International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Five space exploration missions to look out for in 2023


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2023 is set to be another busy year. Here are five of the most exciting missions to watch out for.

(1) Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer


  • In April, the European Space Agency (ESA) is set to launch the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice), in what will be Europe’s first dedicated robotic mission to Jupiter.
  • Juice is due to reach the planet in July 2031 after performing an incredible flight path through the Solar System.
  • The mission will enter into orbit around Jupiter and perform numerous flybys of its large icy moons: Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.
  • After four years of moon flybys, Juice will then enter into orbit around Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System — becoming the first spacecraft ever to reach orbit around the moon of another planet.
  • The icy moons of Jupiter are interesting as they are all believed to host oceans of liquid water beneath their frozen surfaces.
  • Europa, in particular, is regarded as one of the most likely abodes in the Solar System for extra-terrestrial life.

(2) SpaceX Starship


  • Starship will be the largest spacecraft capable of carrying humans from Earth to destinations in space (the International Space Station is larger, but it was assembled in space).
  • It will be the most powerful launch vehicle ever to fly, capable of lifting 100 tonnes of cargo to low Earth orbit.
  • Starship is the collective name for a two-component system consisting of the Starship spacecraft (which carries the crew and cargo) and the Super Heavy rocket.
  • The rocket component will lift Starship to some 65km altitude before separating and returning to Earth in a controlled landing.
  • The upper Starship component will then use its own engines to push itself the rest of the way to orbit.

(3) dearMoon Project


  • The long-awaited dearMoon project, which will take members of the public on a six-day trip around the Moon and back, is due for launch on Starship and was originally planned for 2023.
  • It will be the first true deep space tourism launch.
  • This mission will mark a big change in the way we think about space, as previously only astronauts picked using incredibly stringent criteria have been able to go into deep space.
  • The success or failure of the dearMoon mission could affect whether deep space tourism becomes the next big thing, or it is relegated back to being a pipe-dream.

(4) OSIRIS-REx returning Earth


  • The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security — Regolith Explorer, mercifully more commonly known as OSIRIS-REx, is a NASA mission to near-Earth asteroid Bennu.
  • A key goal of this robotic mission was to acquire samples of Bennu and return them to Earth for analysis.
  • OSIRIS-REx is now fast returning to Earth with up to a kilogram of precious asteroid samples stored aboard.
  • If all goes well, the capsule will detach from the spacecraft, enter the Earth’s atmosphere and parachute to a soft landing in the deserts of Utah.
  • Asteroid sample return has only been achieved once before, by the Japanese Space Agency’s Hayabusa 2 mission in 2020.
  • Bennu is an approximately diamond-shaped world just half a kilometre in size, but has many interesting characteristics.
  • Some of the minerals detected within it have been altered by water, implying that Bennu’s ancient parent body possessed liquid water.
  • It also has an abundance of precious metals, including gold and platinum.
  • It is however classed as a potentially hazardous object with a (very) small possibility of Earth impact in the next century.

(5) India’s private space launch

  • Skyroot Aerospace, which successfully launched its Vikram-S rocket in November 2022, is soon to become the first private Indian company to launch a satellite.
  • The rocket itself reached 90km in altitude, a distance that would need to be improved upon to get a constellation of satellites into orbit.
  • Skyroot’s first satellite launch is planned for 2023, with a goal of undercutting the cost of private space launch rivals by producing its 3D-printed rockets in a matter of days.
  • If successful, this could also provide a route for cheaper launches of scientific missions, enabling a faster rate of research.


  • With many bold advances and launches due in 2023, we are entering a new phase akin to the “Golden era” of space launches in the 1960s and ’70s.

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