enter the solar system
Moons of the solar system’s largest planets are also on next year’s agenda. In April 2023, the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch a fascinating new mission called JUICE for the Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer. The spacecraft, scheduled to reach Jupiter’s orbit in 2031, will conduct detailed studies of Jupiter’s moons Ganymede, Callisto and Europa, all of which are thought to host oceans that may harbor life beneath their icy surfaces.
“This is the first mission to focus fundamentally on icy moons,” said Mark McCaughrean, ESA’s senior adviser for science and exploration. “We now know that these icy moons have very deep oceans, and they may have the conditions for life to develop.”
JUICE will map these oceans with its radar instruments, but McCaughrean said it will also be able to look for possible biosignatures on Europa’s icy surface that might rain in plumes ejected into space from its subsurface ocean.
Later in 2023, ESA plans to launch another major mission: its Euclid telescope, which was switched from a Russian rocket to a SpaceX Falcon 9 after Russia invaded Ukraine. The telescope will probe the “dark universe,” observing billions of galaxies across a third of the sky to better understand dark matter and dark energy in the universe.
In October, NASA should launch a major science mission of its own after Psyche’s launch was delayed from 2022. The spacecraft will travel to 16 Psyche, an unusual metal-rich asteroid that has never been seen up close.
Expect many other interesting developments in 2023. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission is scheduled to return to Earth in September, carrying fragments of an asteroid called Bennu, which may provide new insights into the structure and formation of the solar system. Amazon aims to launch the first satellite in early 2023 for Project Kuiper, the start of a 3,000-satellite orbital communications network it hopes will rival SpaceX’s Starlink constellation. Several new rockets are on the way, including United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket (which will carry Astrobotic’s lunar lander and some of Amazon’s satellites), and possibly Blue Origin’s massive New Glenn rocket. Both are heavy rockets that can send many satellites into space.
“There’s been a ton of activity,” Cowart said. “I’m really excited about this year.”
This story is part of MIT Technology Review’s Next Steps series, in which we look at industries, trends, and technologies to give you an idea of what to expect in the coming year.