Space calendar 2021: Mars landings, SpaceX Starship tests, NASA launches and more – CNET

The yr 2020 AD didn’t end up precisely as we might have favored down on Earth. However in space, it did prove to be momentous.

SpaceX and NASA delivered astronauts to the Worldwide Area Station (twice!) aboard the Crew Dragon capsule, Japan and China brought back extraterrestrial rock to Earth and NASA scooped up some space chunks from asteroid Bennu. Pleasure for Mars peaked in July, when three missions departed for the red planet. The Mars-bound spacecraft, from NASA, China and the United Arab Emirates, are en route now. They’re set to reach early in 2021.

Final yr, to maintain all of you within the know, CNET launched the SPACE CALENDAR (all caps for dramatic cosmic impact), masking all the large rocket launches, mesmerizing meteor showers, epic eclipses and even an assortment of scientific milestones. In 2021, we’re again at it once more. You could find all the important thing dates for area missions beneath, with meteor showers and occasions and not using a date towards the top of the piece.

Our always-updating Google calendar may be synced with your individual calendar so that you by no means miss a factor. That huge button beneath? That is the way you add it.

You can too use another calendar with this link, which is able to can help you obtain our calendar file and add it to a supplier of your alternative, like Outlook.

There are many extra rocket launches every year than these listed beneath, however they’re so typically topic to vary that we have determined to depart them off this huge listing. The most effective recommendation is to always keep an eye on CNET’s Science page and sign up for our space and science newsletter if you wish to make sure you’re getting launch updates from the likes of SpaceX, Rocket Lab and Blue Origin. We’ll additionally endeavor to shift issues round on the Google calendar as quickly as we’ve got info, so hold your eyes peeled.


Are we lacking something? You’ll be able to email or tweet me with any obvious omissions.


[February?] Starship SN9 check

BOOM. SpaceX’s Starship SN8 prototype had an eventful touchdown.


Bear in mind the incredible explosion of SpaceX’s SN8 prototype in December? SpaceX considers {that a} success on its strategy to a completely fledged spacecraft that may get to orbit and — ultimately — to Mars. In late 2020 or early 2021, Elon Musk’s spaceflight firm expects to ship the following numbered prototype on its manner. Its three highly effective Raptor engines are connected and it has been wheeled onto the launchpad, so the prototype is more likely to fly early in 2021.

The SN9 check has been delayed plenty of occasions and we’re attempting to remain up to the mark. It is wanting like an early February launch is feasible. We’ll keep you updated, just jump over to this article!

[Feb. 9] Hope inserts itself into Mars’ orbit

The Hope probe (Al Amal) will circle Mars on a 55 day orbit, analyzing its environment. 


The United Arab Emirates’ Hope (Al Amal) probe, which was launched in July 2020, will carry out a Mars Orbital Insertion (MOI) because it prepares to circle the purple planet and produce one of the full photos of its environment ever. A profitable MOI would make the UAE the fifth nation to achieve Mars, following the US, Russia, China and India. 

The MOI is a posh process, involving a 30 minute burn that slows Hope from 75,000 miles per hour to simply 11,200. At roughly 7:42 a.m. PT on Feb. 9, the bus-length probe can be “at” Mars and can start to transition to the science section of the mission. It would, at its closest level, be simply 620 miles from Mars’ floor. 

Need to know extra concerning the journey to Mars for the UAE? Read about it here.

[Feb. 10] Tianwen-1 arrives at Mars

Tianwen-1 on its strategy to Mars, hoping to make China the third nation to efficiently land on the purple planet.

Chinese language Lunar Exploration Program

China’s Tianwen-1 (“Questions to Heaven”) spacecraft is carrying a Martian orbiter, lander and rover as cargo and can make its personal insertion only a day after Hope, according to Chinese news service CCTV. The Chinese language mission won’t launch it is lander or rover instantly to the floor. It is anticipated to launch these autos someday in Could. 

The rover has a lifespan of round 92 days and Li Zhencai, deputy commander of the challenge, instructed CCTV the mission can be accomplished round “the top of August.”

[Feb. 18] NASA’s Perseverance rover lands on Mars

NASA’s mission trailer reveals the Perseverance rover making a dramatic touchdown on Mars.


Perseverance will contact down on Mars on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, at roughly 12:30 p.m. PT (3:30 p.m. ET). It should go through the famous Seven Minutes of Terror, slowing down from an excessive pace of round 12,000 miles per hour to a full cease on the floor in simply 420 seconds. It is set to be an enormous yr for Martian robots and particularly, the hunt to search out indicators of historic life on the purple planet. Together with Perseverance, China’s Tianwen-1 lander and rover may also be placing Mars dust below the microscope — nonetheless, it is not anticipated to the touch down till later within the yr.

Extra: NASA launches next Mars rover: Everything you need to know about Perseverance

[March 25] Boeing Starliner OFT-2 launch

The CST-100 Starliner lands again on US soil, airbags full.

