The past year was marked by tremendous progress in the ability of mankind to explore space, and the year 2019 promises to be no different. From the mysterious objects of the Kuiper belt and Martian probes to historic rocket launches and bold attempts to touch the Sun, this is what awaits the next 12 months.
New horizons will meet Ultima Thule
2019 will begin with a new explosion, when NASA’s New Horizons visit Ultima Thule, the mysterious Kuiper Belt facility, located 6.5 billion kilometers from the Sun. On January 1 at 12:33 pm ET, the spacecraft will fly past the Ultima Thule at a speed of 50,694 km per hour (50,700 km per hour), taking as many photos as possible with a resolution from 98 to 230 feet (from 30 to 70 meters ). per pixel.
The historic close approach to Ultima Thule, also known as the 2014 MU69, will be the first in the history of the Kuiper belt object span. During the flight, we will find out whether Ultima Thule is a close binary system, a contact binary file (in which the two parts are touching) or something else entirely. The object or objects have a diameter of about 30 km (30 km) and an irregular shape. Using its many on-board tools, New Horizons will also map the geology of an object's surface to find out how it formed, measure its surface temperature, find signs of comet-like activity (for example, melting ice) and other mission objectives.
Rovers Noisy on the Moon
The moon should receive at least a couple of new robot visitors in 2019.
It is expected that the Chinese "Changde-4" and the rover, launched on December 8, 2018, will reach the surface of the far side of the moon on January 3, or perhaps earlier. The landing site is the crater Von Karman 177 km wide (180 km), a lunar impact crater in the southern hemisphere. Since CE-4 will be located on the opposite side of the moon, it will communicate with the Earth via the Chinese satellite Queqiao, launched in May.
If successful, the mission will include the first soft landing and inspection of the far side of the moon, according to the Bureau of Science and Technology of the National Defense of China. The descent vehicle and the six-wheeled rover will measure the temperature of the lunar surface, analyze moonstones and dust, and study cosmic rays. The mission will also determine if the human technological activity is quiet enough in the region to build a radio telescope in deep space. The mission must last at least three months.
At some point in the second half of 2019, India will launch its own rover on the moon as part of the GSLV-F10 / Chandrayaan-2 mission of the Indian Space Research Organization. The six-wheeled mars rover will move around the landing site near the south pole of the moon, observing the surface of the moon and transmitting data back to Earth. Above it, the Chandrayaan-2 satellite will collect scientific information about the lunar topography, minerals and the practically non-existent atmosphere of the moon, and also look for signs of water ice.
And who knows, perhaps the team participating in the Lunar XPrize, finally landed a rover on the moon, but we believe it when we see it.
Hayabusa2 will collect samples from asteroid Ryugu
In the beginning of 2019, I hope, at the end of January, the Japanese Hayabusa2 will extract surface samples from the asteroid Ryugu. JAXA is still trying to find the perfect place to work for Hayabusa2, since the flat areas on this space rock are hard to find.
In December 2019, the probe will take the latest samples and go back to Earth. If everything goes well, it will be the first time that a probe retrieves samples from an asteroid and returns them for analysis.
Commercial crew test flights – finally
The NASA contract with Russia ends in April, so it is imperative that the space agency finds another way to deliver its astronauts to space. The private sector is under review, and 2019 promises to be the year when the United States finally regains its ability to independently access the International Space Station — something they could not do after the Space Shuttle program.
On January 17, SpaceX, in collaboration with the NASA crew’s commercial program, is going to use the Falcon 9 rocket to launch the unguided Crew Dragon spacecraft on the ISS. If this test goes well, the team mission can take place as early as June 18; NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Benken were involved in this mission.
In March, the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket will launch the first Boeing Starliner CST-100 on the ISS, also unscrewed. According to NASA, the following experiment could be held in August with the participation of Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson and NASA astronauts Eric Bo and Nicole Mann.
It is expected that the Blue Origin space firm Jeff Bezos will also conduct missions with and without crew in 2019 on the sub-orbital ship New Shepard, whose dates have not yet been determined.
