2020 may have delayed some scientific projects due to the epidemic, promising that 2021 will still be a year of science, says Thomas Surbuchen, co-executive of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
Several missions will explore Mars, launch new telescope observations and have plans to send humans to the moon by 2024.
The epidemic will delay the launch and progress of some missions, while others are on track, especially already in space. Here is what else can be expected in 2021.
Exploring Mars in new ways
All three are due to arrive on Mars in February.
Hope’s study will orbit Mars, marking the first time the United Arab Emirates has orbited a red planet. To collect data on the atmosphere of Mars, this study will be in orbit to a Mars equivalent of 687 days on Earth.
Tianwen-1, named “Quest for Heavenly Truth”, is China’s first mission to Mars. In the hope of being able to gather important information about Mars’ soil, geological structure, environment, atmosphere and water features, the study will orbit the planet before landing on the surface.
Tianwen-1 includes an orbiter, deployment camera, lander and rover. Once the lander touches Mars, it will extend a curve, allowing the rover to roll over the surface. The orbiter can be used to relay signals from the rover to Earth, and the rover can automatically send messages to Earth.
Once the rover lands, the two-year mission of perseverance will begin.
The rover will find a nice, flat surface that will drop the ingenious helicopter, so there is room to use it as a helipad for its potential five test flights over a 30-day period. This will happen in the first 50 to 90 seals of the trip or on Tuesdays.
Once the ingenuity is exhausted on the surface, diligence will go to a safe place in the distance and use its cameras to view and record the ingenious aircraft.
After those flights, diligence will begin to search for evidence of ancient life, study the climate and geography of Mars, and collect samples that will return to Earth through planned future missions.
The new target release date is October 31, 2021. The telescope will be launched from French Guiana. It was earlier scheduled to launch in March 2021, but was delayed due to epidemic and technical challenges, the company said.
The telescope will answer questions about our solar system, read exoplanets in new ways and look deeper into the universe.
It is fitted with a mirror that extends 21 feet and 4 inches – a large length that allows the telescope to collect more light from objects that observe the glass as it enters space. The telescope can observe as much detail as the glass can collect light.
The company said it was the largest glass ever built by NASA, but its size created a unique problem. The glass was too large to fit into a rocket. So they folded the telescope origami-style and designed it as a series of moving parts that could fit at intervals of 16 feet.
“The web is designed to create incredible legacies of Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes by observing the infrared universe and exploring every phase of cosmic history,” Eric Smith, project scientist at NASA Webb’s headquarters, said in a statement.
“The first generation to form in the early universe after the Big Bang will detect light from galaxies and study the atmospheres of nearby exoplanets for possible signs of habitat.”
Vera Rubin’s ‘First Light’
It is the world’s largest digital camera that can detect a golf ball from a distance of 15 miles, while taking stunning 3,200 megapixel pictures.
The capabilities of the lab will allow it to detect objects that are 100 million times fainter than we can see with the naked eye. It is designed to map the Milky Way, explore dark energy and dark matter, and explore the solar system.
During the 10-year survey, the camera is expected to capture 20 billion galaxies.
Rubin, who died in 2016, once guided fellow female astronomers and advocated for women in science. Rubin, considered one of the most influential astronomers in the world, provided the first evidence for the existence of a dark matter – most of the universe but invisible.
The camera is currently assembled, and the team estimates that the camera will be ready for testing by mid-2021 before Chile is installed.
Artemis: The Creation of a New Space
The NASA Artemis program, which seeks to land the first woman and the next man on the moon in 2024, made great progress last year despite the epidemic. Also 2021 will see additional improvements and milestones for this project.
The first Artemis mission in November 2021 will be an unopened flight test, and Artemis II will be the lunar orbiter in August 2023.
Those missions will lead to Artemis III – when the astronauts return to the lunar surface.
NASA’s evaporating polar exploration rover, or VIPER, will land on the lunar surface in 2022 and create the first aquatic maps of the moon for future human space exploration.
An Artemis base camp could be established at the lunar south pole at the end of the decade.