We won’t see humanity’s return to walking on the Moon this year, but that doesn’t mean that 2024 isn’t ripe for space missions that will change the course of history forever. Even just the first half of the year is full of exciting and ambitious missions. And, if you’re a space lover, you’ll want to keep your eye on these exceptional upcoming missions.
Peregrine moon lander
It’s impossible not to start off with one of the most exciting and ambitious missions that we’ll see throughout the first half of 2024, and that is the landing of Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander. Originally slated to launch in 2023, the mission was delayed to the start of 2024, and it’s currently on schedule to launch on January 8 if all goes well.
The Peregrine lander will mark one of the first times that a spacecraft has set foot on the Moon since the Apollo program was shuttered more than 50 years ago. The lander will carry 20 different payloads from various governments and private entities and will be the first to study the Gruithuisen Domes on the lunar surface.
Artemis II carries astronauts around the Moon
Humanity won’t step foot back on the Moon this year, but Artemis II, the next space mission in NASA’s iconic return to the lunar surface, could launch as early as November 2024. If it launches when they think it will, then Artemis will carry four astronauts around the Moon, returning them to Earth after a 10-day mission through space.
It’s an exciting mission that will help pave the way for future space exploration, and if it gets delayed, it will also lead to more delays for future Artemis missions.
The Europa Clipper
Jupiter’s Europa moon has long been a bastion of intrigue for scientists. While it might be smaller than our moon, it seems to hold some intriguing secrets beneath its icy surface, and NASA plans to explore it more in-depth with the Europa Clipper, which is set to launch in October.
This is going to be one of the first 2024 space missions to dig into planets and objects we haven’t explored already, and it will enter orbit around Jupiter in 2030, so we’ll have a while to go before it’s ready to start telling us anything about Jupiter’s icy moon.
The Moon sniper
Perhaps one of the most ambitious of the upcoming 2024 space missions that we’ll get to witness throughout the next few months is Japan’s “moon sniper.” It’s called a sniper because the spacecraft is designed to land within 100 meters of its target landing site, which is exceptionally difficult to do.
Despite the times that we landed on the Moon in the past, landing in a specific area is exceptionally difficult, as spacecraft have to slow and begin orbiting the Moon before they can land, making it hard to control where they touch down completely. JAXA’s SLIM smart lander could change all of that, though.
There are, of course, other exciting space missions set to take place in 2024, including NASA’s Blue and Gold satellites, which will study Mars’s atmosphere to try to figure out what happened to it. There’s also the first private mission to Venus, which will help finish off 2024 when Rocket Lab sends its Venus Life Finger spacecraft barreling toward Earth’s evil twin.
This doesn’t even consider all the iconic missions planned for the James Webb space telescope, which will undoubtedly deliver more information about our ancient universe, forcing scientists to question the models we’ve created even more than they already have.