Opportunity Rover, could you call home?
Rover Opportunity at NASA has been silent since June 10, when a global dust storm brought the probe into hibernation mode, from which it could not wake up.
The mission controllers tapped the rover in a wide range of times and frequencies using the Deep Space Network radio (DNS), but to no avail. In the coming weeks and months, NASA will continue to try with its “sweeps and beeps”, but if Opportunity does not give a signal home, mission controllers may have to finally and with regret declare the 15-year mission over.
InSightful drilling on Mars
Opportunity news is sad, but at least Curiosity is still puffing. InSight from NASA, which landed on Mars in late November, should also be considered. The stationary probe should begin drilling on the Martian surface in late January or early February.
Members of the InSight team will complete the deployment of the seismometer in January and will monitor the tracks. At about the same time, the probe will use its robotic arm to set up a heat probe. The mission goal is to improve our understanding of the formation of the planets and the internal geology of Mars. To do this, InSight will use its tools to measure seismic activity, temperature and air pressure.
Get ready for more and more picturesque photographs of Jupiter and the Sun, courtesy of the Juno probe and the Parker solar probe.
In 2019, NASA’s Juno spacecraft is planning to launch several more perigees, and this perimeter is the closest orbital approach of the object to the center of Jupiter. The 18th reunion of Juno will occur on February 17, and the 19th – on April 6. Juno has already provided extremely detailed images of Jupiter's cloud computers, but the probe is increasingly approaching the majestic gas giant.
Meanwhile, the solar lamp "Parker" will continue its historic, but ultimately doomed mission to "touch the Sun." The second and third perihelions – the points at which it is closest to the Sun in its orbit – are scheduled for April 4 and September. 1. On December 26, the Parker probe will receive its second gravitational assistance from Venus. These flies will lead to important new data about the Sun, such as the nature of its corona and its ability to generate solar storms.
The celebration of the 50th anniversary of landing on the moon "Apollo 11"
July 16, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon. Expect tons of media coverage in the coming months.
A number of events were planned to commemorate this historic milestone, including Apollopalooza 2019 (a celebration at the Rocky Aviation and Astronautics Museum in Denver), a solemn celebration of Apollo at the H. Kennedy and the Moon Summer Festival in Wapakoneta, Ohio. In addition, on January 24, Apollo commemorative coins will be issued at the American Mint, which look pretty cool.
Launch of the CHEOPS space telescope
The European Space Agency is planning to launch the CHEOPS space telescope at some point in October or November. Once in orbit, this space telescope will hunt extrasolar planets, especially those that are in the range from Earth to Neptune in terms of size.
CHEOPS will take off from the Soyuz launch vehicle and go into orbit about 700 km above the Earth. CHEOPS will use the proven transit detection method, scanning the stars for signs of exoplanets passing in front of them. Initially, CHEOPS was supposed to be launched in 2015, so it’s time to go.
Heavenly Eye Candy
For you, observers of the sky, in 2019 will be presented interesting astronomical phenomena.
A total lunar eclipse on January 21 will be visible to observers in North America, South America, the eastern Pacific Ocean, the western Atlantic Ocean and in extreme parts of Europe and Africa. On July 2, a total solar eclipse will be seen by observers in parts of the South Pacific, central Chile and central Argentina.
Three full moons will occur in 2019: January 21, February 19 and March 21. Supermoons happen when the Moon approaches Earth, making it a little bigger and brighter than usual.
Jupiter will be in opposition, or his closest approach to Earth, on June 10, when he will look big and bright. Uranus will do the same on October 27th.
On November 11 we will see the rare transit of Mercury through the Sun. This does not happen very often and will not happen again until 2039. By applying an approved solar filter to the telescope, amateur astronomers will be able to see how the tiny black disk of Mercury moves across the Sun. This transit will be visible to observers in eastern North America, Mexico, Central America, South America, as well as in parts of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.