Make no mistake, 2019 is going to be a HUGE year for space exploration. Before the first week of January was over, China had already sent a landing probe to the moon and NASA had gotten its first look at the most distant object ever to be studied in our solar system. But that’s just the start of what’s to come this year. If you’re a space junky, you’ll want to add the following events to your calendar this year.
While China’s Chang’e 4 moon probe landing has already come and gone, it’s still worth mentioning here. When it touched down on January 3rd, it became the first lander to ever touch down on the far side of the moon—the side that faces away from Earth.
The Chang’e 4 mission might have been the first of its kind, but it certainly won’t be the last lunar landing we see this year. The Israeli company SpaceIL has plans to land their own probe in February. If the company’s mission is a success, it will put Israel on a list of just 4 countries (next to the U.S., the Soviet Union, and China) to have ever successfully made a soft landing on the surface of the moon.
Another major space event that will likely be news-worthy this year is that U.S. astronauts may once again be heading for the stars from U.S. soil. The last shuttle mission ended in 2011, and ever since U.S. astronauts have been taking off from Russia in order to get to the International Space Station. However, Boeing and SpaceX both have new crew capsules that could very well end up on a rocket that takes off from U.S. soil this year.
Another trend that we could easily see develop in 2019 is smaller rocket makers sending their products into orbit. SpaceX is leading the movement. Last year they sent up the most powerful rocket capable of being launched from Earth, but other, smaller companies also have their sights set on the stars. Companies like Virgin Galactic, Virgin Orbit, Blue Origin, and Vector all have a good chance of showing up in the news when it comes to sending rockets into space.
Finally, we should expect to see a lot of data coming in from the many missions that were started last year. Most notably, we should start getting data from the Parker Solar Probe (which was sent up to study our sun), as well as the TESS mission of looking for other planets throughout our solar system. And who could forget InSight, which will be sending back seismic data from Mars?