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The Top 10 Most Exciting Space Missions To Watch In 2023, Ranked

The Top 10 Most Exciting Space Missions To Watch In 2023, Ranked

What does NASA, the other national space agencies and the private spacer sector have planned for 2023?

After the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in late 2021 and Artemis-I in 2022 the next 12 months will see our Moon, the moons of Jupiter, Venus, bizarre asteroids and some landmark test flights and exciting one-off missions.

Here’s everything you need to know about space exploration, NASA missions and more in 2023, ranked in order of excitement:

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1. The return to Earth of OSIRIS-REx

When: September 24, 2023

Remember when NASA landed on an asteroid in 2020? NASA’s first asteroid sample return spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx, has since been on a trajectory toward Earth and will later this year deliver a sample of asteroid Bennu to Earth. It’s scheduled to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and land by parachute at the US Air Force’s Utah Test and Training Range.

When: October 10, 2023

NASA wants a close-up of one of the most intriguing and possibly one of the most valuable asteroids we know of, 16 Psyche. After software issues in 202 delayed the mission it’s now set to go skywards on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on a low-cost Discovery-class robotic space mission to find out if it really made of iron and nickel. The orbiter is due to arrive at Psyche in August 2029 (sometime beyond the January 2026 arrival it would have achieved if launched in 2022) to begin at least 21 months in orbit mapping and studying the asteroid’s properties.

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When: April 5-25, 2023

The European Space Agency’s JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) mission is scheduled to launch in 2023 and arrive in the Jovian System in 2030. It will then take three and a half years to examine Jupiter’s moons Ganymede, Europa and Callisto.

4. SpaceX’s orbital flight test of Starship

When: first quarter of 2023

About 100 launches are planned by SpaceX in 2023, but will one of them by Starship? The much-anticipated maiden orbital flight of Starship—slightly taller than the Saturn V rocket used by NASA for its Apollo Moon landings in the 1960s and 1970s—could happen in the first quarter of 2023.

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5. Blue Origin’s orbital test flight of ‘New Glenn’ rocket

When: first quarter of 2023

An orbital-class reusable rocket that will give Blue Origin the same reach as SpaceX, New Glenn could get an orbital flight test in 2023. However, it could very easily be delayed until 2024. If successful it would green-light the core of Amazon’s Project Kuiper plan to launch 3,000+ satellites.

6. Astrobotic’s Peregrine mission to the lunar surface

When: first quarter of 2023

Though Astrobiotic’s mission to the Moon will be exciting in itself, it’s the launch of Peregrine Mission 1 that will be closely watched by those in the space industry. It will be the debut spaceflight for United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan Centaur rocket, which although not quite as large as NASA’s now proven Space Launch System (SLS) and SpaceX’s not-yet-tested Starship, is destined to be a big player among heavy-lift rockets.

NASA’s first commercial space mission to the Moon, Peregrine Mission 1 will carry scientific and other payloads to the Moon including the Iris rover, the first American and student-developed rover to land on the Moon.

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7. Rocket Lab’s ‘Venus Life Finder’ probe

When: May 2023

The first private mission to Earth’s hotter sister planet may be on the cards this year. A daring plan to insert a probe in the atmosphere of Venus to search for habitable conditions and signs of life in the planet’s cloud layer, Venus Life Finder (VLF) will be launched on Rocket lab’s Electron rocket from New Zealand for arrival in October 2023.

However, this will be a short mission, with the probe spending just five minutes in the Venus cloud layers about 48 to 60 km above the surface.

The next launch window after May 2023 is January 2025.

8. India’s Chandrayaan-3 lunar rover

When: June 2023

India’s budget Chandrayaan (“mooncraft”) missions to the Moon are back. After having found water on the Moon with 2008’s Chandrayaan-1, Chandrayaan-2 crashed into the Moon in 2019. Cue Chandrayaan-3, a repeat mission that see a lander and a rover sent to land on the Aitken basin at the Moon’s south pole.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) plans to launch Chandrayaan-3 in mid-2023 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Andhra Pradesh. It’s slated to cost under $100 million.

9. Intuitive Machines’ lunar lander

When: March 2023

Due to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral is IM-1, a 14-day mission that will see the Nova-C lander touchdown near a collapsed lava tunnel in Lacus Mortis—the “Lake of Death”—a large crater in the Moon’s Ocean of Storms.

Part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program and designed by private company Intuitive Machines, IM-1 will also test a precision-landing system.

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10. Boeing’s Starliner Crew Flight Test (CFT)

When: April 2023

NASA has successfully hived-off its Earth-to-orbit duties to SpaceX and its Crew Dragon capsule, but that’s only half the story. Boeing and its Starliner spacecraft has the same deal with NASA, but it can only go live once a crewed test flight has been successful.

After a few technical issues during its last few attempts Boeing successfully flew its uncrewed CST-100 Starliner capsule to the International Space Station (ISS) on May 19, 2022. Soon it will be the turn of NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Suni Williams to fly to the ISS on this slightly delayed mission.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

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