The decade ended with the announcement of a new mission back to the moon, which is just one of the many missions that are planned to make history this next decade. Here is what humanity has to look forward to.
Christina Koch has surpassed the record for the single longest space mission by a woman as previously established by NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson in 2017. The 40-year-old Expedition 61 flight engineer exceeded Whitson's record of 289 days, 5 hours and 1 minute on Saturday (Dec. 28) at 6:16 p.m. CST (0016 GMT on Dec. 29).
On Earth and in space, NASA had a busy decade in the 2010s. In its human spaceflight program, the agency retired the space shuttle and is now close to launching humans to space again, this time on commercial crew vehicles. NASA also changed its long-term destination for humans a few times; currently the agency is targeting the moon and Mars.
Three lunar missions, commercial spaceflight milestones, the first all-woman spacewalk -- 2019 was a busy year in space for public and private entities alike. NASA looked forward to new moon landings while celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. SpaceX launched its first commercial crew spacecraft and lofted a miniature prototype of its massive Starship vehicle. Planetary missions began and ended, sometimes much sooner than planned.
Boeing's Starliner spacecraft made a soft touch down in the desert of New Mexico early Sunday. It marked the end of a tense two-day effort to return the vehicle to Earth after unexpected issues plagued its inaugural flight to orbit, forcing it to make an early return. The spacecraft launched an uncrewed test flight on Friday but had to abort its mission to dock with the International Space Station when it failed to put itself on the right trajectory.
Boeing's first uncrewed test flight of its Starliner spacecraft for astronauts is now set for no earlier than Dec. 20, one day later than planned, due to a SpaceX launch delay earlier this week. The United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced the 24-hour slip for Starliner today (Dec. 6) after successfully completing a critical "wet-dress" rehearsal for Boeing's upcoming test flight on an Atlas V rocket.
We already knew that the solar wind, a flood of energetic particles constantly flowing away from the sun, speeds up as it leaves the sun’s outermost layer. New measurements from the probe showed that the wind is even faster than expected, and strange features spotted in the sun’s magnetic field might help explain why.
What makes this moon so alluring is the possibility that it may possess all of the ingredients necessary for life. Scientists have evidence that one of these ingredients, liquid water, is present under the icy surface and may sometimes erupt into space in huge geysers. But no one has been able to confirm the presence of water in these plumes by directly measuring the water molecule itself. Now, an international research team led out of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has detected the water vapor for the first time above Europa's surface.
Two longtime spaceflight experts told a group of congressional representatives that NASA needed stronger leadership to meet its ambitious 2024 lunar-landing goal, much less to put humans on Mars. That testimony came during a meeting of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology's space and aeronautics subcommittee held on Wednesday (Nov. 13).
NASA is heading back to the moon, and it’s planning to use the long-delayed Space Launch System (SLS) to get there. The agency is working to assemble the first SLS rocket, which will be the most powerful in the world upon completion. Some of that power will come from four RS-25 engines on the core stage. If they look familiar, that’s because the RS-25 has a storied history in NASA’s Space Shuttle program, having first debuted in the 1970s. Now, NASA has just finished installing them on the SLS.