Space exploration in 2024: Five things to know

Missions to bring us closer to landing astronauts on the moon again

2024 will see important missions preparing for the first crewed lunar landings since 1972 (photo: NASA/European Space Agency via DW)
2024 will see important missions preparing for the first crewed lunar landings since 1972 (photo: NASA/European Space Agency via DW)
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Space exploration is set to take another leap forward in 2024, including missions to bring us closer to landing astronauts on the moon again. DW explains what else is in store. Space exploration in 2023 hit exciting new heights.

A new record set for the number of people simultaneously in space (20). India's Chandrayaan-3 landed spacecraft on the moon's south pole for the first time. There were also new developments in space tourism flights and the launch of the space telescope Euclid.

2024 is set to be just as exciting, but what's in store?

Artemis 2 will send astronauts on a lunar flyby

NASA plans to launch Artemis 2 in November 2024, sending four astronauts around the moon on a 10-day lunar flyby. The mission will be the final test before Artemis 3 aims to send astronauts to the moonin 2025, the first attempt to get boots on the moon since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

"Together, we are ushering in a new era of exploration for a new generation of star sailors and dreamers — the Artemis Generation," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in April during an event near NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Artemis 2 is part of the multi-part Artemis moon exploration program led by NASA and involving six other major space agencies, including the European Space Agency (ESA).

More robots will land on the moon

NASA will send several landers to the moon in 2024 as part of the CLSP (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiatives. Shuttles will send robotic equipment to the moon's south pole to collect important scientific data.

This includes VIPER, a soil sample prospector; PRIME-1, which will perform chemical analysis of ice samples; and Blue Ghost Mission 1, which will investigate heat flow of the lunar interior.

In May, China also plans to send Chang'e 6, a robotic lunar exploration mission, to the surface of the moon. The rover will collect the first lunar samples from the far side of the moon. Pakistan, France, Italy, and Sweden will piggyback the mission with their instruments, including Pakistan's lunar orbiter called ICECUBE-Q.

Visiting other moons in the solar system

Japan plans to launch Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) in 2024 to Phobos, the largest moon orbiting Mars. The mission plans to land a robot and bring back the first samples from the moon. The sample will contain around 20 grams of "regolith," or loose rock and dust on the moon's surface, which could be invaluable for scientists.

NASA also plans to launch the Europa Clipper in October. The mission will orbit Jupiter and perform a series of flybys of Europa, one of the gas planet's more than 90 moons.

The Europa Clipper will make 44 close flybys of the moon and hopes to identify possible landing sites for future landings. The mission will also gather data about the moon's ice shell and possible oceans, key chemical compounds required for life and geological characteristics of the moon's surface.

Asteroid investigations

ESA's Hera will launch toward two asteroids called Didymos and Dimorphos in October 2024. The two asteroids are each less than 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) in diameter.

The Hera mission follows NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which impacted Dimorphos and changed its orbit in 2022.

Hera will perform a follow-up assessment of the asteroid for planetary defense purposes. It will gather data about the mass and kinetics of Dimorphos to understand how DART changed the asteroid's orbit. It is scheduled to arrive in the Didymos system in December 2026.

NASA's Lucy will also head to asteroid systems in 2025 — eight asteroids orbiting Jupiter known as Trojan asteroids. Lucy hopes to gather data about the formation of our Solar System.

Low-orbit commercial space flights will gather momentum

Next year will see the launch of spaceplanes, vehicles capable of flying in low orbit and landing back on Earth on conventional runways.

Sierra Space will launch Dream Chaser, a reusable spaceplane that launches on the back of a rocket. It is designed to carry a crew of three to seven and can resupply the International Space Station.

To help propel spaceplanes into orbit, 2024 will see the maiden flight of a new type of launch vehicle — a rocket to you or me — called New Glenn. New Glenn is designed to be a reusable launch vehicle that can send commercial spaceplanes into space, including space tourism flights.

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