Robotic missions to Mars and new trials in space tourism have been the predominant space activities of 2021. However, in 2022, the moon is likely to stand out, as companies and governments launch various missions that are targeting the moon.
Most of those missions revolve around Artemis, NASA’s multibillion-dollar effort to return astronauts to the moon later in the decade and conduct science missions on its surface in preparation for farther treks to Mars, which is a far more ambitious trip that is likely to not happen in this decade. However, before astronauts launch the mission to the moon, a series of rocket tests and science missions without humans will need to be completed.
2022 is the year for those initial steps. Two new rockets central to NASA’s lunar plans will launch to space for the first time, each with more power than the Saturn 5 rocket from the Apollo program. And other countries are expected to join the march to the moon as well.
The rocket NASA is planning to launch, the Artemis, is planned as a 3 part program. In the Artemis 1 mission, the rocket will launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to send a capsule named Orion around the moon and back, rehearsing a trajectory that will be performed by Artemis 2, the subsequent mission that is scheduled to carry astronauts sometime in 2024. The third mission, Artemis 3, will result in a moon landing.
A few robotic moon landers under a NASA program are scheduled to make their way to the lunar surface in 2022 — if the development goes as planned. To name a few, Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander, a six-legged cylindrical robot, is expected to launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket in early 2022 carrying a dozen payloads to the lunar surface. Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander is a boxy, four-legged lander with an onboard propulsion system that will ease itself onto a basaltic plain on the sunlit side of the moon’s northeastern quadrant carrying 14 research payloads.
Space X is also planning on launching people to the moon. The rocket is planned to be used as a lunar lander in 2025 and is named the StarShip spacecraft. Designed as a fully reusable rocket system, Starship also stands at the center of Elon Musk’s ultimate goal of ferrying humans to Mars and will be crucial to SpaceX’s revenue-generating satellite launch business. But first, Starship must reach orbit. That test flight, also with no people on board, could happen sometime in mid-2022.