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Between the Moon and Mars, 2024 is shaping up to be an epic year

Between the Moon and Mars, 2024 is shaping up to be an epic year

Reconstruction of the Boeing Starliner spacecraft, mounted on the launch rocket

For astronauts, 2024 promises to be a year full of important events. The beginning will already be of great importance, especially for Italy, with the launch of the Crew Dragon capsule, which will also see Italian astronaut Walter Velade on board. It will then continue with a long series of launches, big firsts in space (such as the debut of the new European Ariane 6 rocket and the American Starliner crewed capsule), and at the end of the year, the long-awaited Artemis-2 mission, with the first human crew launched to the moon, Something that has not happened since 1972. In short, a long series of launches that, if respected, will make the new year one of the historic years of space exploration. Missions to the Moon as well as the development of new launchers are all preparation for the coming invasion of MarsThe goal is to bring humans to the Red Planet, at least 25 years after robotic probes and rovers investigated the possibility of life on what is considered a twin planet to Earth.

The Falcon 9 rocket is therefore scheduled to launch on January 17, with the Crew Dragon spacecraft on top, on a mission managed and coordinated by Axiom in Texas. The mission, called “Axiom-3”, will see four professional astronauts on board, despite it being a private flight. Among them, under the leadership of former astronaut and NASA veteran Michael Lopez Alegria (on his fifth space flight), will be Italian astronaut Colonel Walter Velade. The launch, which will take place from Cape Canaveral, will bring the four crew members to the International Space Station, the International Space Station, on a 10-day mission, where they will care for the Axiom module that has already docked at the International Space Station, as well as carrying out a large series of scientific and technological experiments. Veladi is the eighth Italian in orbit, in a chronology that begins in 1992 with Franco Malerba, all the way to Samantha Cristoforetti, and his missions in 2015 and 2022. He is neither affiliated with ESA, nor ASI, but is an astronaut in the Italian Air Force. Last June, he was science lead for the Virtute-1 suborbital spaceflight, which took place on one of Virgin Galactic's spaceplanes, and is now preparing for SpaceX's first in-orbit and crewed missions. Elon Musk's launches, with a frequency of 5-6 per month, will not be limited to Starlink networks and commercial satellite launches in 2024 only. Further launches (with crews and dates to be determined) will take place during the year, naturally including Earth-ISS and return shuttle service with tested Falcon 9 rockets and Crew Dragons. In February, it will be the turn of the Crew 8 mission, heading to the International Space Station on a typical long-duration (6-month) mission, carrying Matthew Dominik, Michael Barratt, Janet Epps, and Russian Alexander Grebenkin. In May, it will be the turn of the “Polaris Dawn” mission, in mid-August it will be the turn of the Crew 9 mission, and then in October, the “Axiom-4” mission with an astronaut among the four crew. On board one Hungarian and one Polish.

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2024 will also be the last year that mixed Russian-American crews will launch together toward the International Space Station. But the hope is that we can move forward. Not only will the SpaceX spacecraft carry Russian astronauts into orbit, but the Soyuz MS from Baikonur will also carry American astronauts into orbit: the first on March 13, with the Soyuz Ms-25, which will take off with American Tracey Caldwell-Dyson. On board, with Russians Oleg Novitsky and newcomer Marina Vasilevskaya. Almost all female crew. The Soyuz TM-26 will lift off on September 11 and its crew has not yet been determined. Once again for crewed missions, the Boeing-built Starliner capsule is scheduled to debut (finally, after an endless series of postponements), with a more attractive design than national rival Crew Dragon, which more closely resembles the historic Apollos. The launch is scheduled to take place aboard the Atlas V spacecraft on April 14, carrying two astronauts, former NASA veterans Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams. In reality, The most anticipated manned launch worldwide will be the launch scheduled between November and December of the Artemis-2 mission, the first Earth-Moon flight of the Orion spacecraft with 4 astronauts on board, who will train from the beginning of 2023. The flight to the Moon will be, without landing, It lasts about 10 days. Everything is ready at Cape Canaveral to receive, after years, thousands of tourists and visitors who have been waiting for this launch of astronauts towards the moon since December 1972, with the last flight of Apollo No. 17. The launch will certainly take place in 2018. December, As if to celebrate the 56th anniversary of the historic Apollo 8 flight, which in December 1968 carried out the first ever flight between the Earth and the Moon with astronauts, under the command of Frank Borman, the legendary astronaut who died at the age of 95 last year. November. The reclaiming of the Moon is now clear, this time not just by two superpowers, but by half the planet.

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