The year 2022 was an incredible year for spaceflight aspirants as it witnessed NASA’s Artemis 1 mission that charted human’s step towards the moon, the Dart mission that redirected an asteroid successfully, and also the year marked human spaceflight.
The year 2023 will also begin and conclude with many revolutionary missions which will make it an important year for human spaceflight.
The OSIRIS-Rex mission is scheduled to return to Earth in September 2023 with samples of the asteroid Bennu after which NASA plans to launch the Psyche spacecraft for studying the metallic asteroid 16 Psyche and explore the origins of planetary cores.
Here is the list of other missions that will prove to be the milestone for space in the year 2023:
- Gaganyaan mission : According to PTI, from February 2023 a series of test flights for India’s maiden human space flight will begin by ISRO. It will use a heavy-light Chinook helicopter and the C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft for testing the mission’s crew module. For the Gaganyaan mission, this module is designed to carry astronauts into orbit for three suggested dates.
This Gaganyaan mission was initially announced in the year 2018 for launch in 2022 but got delayed due to the pandemic. As it transports the three astronauts on board the crew module will have to provide oxygen, remove carbon dioxide, remove humidity and maintain a living temperature. The three shortlisted candidates for the mission by the Indian space agency have already undergone initial training in Russia. They are now at the Astronaut Training Facility in Bengaluru for further training.
2. Chandrayaan-3 : It will be launched by ISRO as a follow-up to Chandrayaan – 2 which failed to achieve a soft landing on the Moon. A lunar lander and a lunar rover will be carried by Chandrayaan-3 to Earth’s one natural satellite. The mission is scheduled to launch aboard a Launch Vehicle 3 (LVM3) rocket which was earlier known as the GSLV 3, in June this year.
The lander and rover configuration to an orbit that is about 100 kilometres above the Moon’s surface will be carried by the mission’s propulsion module. It will also carry a Spectropolarimetry of HAbitable Planet Earth (SHAPE) payload to study the spectral and polarimetric measurements of Earth from lunar orbit.
The mission’s lunar lander will carry instruments like Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE) to measure the thermal conductivity and temperature; Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA) for measuring the seismicity around the landing site; Langmuir Probe (LP) to estimate the plasma density and its variations. A passive Laser Retroreflector Array from NASA will also hitch a ride aboard the lander
3. Juice Mission : The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer mission will be launched by The European Space Agency (ESA) in April 2023. It will make detailed observations about the gas giant and its three large ocean-bearing moons–Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto and will complete 35 fly-bys near Jupiter. Using its ten sensors aboard, the mission will also characterize its moons as both planetary objects and potential habitats. The juice spacecraft will monitor Jupiter’s magnetism, radiation, and plasma along with its complex environment.
Among the three Moons, the primary scientific target of the Juice mission will be Ganymede which is the largest moon in the solar system and is larger than both Pluto and Mercury. It is the only moon to have its intrinsic magnetic field. A dipole field like Ganymede is only generated by Mercury and Earth.
The mission will investigate whether the conditions necessary for life could have ever emerged on these three moons and will also study the Galilean moons’ hidden oceans, magnetism, heating processes, tidal effects, orbits, surface activity, cores, compositions, atmospheres and space environments. The spacecraft will have a high-resolution mapping that will hunt for biologically essential elements like carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, magnesium, and iron.
4. OSIRIS-Rex mission : This OSIRIS-Rex mission was launched in September 2016 and in 2021 it took off from the asteroid Bennu. It is carrying the samples of the asteroids and is on track to return to Earth in September 2023. Whenever the spacecraft will reach around 250 above the surface of our planet it will release a sample capsule that will make a precise landing at the United States Air Force’s Utah Test and Training range.
As per NASA asteroids like Bennu can act as time capsules for the study of the earliest history of our solar system. They preserve chemical signatures of the younger universe and might even contain samples of the ancient building blocks of life. The planning is such that the portions of the sample will be distributed among scientists around the world and a large fraction of the sample will be preserved for study by the future generation using much more advanced technology. Bennu is referred to as an “ ancient relic of the solar system’s early days” by NASA. The Bennu asteroid is considered to have more than 4.5 billion years of history and its present-day composition was already established within 10 million years of the solar system’s formation. It is believed that Bennu is a part of a much larger carbon-rich asteroid which was between 700 million to two billion years ago. It is supposed to be more likely formed in the main asteroid belt which was between Mars and Jupiter and has drifted closer to the Earth. It is considered to be old enough to contain molecules similar to those that were involved at the beginning of life on Earth.
5. Visiting Asteroid Psyche : Following the return of OSIRIS-REx, NASA is planning to launch the Psyche mission to study the metallic asteroid 16 Psyche. This asteroid is unique as it appears to be exposed to the nickel-iron core of an early planet, one of the building blocks of the solar system. It orbits the Sun in an orbit between Mars and Jupiter.
There are metallic cores deep within most rocky, terrestrial planets, including Earth which are difficult to access because they are contained far within the planet. The Psyche mission will offer a window into the collisions and accretion that create terrestrial planets and will help see or measure our planet’s core directly.
The Psyche spacecraft will carry instruments like a Multispectral Imager, a Gamma Ray and Neutron Spectrometer, a Magnetometer, and an X-band Gravity Science Investigation. The mission is also set to test a new laser communication technology that uses light at near-infrared wavelengths instead of radio waves to communicate with the Earth.
Apart from the listed space events year 2023 will also have private space companies conducting the maiden flights of their new rockets. Arianespace’s Ariane 6, Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin’s New Glenn, Elon Musk-owned SpaceX’s Starship, and the United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur are the names of the rockets that are scheduled to launch for the first time this year.