If 2021 is the year of missions to Mars, next year’s lunar mission will dominate. Up to nine missions from different countries and private companies can attempt to orbit the moon or land.
Five of them are sponsored by NASA, and some are more timely than others. In addition to the Orion capsule orbiting the moon and returning to Earth, a cubesat rocket, a small satellite called Capstone, will be able to fly in March from its launch site in New Zealand. It will explore the lunar orbit that could be used by future NASA and the European lunar base. The other three missions to the lunar surface are private companies funded by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. The purpose of this initiative is to replicate NASA’s success by relying on companies such as SpaceX and later astronauts to load cargo to the International Space Station. Houston-based Intuitive Machines may be the first to make the trip.
The rest of the robot moon viewers in 2022 will come from other countries. India may try to restart the failed lunar landing in the summer of 2019. Russia says it wants to land on the moon for the first time since 1976. The South Korean lunar orbit could soon be fired on the SpaceX rocket in August. The Japanese company iSpace is in the process of developing a lander that will carry a variety of items, including a rover, from the United Arab Emirates to the lunar surface. Each of these missions clings to their schedule and spreads across the very thin lunar sky.
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