From launching the first Arab mission to the Moon to glimpsing the early universe using the world’s most powerful telescope — 2022 is set to be a busy year for space exploration.
The Moon will continue to be a major focus in global space exploration efforts.
The UAE will send its Rashid rover to the lunar surface, marking the beginning of the country’s ambitious long-term Moon exploration programme.
Space agencies in others parts of the world also have lofty goals for the year ahead.
Nasa hopes to launch the first mission under its Artemis programme, which aims to build a sustainable human presence on the Moon.
South Korea plans to launch a lunar orbiter.
Scientists will commence operations of the James Webb Space Telescope, a $10 billion space telescope from Nasa and European Space Agency, after it was launched into the skies on Christmas Day.
Capable of seeing 13.5 billion years into the past, the space observatory is expected to create an astronomical revolution.
The National looks at some of the most exciting missions scheduled for 2022.
UAE to send rover to Moon
Engineers at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre have been planning a Moon mission since 2017.
They have built a 10-kilogram rover called Rashid that will study lunar soil and its properties.
It is scheduled for launch between August and December.
To land on the lunar surface, the rover will be placed inside a lander built by iSpace, a Japanese private company.
The Hakuto-R lander will take off on a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
New Emirati astronauts begin Nasa training
Two new Emirati astronauts are to begin their training at Nasa’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, in January.
They will learn the systems of the International Space Station, Russian language, robotics and how to perform spacewalks.
Once they graduate, both astronauts would become eligible for space missions.
These are the generation of astronauts that could go to the Moon one day. The UAE has its sights set on human missions to the lunar surface.
Nasa to launch Artemis 1
The US space agency is launching the first of its Artemis missions next year.
Nasa is prepping the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft for the Artemis 1 launch on March 12, which will involve a three-week, un-crewed test flight to the Moon.
During the mission, the Orion spacecraft will fly 100 kilometres above the Moon’s surface and then use its gravitation force to be captured into an opposite orbit about 70,000km from the Moon.
It will stay there for about six days to collect data and to allow mission control to measure the spacecraft’s performance.
The Artemis programme aims to build a sustainable human presence on the Moon, including a lunar-orbiting station, called Gateway, capable of accommodating astronauts.
Artemis 2 launch is planned for 2024 and includes a crewed mission that will orbit the Moon.
Artemis 3, the first human lunar mission under the programme, has been delayed until 2025.
China’s Tiangong space station completion
Completion of China’s new space station is scheduled for the end of 2022.
The Tiangong’s core module Tianhe is already in orbit and has been hosting astronauts, including its first female astronaut.
Wang Yaping was launched to the station earlier this year. The 41-year-old also became the first Chinese female astronaut to perform a spacewalk on November 8.
South Korea’s first Moon mission
South Korea plans to launch its first lunar mission in 2022.
The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Some of the science goals include studying the lunar environment and topography — forms and features of the surface and identify potential landing sites for future missions.
It will also test space internet communication during its one-year mission.
James Webb Space Telescope
The launch of a $10 billion space observatory from French Guiana, South America, was successfully completed in Christmas Day.
The James Webb Space Telescope will be capable of looking back 13.5 billion years to see the first stars and galaxies of the universe and search for signs of life.
It has been in development by US and European space agencies for two decades and faced several delays.
Once operational, it would be 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope, which for 31 years has made countless discoveries and provided millions of images of planets, galaxies, nebulas and stars.
It would be placed in a different orbit than the Hubble and much further out in space, allowing it to see greater distances.