NASA/Invoice Ingalls

The CST-100 Starliner, a cone-shaped spacecraft designed to ship astronauts to the Worldwide Area Station as a part of NASA’s Business Crew Program, has had its fair proportion of ups and downs. The first Orbital Flight Test in December 2019 (wow, it was that way back?) skilled an “anomaly” with the spacecraft’s clock which meant it did not attain the ISS because it had meant and, as an alternative, safely landed again within the desert two days later.

Boeing will now perform a second uncrewed orbital flight test to get the Starliner ready to carry crew. If all of it goes efficiently, it might pave the way in which for astronauts to be launched throughout the capsule later within the yr. Fingers crossed.

[March 2021] The Massive Hadron Collider powers up once more

The Massive Hadron Collider will recommence operations in 2021.

Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Photographs

The Massive Hadron Collider, the highest-energy particle collider on the planet, has been powered down since Dec. 10, 2018. In March, scientists on the European Group for Nuclear Analysis (CERN) flick it again on once more.

The collider has been instrumental in testing predictions of theories in particle physics, together with discovery of the Higgs boson, or the “God particle” (simply do not name it that in entrance of any particle physicists).

Its third observational run or “Run 3” ought to kick off in 2022, with a interval of commissioning and magnet coaching to get issues as much as scratch for analyzing the atomic world in March. It would then be shut down in 2025 and upgraded once more, for its fourth run in 2027. I am placing this in a area calendar, as a result of, physics is in every single place. Let me have this one. It is cool.

[April/May] China’s Tianwen-1 rover lands on Mars

An artist’s impression of the three spacecraft China will ship to Mars within the coming weeks.

Nature Astronomy

Tianwen-1, China’s triple menace mission to Mars, left Earth in July and is scheduled to insert itself into Mars orbit in February. Nevertheless, the Chinese language area program will not attempt a touchdown for a few months, with most estimates suggesting late April or early Could for the historic occasion.

China goes huge right here — an orbiter will proceed to circle the purple planet, and two spacecraft, a lander and a rover, can be steered to the floor. Mars is often a really mean-spirited planet: It kills round half of all spacecraft that attempt to land there, so it is an enormous and daring mission for China’s area company. Will probably be capable of construct on a robust heritage of moon exploration nonetheless, with its Chang’e probes achieving incredible feats of space exploration within the final three years.

Extra: China’s daring Tianwen-1 mission to Mars: Everything you need to know

[May 26] Whole Lunar Eclipse of the Flower Moon   

The fantastically named “super blood wolf moon” of Jan. 20 and 21 was a stunner combining a complete lunar eclipse (blood) with January timing (wolf) and a very massive look because of being nearer to the Earth (tremendous).

Richard Bell/Kalamazoo Astronomical Society

When the Earth’s shadow covers the moon, you get a lunar eclipse. When all the moon is shadowed, that is a complete lunar eclipse. And when there is a full moon in Could, it is often called a “Flower Moon.” That is the way you get a complete lunar eclipse of the flower moon… and that is the primary huge celestial occasion of 2021. We have now a handy guide for viewing eclipses here. We’ll present an even bigger replace because it will get nearer to Could.

[June 10] Ring of Fireplace eclipse 

Hundreds of thousands of individuals throughout jap Asia and the western US had an important view of the annular eclipse in 2020.

James Martin/CNET

The Johnny Money eclipse, because it’s affectionately identified by no one besides myself, will happen over components of the Northern Hemisphere on June 10. A hoop of fireside eclipse happens when the moon solely partially blocks daylight, leaving a blinding ring of fireside within the sky. The newest eclipse (an “annular” eclipse, in scientific parlance) occurred in 2020 and it was spectacular. The most effective locations to observe can be throughout Russia, Canada and Greenland, however there can be loads of livestreams and locations to observe this one, we assume. We’ll deliver you all the small print because it will get nearer.

[June] Boeing Crewed Flight Take a look at

The primary crewed Starliner mission might happen as early as June.


Supplied every part works out precisely as hoped in March, the primary crewed check flight of the Starliner might head to the Worldwide Area Station in June. Just like SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission in 2020, this may be the ultimate test for Boeing’s spacecraft earlier than it turns into operational. A giant achievement, ought to it get there.

[July 22] NASA launches DART mission to crash into an asteroid

NASA’s mission to crash into an asteroid will say “armageddon outta right here” on July 22 because it heads towards area rock 68503 Didymos. The rock additionally has a smaller twin, often called Dimorphos, which orbits it as its private moon. The “Double Asteroid Redirection Test” will crash into this smaller asteroid (which is about as huge as Egypt’s Nice Pyramid), after which one other mission, led by the European Area Company for launch in 2024, will research the influence crater and the way it modified Dimorphos’ orbit and properties.

If it really works, NASA thinks the spacecraft might shift the orbit of Dimorphos by round half a millimeter per second. It does not appear to be loads, however over time, that might dramatically alter its orbital interval. 

[Oct. 2] BepiColombo flys previous Mercury

BepiColombo will launch an orbiter to zip round Mercury in 2025.


