The year ahead in space

The year ahead in space

If you love space and astronomy, 2018 will be an exciting year. A successful test of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket this month could be an important step towards demonstrating the company's ability to send spacecraft beyond Earth's orbit, perhaps even to Mars.

India and China both plan to land on the moon in 2018. India's Chandrayaan-2 may blast off in the first half of 2018. China's Chang'e 4 may land at the moon's South Pole-Aitken Basin region later in the year.

Private companies are also competing for the Lunar XPrize, which is sponsored by Google. The first to land on the moon with a rover able to complete a series of tasks could win $20 million. The prize's current deadline is March 31. Contenders include Florida's Moon Express, India's TeamIndus and Japan's Hakuto.

 

January 31

Supermoon

There will be a total lunar eclipse, when the earth crosses in front of the sun and makes the moon glow a reddish-brownish colour, visible in North America, northeastern Europe, Russia, Asia, the Pacific and Australia. It will also be the second supermoon in a month for people in certain parts of the world. When there are two full moons within one calendar month, the second is colloquially known as a blue moon.

March 20

TESS spacecraft

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is the successor to NASA's Kepler space telescope, which surveyed the Milky Way for planets orbiting other stars. Covering a larger area of sky than Kepler, it will examine 2,00,000 stars, and scientists expect it to catalogue more than 2,000 potential planets.

 

April 22

The Lyrids meteor shower will peak

Starting in the eveningof April 22 through the next day's dawn, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the Lyrids meteor shower.

 

May 5

Spacecraft to Mars

InSight aims to listen to the deep interior of Mars, potentially offering clues about the planet's seismic activity. This is the opening of its launch window, and it is expected to land on Mars in late November.

May 6

The Eta Aquariids meteor shower will peak

Starting in the evening of May 6 through the next day's dawn, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the Eta Aquariids meteor shower.

 

June 1

Hayabusa-2 reaches the asteroid Ryugu

Launched by Japan's space agency JAXA in December 2014, this spacecraft will arrive at the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu and study it for about 18 months, attempting to collect a sample from its surface before returning in 2020.

 

July 27

Total lunar eclipse

»In a lunar eclipse, the Earth blocks the sun, making the moon appear reddish. This is the second such event in 2018, and will be visible in South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.

 

July 31

NASA's Parker Solar Probe

To study the sun's corona and investigate the solar wind, this toughened-up spacecraft will fly within four million miles of the sun's surface. With a series of flybys of Venus between now and 2024, it will steadily get closer to the sun.

 

August 17

Osiris-rex arrives at the asteroid Bennu

Launched in September 2016, Osiris-rex will collect a sample from the asteroid Bennu and bring it back to Earth. On August 17, it will complete its nearly two-year trip to reach the asteroid and begin its mission.

 

October 1

BepiColombo mission will head to Mercury

The European and Japanese space agencies are collaborating to launch this spacecraft, which would be only the third to visit the planet closest to our sun. When it arrives at Mercury in 2025, its two probes will separate to gather information that could help explain how the rocky planets in our solar system formed.

 

December 21

The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 launch

Before astronauts could take a giant leap for humankind on the lunar surface, Frank Borman, James Lovell Jr and William Anders went round the moon and back in a lunar orbit that set the stage for 1969's Apollo 11 mission.

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