have launched spacecraft to Mars.
NASA’s Perseverance robot explorer will land on February 18. Persistence will cut and gather in the dry soil monsters for return to earth.
The UAE’s spacecraft is the country’s first attempt to visit another planet. It will study the Martian atmosphere.
China’s Tianwen-1 will look for signs of ancient life on the red planet.
China also conducted exploration of the moon in 2020. In December, a Chinese spacecraft landed and then launched the lunar surface. It collected the first lunar rocks returned to Earth since the 1970s.
Japan has returned pieces of the asteroid Ryugu. More asteroids monsters is on the way. NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft received samples from the asteroid Bennu in October. The samples are planned to return in 2023.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX company did a lot in 2020. In May, SpaceX became the first private company to send people into orbit, a success that could only be claimed by three previously powerful countries.
In November, four more astronauts flew a SpaceX Dragon to the International Space Station. Three weeks later, SpaceX launched its largest consignment yet to the space station for NASA.
Mark Kelly, who was elected senator for the state of Arizona, said the event is something “Americans should be Pride of. ”
Until the SpaceX flights, three-person Russian Soyuz spacecraft were the only way to get astronauts to the space station after NASA’s flights stopped.
SpaceX ended the year with a test flight of Starship, the spacecraft the company is building to transport humans to the moon and Mars. The event on December 9 was marked by an explosion during the landing. Nevertheless, Musk said he was very happy.
In addition, SpaceX is expanding the number of people willing to ride in its Dragon spaceship. Late next year, SpaceX expects to launch the first privately funded Dragon flight in an agreement with Axiom Space in Houston.
Axiom’s Michael Lopez-Alegria, a former NASA astronaut and former president of the Commercial Space Aviation Federation, joins Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe. There will be two other people paying to visit the space station.
‘This is the true beginning of private spaceflight and will make the ball roll plural private missions per year to spin, ”Lopez-Alegria said in an email.
Two other space companies are still conducting test flights. They are Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Galansic’s Virgin Galactic. Those companies have not yet set dates to send people on short flights to the edge of space and back.
The future of space programs in the USA
US President Donald Trump has said he wants a lunar landing by US astronauts by 2024. This would be the first since NASA’s Apollo program more than 50 years ago.
In December, NASA launched 18 astronauts who will train for the lunar program named Artemis.
John Logsdon of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute said that the past four years “were positive for the U.S. Civil Space Program. Logsdon added: ‘No … major programs have been canceled, the human reconnaissance program has received clear guidance and funding for existing programs has been increased. ”
I’m John Russell.
Marcia Dunn reported this story to the Associated Press. John Russell adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr., was the editor.
Words in this story
spaceship – n. a vehicle used in outer space
asteroid – n. any one of thousands of small planets orbiting the sun
tourism – n. the activity of traveling to a place for pleasure
kol – n. a small area of a surface that differs from other areas: a specific space or area
monster – n. a small amount of something that gives you information about the thing it was taken from
plural – adj. more than one
mission – n. a task or job that gets someone to do
Pride – adj. causes people to be satisfied
positive – adj. a good result, not bad
funding – n. available money for a purpose