BepiColombo, a joint mission between the ESA and Japan Aerospace Exploration Company (JAXA), had a fairly large 2020. It was referred to as into motion because it performed a flyby of Venus to check for signs of life in the upper atmosphere. In 2021, it performs its first flyby of its meant vacation spot — the planet Mercury. Will probably be the primary in a sequence of six flybys and culminate within the launch of an orbiting craft that can monitor Mercury from 2025. 

[Oct. 16] NASA’s Lucy launches on asteroid hunt

NASA’s Lucy will discover six asteroids over the approaching decade.


Some of the formidable missions on NASA’s slate is named Lucy, which is able to try to go to eight asteroids over the following decade. Will probably be the primary mission to check the Trojans, a bunch of asteroids that path and lead Jupiter in orbit across the solar.

The mission is known as after the fossilized stays of an ancestral human found in Ethiopia in 1974, which rewrote the historical past books on human evolution. NASA’s Lucy may find yourself rewriting the historical past of the photo voltaic system. The Trojans seemingly harbor clues to the origin of our photo voltaic system and function as time capsules, permitting scientists to know the setting of the photo voltaic system’s earliest eons.

[Oct. 31] NASA’s James Webb Telescope launches

NASA engineer Ernie Wright prepares the primary six flight-ready main mirror segments of the James Webb Area Telescope at NASA’s Marshall Area Flight Middle.

NASA/MSFC/David Higginbotham

A very spooky launch date for NASA’s long-delayed next- generation space telescope. The deliberate successor to NASA’s workhorse Hubble, James Webb is a significant improve to our capabilities in finding out the early universe. Granted issues go nicely, it ought to be capable of see a number of the earliest galaxies that ever fashioned.

Nevertheless it has been a battle for the telescope to get into area. It is now coming as much as its 25th birthday and it hasn’t even obtained off the bottom — with the pandemic setting it again even additional. Granted this launch date holds, will probably be an enormous (and spooky) day for NASA. One other fingers crossed mission.

[Dec. 4] Darkness descends on Antarctica

The one whole eclipse of 2021 will happen over Antarctica.

Jonathan Ordonez/Getty

In the event you’re a number of the scattered wildlife that spends time in Antarctica (or maybe some fortunate researchers), then you’ll catch the one whole solar eclipse of 2021, when the moon blocks gentle from the solar over the icy continent.

The subsequent whole photo voltaic eclipse after that will not be till 2023 and it’ll solely be seen in components of Southeast Asia and Australia. The US will expertise a complete photo voltaic eclipse in 2024.

Artemis I is coming (maybe)

“Earth blue, rocket purple and lunar silver” is how NASA describes the colours used within the emblem for the Artemis program. The emblem pulls from the historical past of the Apollo program.


NASA’s plan to return people to the moon in 2024 entails a sequence of missions below the Artemis banner. The very first Artemis mission, Artemis I, is scheduled to launch in 2021. The missions will use a huge, new rocket known as the Space Launch System, or SLS, which is able to carry an uncrewed spacecraft often called Orion to lunar orbit.

NASA has mentioned this one for November, however there’s each likelihood it’ll slip later than that and probably to 2022. If the mission succeeds, we would see Artemis II — with a human crew — launch in 2023.  

Will Chandrayaan-Three launch in 2021?

India launched Chandrayaan-2 to the moon in 2019, however a software program glitch induced a “onerous touchdown.”


In 2019, the Indian area company, ISRO, tried to make historical past by turning into the fourth nation to soft-land on the floor of the moon. Sadly, issues went awry. A software program glitch induced the spacecraft, Chandrayaan-2, to careen into the moon’s surface. The mission was designed to land on the lunar south pole, which might have been a historic first. Nearly as quickly as Chandrayaan-2’s unlucky ending got here to gentle, India introduced it could strive once more,with Chandrayaan-3.

The mission was slated to launch in 2020, however pandemic. Will it launch in 2021? That is what ISRO is taking pictures for.

Steve Brown grabbed this magnificent time-lapse of star trails through the Perseid meteor bathe.

Steve Brown

All year long, CNET can have bespoke protection of when and how you can catch every meteor bathe listed beneath. In the event you bookmark this web page, you possibly can simply return right here at your leisure — or, keep in mind to test CNET for the newest on how you can spot meteors!

  • Quadrantids Dec. 27, 2020 – Jan. 10, 2021.
    Peak night time: Jan. 2 

Need to watch the Quadrantids meteor bathe? Read about that here.

  • Lyrids April 16 – April 30.
    Peak night time: April 21
  • Eta Aquariids April 19 – Could 28.
    Peak night time: Could 5
  • Perseids July 17 – Aug. 26.
    Peak night time:  Aug. 13
  • Draconids Oct. 6 – Oct. 10.
    Peak night time: Oct. 7
  • Orionids Oct. 2 – Nov. 7.
    Peak night time: Oct. 20
  • Leonids Nov. 6 – Nov. 30.
    Peak night time: Nov. 16
  • Geminids Dec. 4 – Dec. 17.
    Peak night time: Dec. 13
  • Ursids Dec. 17 – Dec. 26.
    Peak night time: Dec. 21

Learn extra: How to see the year’s best meteor showers: Everything you need to know

This web page is consistently up to date. 

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