1. Mars Perseverance Rover Landing: On February 18, 2021, NASA’s Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars, beginning its mission to search for signs of past microbial life and collect samples for future return to Earth.
2. Artemis I Launch: NASA’s Artemis program aims to return humans to the Moon by 2024. In November 2021, the Artemis I mission is scheduled to launch an uncrewed Orion spacecraft around the Moon, testing critical systems for future crewed missions.
3. China’s Tianzhou-2 Cargo Mission: In May 2021, China successfully launched the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft, which docked with its space station module, Tianhe. This mission showcases China’s progress in building its own space station.
4. Hubble Space Telescope Repairs: The Hubble Space Telescope, a vital tool for astronomical research, temporarily went offline in June 2021 due to a technical glitch. NASA’s efforts to diagnose and repair the issue proved crucial in maintaining the telescope’s valuable observations.
5. Blue Origin’s First Human Flight: In July 2021, Blue Origin, founded by Jeff Bezos, successfully launched its New Shepard rocket with a crew of four, including Bezos himself. This marked the company’s first crewed spaceflight.
6. International Space Station Crew Rotation: Continuous crew rotations ensure the operation and research aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Throughout 2021, NASA and its international partners conduct multiple crew rotations, enabling scientific experiments and maintaining the ISS’s functionality.
7. SpaceX’s Starship Test Flights: SpaceX continues its ambitious testing program for the Starship, a fully reusable spacecraft intended for deep space missions. In 2021, several test flights have taken place, with varying degrees of success, showcasing the company’s progress.
8. Hayabusa2 Sample Return: Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft successfully returned samples from the asteroid Ryugu in December 2020, but analysis and study of these samples continue throughout 2021, providing valuable insights into the early solar system.
9. Mars Helicopter Ingenuity: As part of the Mars Perseverance mission, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter made history by performing the first powered and controlled flight on another planet in April 2021. Its subsequent flights pushed the limits of aerial exploration on Mars.
10. Space Tourism Developments: With companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic advancing their space tourism initiatives, 2021 witnesses progress in commercial spaceflight as more individuals book and experience suborbital trips.