Just 53 years ago, we finally ventured to the moon and for the first time, we looked back at our planet. Since then, the human population has more than doubled and our knowledge of the solar system has increased dramatically, according to NASA.
In 2021, space news was full of events like rocket launches, meteor showers, the first space tourists and billionaires prioritizing space exploration. In December, a NASA spacecraft even touched the sun for the first time.
This year looks to be just as exciting, with many space missions slated to launch in 2022.
From new launch vehicles like NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft to missions to the moon, Mars, asteroids and more, a lot of exciting missions are expected to launch or arrive at their destination in 2022, according to reporting by space.com.
Beyond the U.S., China is expected to complete its Tiangong space station while Europe and Russia will attempt to land spacecraft on Mars. India, South Korea and Japan are also scheduled for a few missions into space, according to The Guardian.
Here are some of the most exciting moments 2022 holds for space travel:
Unfolding the universe: The James Webb Space Telescope
When: June 2022
The world’s most powerful telescope, called the James Webb Space Telescope, launched on Dec. 25, 2021, and its first images are expected in June 2022, according to the @NASAWebb Twitter account.
?… Secondary mirror deployed! But there’s little time to pause and reflect.
Teams will ensure @NASAWebb‘s tripod structure is latched before beginning its final major milestone this week: full deployment of the space telescope’s honeycomb-shaped primary mirror. pic.twitter.com/dT9kv5oDqS— NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) January 5, 2022
After launching from French Guiana, the observatory traveled to an orbit about one million miles away from Earth and is undergoing six months of commissioning in space because the telescope must unfold its mirrors to be considered fully deployed, according to NASA.
Webb’s infrared telescope will observe a part of space and time never seen before. It will gaze into the distant stars and galaxies which began burning more than 13.5 billion years ago to help us understand the origins of the universe, according to NASA.
The project is a team effort between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. Thousands of engineers and hundreds of scientists worked to make Webb a reality, along with more than 300 universities, organizations and companies from 29 U.S. states and 14 countries, according to NASA.
For more information about Webb, visit here.
Space tourism isn’t going away
When: February 2022
NASA and Axiom Space have signed an order for the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station with a launch targeted for Feb. 28, 2022, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“The first private crew to visit the International Space Station is a watershed moment in humanity’s expansion off the planet and we are glad to partner with NASA in making it happen,” Axiom President and CEO Michael Suffredini said in a statement to NASA. “A thriving commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit begins with expanding access to serious, nontraditional users and that is exactly the aim of our private astronaut missions.”
The spaceflight, designated as Axiom Mission 1 or Ax-1, will travel to the International Space Station. Once docked, the Axiom astronauts are scheduled to spend eight days aboard the orbiting laboratory.
NASA has opened up the International Space Station for commercial activities, including private astronaut missions, as part of its plan to develop a robust and competitive economy in low-Earth orbit, according to a NASA press release.
Enabling Ax-1 is an important step to stimulate demand for commercial human spaceflight services so the space agency can be one of many customers in low-Earth orbit, according to NASA.
For more information about the Ax-1 mission and to meet the crew, visit here.
Additionally, Blue Origin, founded by Jeff Bezos, and Virgin Galactic, set up by Richard Branson, both launched their first sub-orbital flights last year and both say they expect to begin offering groups of tourists regular missions in 2022, according to reporting by The Guardian.
Written by ANGELA MULKA, STAFF WRITER