The image at left shows how the first SpaceX Mars colony structures might look.
The image at right shows a gorgeous blue sunset on our closest neighbor, Mars. The year 2016 promises to teach us more about the Red Planet with the beginning of the ExoMars mission.
At Solar Ancestor we applaud science’s efforts to explore the Solar System – our own ‘cosmic backyard.’ Here is a brief summary of the space missions to watch for during 2016:
SpaceX will resume its cargo mission to resupply the ISS (International Space Station) on February 7th with a new and improved Falcon 9 and unmanned Dragon payload. NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Aleksey Ovchinin will blast into space on March 18th headed for the ISS. Three additional ISS crew launches are scheduled for 2016 and will blast off from Baikonur on June 21st, September 23rd, and November 16th.
ESA (European Space Agency) will launch the first part of its ExoMars mission on March 14th, despatching the TGO (Trace Gas Orbiter) to hunt for sources of methane on Mars. This will pave the way for the eventual launch of the ExoMars rover (in 2018), which continues the search for life on the Red Planet.
SpaceX will launch its giant Falcon Heavy rocket in April from Cape Canaveral. The rocket is 224 feet tall and will become the world’s most powerful booster, capable of launching 53 metric tons into orbit. SpaceX was originally founded to help humankind eventually colonize Mars, and the Falcon Heavy is an integral part of those plans. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, intends to have humans on Mars 10 years from now in 2026, which is 10 years ahead of NASA’s plans.
The Dawn mission will end mid-year when the probe runs out of hydrazine fuel. Dawn is the only probe to ever circle two different bodies beyond our Earth-moon system. The spacecraft orbited Vesta from July 2011 to September 2012, then moved on to Ceres in March 2015.
NASA’s Juno probe is scheduled to enter Jupiter’s orbit in July after a 5-year journey. The solar-powered probe will map out the magnetic and gravitational fields of the gas giant, and NASA wants to learn whether or not it has a solid core.
The asteroid-sampling probe OSIRIS-REx (Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer mission) will launch on September 3rd. Its mission is to obtain 60 grams of material from the 1,650-foot-wide asteroid Bennu – it will reach the asteroid in 2018 and return to Earth in 2023.
ESA’s Rosetta mission will end September 30th when the Rosetta orbiter is scheduled to crash land on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The mission, which is the first to ever orbit and land on a comet, began in March 2004. The probe entered the asteroid’s orbit in August 2014. The Rosetta mothership then ejected a lander called Philae, which made it to the comet’s frozen surface in November 2014.