NASA has an exciting lineup of space missions planned for 2024 that will further scientific discovery and exploration. Key goals include returning humans to the moon, gathering more data on Mars, and visiting icy moons in the outer solar system.
Artemis Missions Take Aim at Moon
The Artemis program seeks to land the first woman and next man on the lunar surface by 2024. This kicks off sustained human exploration of the moon.
Artemis I Paves Way for Crewed Flight
Artemis I launched in late 2022 on the powerful Space Launch System rocket. This uncrewed test flight brought the Orion spacecraft around the moon and back to Earth. It qualified Orion’s many systems, paving the path for the first Artemis crew on Artemis II.
Artemis II to Carry Astronauts in Lunar Orbit
Artemis II is slated to launch astronauts around the moon in 2024. The four person crew will spend nearly a week in lunar orbit before returning to Earth. This paves the way for a lunar landing on Artemis III in 2025.
While in orbit, the crew will operate several science payloads. These will provide data on the deep space radiation environment and test a variant of Orion’s life support system.
Ice Mining Experiment to Land on Moon
NASA will also land its first mobile robot on the moon’s south pole in late 2024. The Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) will map water ice deposits. It will demonstrate technology to mine this ice for drinking water and rocket fuel. Abundant ice at the lunar poles could greatly ease the difficulty of sustained exploration and settlement.
Mars Exploration Builds Towards Sample Return
While the moon is a major focus, exciting Mars exploration continues in 2024. The Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter continue their work after arriving on Mars in early 2021.
Mars Sample Return Mission Takes Shape
NASA and ESA are assembling spacecraft for the Mars Sample Return mission. This complex international effort will bring Perseverance’s cache of Martian rock cores back to Earth for detailed analysis.
The Sample Return Lander and Mars Ascent Vehicle are slated to launch in fall 2024 and land near Perseverance in mid 2026. Perseverance will transfer its samples to the lander, and the ascent vehicle will launch the samples into Martian orbit for later pickup and return to Earth.
Studying actual Mars samples in Earth labs could fundamentally reshape our understanding of whether life ever existed on Mars. It also offers clues about Mars’ past climate and geology.
Helicopter Flies Again After Winter Standdown
Meanwhile, engineers have worked through the Martian winter to recharge and upgrade Ingenuity. It will resume test flights in early 2024 to demonstrate the value of aerial scouting and transportation.
Icy Ocean World Exploration Ramps Up
For the first time, a dedicated NASA mission will perform repeated close flybys of Jupiter’s moon Europa. The Europa Clipper is on track for a 2024 launch and 2030 arrival.
Europa likely hides a global subsurface ocean containing more water than Earth. Flying through the moon’s icy plumes could reveal materials from below which would help assess Europa’s habitability. The mission’s powerful camera suite will also map the surface in unprecedented detail.
2024 also marks the halfway point for the Juno spacecraft studying Jupiter. Juno may perform close flybys of some of Jupiter’s other moons during an extended mission beyond 2024.
This all sets the stage for an even more ambitious Europa lander mission later in the 2020s. It would attempt to penetrate Europa’s icy crust and sample materials from its enigmatic ocean.
Commercial Crews Visit ISS and Beyond
NASA’s commercial crew program continues full speed ahead. SpaceX and Boeing will continue regular crew rotation flights to the International Space Station aboard Crew Dragon and Starliner.
The space station partnership agreed to continue ISS operations through 2030. This ensures an uninterrupted human presence in low Earth orbit to perform microgravity research.
And Axiom Space plans to launch several private astronaut crews to the ISS starting in 2024. This helps enable the company’s goal of constructing their own commercial space station in the latter half of the decade.
Blue Origin also hopes to fly the first all civilian crew around the moon at the end of 2024. Their New Glenn rocket aims to debut in 2024 as well, offering heavy lift capability to serve the growing commercial market.
With all these ambitious goals lined up, 2024 is shaping up to be a milestone year driving space exploration and economic development to new heights. The coming years promise to unlock many mysteries about our solar system and place more of humanity’s footprint out amongst the stars!
2024 Space Mission Schedule
|Study Jupiter’s moon Europa to assess habitability
|Mars Sample Return mission
|Collect and return samples of Mars to Earth
|First crewed flight of Orion around the moon
|Map water ice on the Moon’s south pole
|Blue Origin first civilian moon mission
|Fly space tourists around the moon
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