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Six Exciting Space Missions Launching In 2024

The upcoming year, 2024, promises further excitement with various missions under NASA's Artemis initiative and Commercial Lunar Payload Services program focusing on lunar exploration. A planetary scientist expresses keen interest in these upcoming space missions, identifying six exciting space missions launching in 2024.

Daisy-Mae Schmitt
Dec 28, 2023109 Shares27219 Views
In 2023, significant milestones were achieved in space exploration, notably NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission retrieving an asteroid sample and India's Chandrayaan-3 mission investigating the lunar south pole. The upcoming year, 2024, promises further excitement with various missions under NASA's Artemis initiative and Commercial Lunar Payload Services program focusing on lunar exploration. A planetary scientistis interested in these upcoming space missions, identifying six exciting space missions launching in 2024.
The latter part of the year is anticipated to witness a series of thrilling launches. The Europa Clipper and Hera launches will happen in October after the Martian Moons eXploration mission departs in September. November will bring the eagerly awaited missions of Artemis II and VIPER to the Moon, assuming all goes according to plan.

Europa Clipper

Illustration of what the Europa Clipper spacecraft will look like flying by Europa, a moon of Jupiter
Illustration of what the Europa Clipper spacecraft will look like flying by Europa, a moon of Jupiter
NASA is gearing up to launch the Europa Clipper mission, designed to explore Jupiter's expansive moon, Europa. Compared to Earth's Moon, Europa is slightly smaller and boasts an icy surface. Under this icy exterior lies a potentially vast saltwater ocean, estimated to contain more than twice the volume of Earth's combined oceans.
The primary objective of the Europa Clipper mission is to investigate the potential habitability of Europa's ocean, probing for signs of extraterrestrial life. The spacecraft is set to conduct close flybys of Europa approximately 50 times, meticulously studying its icy shell, surface geology, and subsurface ocean. Additionally, the mission aims to identify any active geysers erupting from Europa.
This groundbreaking mission holds the promise of significantly advancing scientists' understanding of ocean worlds such as Europa. The launch window is scheduled to open on October 10, 2024, spanning 21 days. The spacecraft will ride atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket and is expected to reach the Jupiter system in the year 2030.

Artemis II Launch

The four astronauts for the Artemis II mission
The four astronauts for the Artemis II mission
Named after Apollo's twin sister in Greek mythology, the Artemis program spearheads NASA's ambitious initiative to return humans to the moon, marking the first manned lunar mission since 1972. Artemis aims for inclusivity by featuring the first woman and the first person of color to set foot on the lunar surface. Beyond lunar exploration, Artemis lays the groundwork for sustained space presence, a crucial step in NASA's preparation for eventual human missions to Mars.
At the forefront of the Artemis agenda is Artemis II, representing the initial crewed phase of this lunar endeavor. The 10-day mission involves a team of four astronauts and follows the uncrewed Artemis I mission, which successfully orbited the moon in late 2022.
Artemis II will see astronauts orbiting the moon before embarking on their return journey. The targeted launch date is set for November 2024, though the possibility of a delay to 2025 exists, contingent on the timely readiness of essential equipment such as spacesuits and oxygen supplies.

VIPER To Search For Water On The Moon

An illustration of VIPER on the moon
An illustration of VIPER on the moon
VIPER, or Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, represents a compact robotic explorer akin to a golf cart, slated for NASA's mission to investigate the moon's south pole in late 2024.
Originally slated for a 2023 launch, the mission faced a delay as NASA opted for additional tests on the lander system. As part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, the private company Astrobotic developed this crucial component.
The primary objective of the VIPER mission is to search for volatiles, molecules that readily vaporize, including substances like water and carbon dioxide, particularly in lunar regions with extreme temperature variations. These volatiles hold potential as valuable resources for future human lunar exploration.
VIPER will rely on a combination of batteries, heat pipes, and radiators during its 100-day mission. Navigating through the moon's diverse environments, from the scorching lunar daylight with temperatures soaring to 224 degrees Fahrenheit (107 degrees Celsius) to the frigid shadowed regions plummeting to an astonishing - 400 F (-240 C), the robot will play a crucial role in advancing our understanding of lunar resources. VIPER's anticipated launch and lunar surface deployment is scheduled for November 2024.

Lunar Trailblazer And PRIME-1 Missions

An illustration of the Lunar Trailblazer in space
An illustration of the Lunar Trailblazer in space
NASA has recently committed to a series of small, cost-effective planetary missions under the banner of SIMPLEx, which stands for Small, Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration. These missions adopt a cost-saving approach by hitching rides on other launches as secondary payloads, commonly known as rideshares.
An example of this initiative is the Lunar Trailblazer. Much like VIPER, the Lunar Trailblazer mission is dedicated to the search for water on the moon. However, unlike VIPER, which will directly land on the lunar surface for detailed studies near the south pole, the Lunar Trailblazer is designed to orbit the moon. Its mission involves measuring surface temperatures and creating a comprehensive map of water molecule distribution across the lunar globe.
As of now, Lunar Trailblazer is progressing towards readiness by early 2024. However, being a secondary payload, its launch timing hinges on the preparedness of the primary payload. The PRIME-1 mission, slated for a mid-2024 launch, serves as the ride for the Lunar Trailblazer.
The PRIME-1 mission involves drilling into the moon, serving as a test run for the type of drill VIPER will employ. However, the launch date for PRIME-1 may be contingent on the punctuality of preceding launches. A prior Commercial Lunar Payload Services mission with the same landing partner faced a delay, potentially pushing PRIME-1 and Lunar Trailblazer launch dates further.

JAXA's Martian Moon EXploration Mission

An illustration of the JAXA's Martian Moon eXploration close to Mars
An illustration of the JAXA's Martian Moon eXploration close to Mars
In 2024, while Earth's moon is set to host numerous visitors, both robotic and crewed, Mars' moons, Phobos, and Deimos, are also preparing for a special visitor. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, is actively developing a robotic mission named Martian Moon eXploration, or MMX, with a planned launch around September 2024.
The primary scientific objective of the MMX mission is to unravel the mystery surrounding the origin of Mars' moons. Scientists are uncertain whether Phobos and Deimos are remnants of former asteroids captured by Mars' gravitational pull or if they formed from pre-existing debris orbiting Mars.
Over the next three years, the spacecraft will conduct scientific operations in Mars' vicinity to closely observe Phobos and Deimos. Additionally, MMX is designed to land on the surface of Phobos, collect a sample, and then return to Earth, contributing valuable insights into the composition and origins of these enigmatic Martian moons.

ESA's Hera Mission

An illustration of the ESA's Hera Mission in space
An illustration of the ESA's Hera Mission in space
In 2022, the European Space Agency's Hera mission will make a second trip to the Didymos-Dimorphos asteroid system, which NASA's DART mission previously explored.
DART, rather than merely observing these asteroids, implemented a groundbreaking planetary defense technique known as "kinetic impact." By colliding with Dimorphos, DART significantly altered its orbit, showcasing the potential efficacy of this technique. Kinetic impact involves impacting an object to modify its trajectory, offering a potential strategy for deflecting any celestial body posing a threat to Earth.
Scheduled for launch in October 2024, Hera is poised to reach the Didymos-Dimorphos system in late 2026. The mission's focus is on studying the physical properties of these asteroids, building upon the insights gained from DART's pioneering kinetic impact demonstration.
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