• Space missions and rocket launches are already scheduled for 2020
  • NASA, ESA, China and even the United Arab Emirates all have scheduled launches in 2020
  • Some missions scheduled for 2020 are set to study the Moon, Mars, and even the Sun
  • SpaceX and Boeing are working on taking astronauts to the ISS straight from American soil

2019 was a big year for space exploration, and it looks like 2020 will be just as big. With major plans already in place, 2020 is set to pave the way for even bigger missions in the future.

NASA/ESA Solar Orbiter

In 2020, the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA are launching the solar orbiter that will study the sun closely. During the seven-year mission, the solar orbiter will perform fly-bys of the Earth and of Mars before reaching the sun. There, the orbiter will study the Sun is greater detail than ever before.

In 2018, the Parker Solar Probe was also launched to study the Sun's corona. Together, the two missions will help us to understand our solar system's Sun better.

The mission is set for a February 2020 launch.

Mars 2020 Rover

Mars will soon be hosting two working rovers on its surface when NASA’s Mars 2020 rover finally arrives. Should things go according to plan, the rover, which is primarily designed to search for signs of life on Mars, is expected to launch some time between July and August 2020, and make its way to the Red Planet by February 2021.

Apart from looking for signs of life, the Mars 2020 rover will pave the way for future crewed Mars missions by testing new techniques for creating rocket fuel on Mars and bringing along space suit samples to see how it will degrade in the Martian environment.

ESA’s ExoMars 2020

The ESA is also planning to send its own rover to Mars in 2020. The Rosalind Franklin rover, so named after the British DNA Pioneer, is designed to look for signs of life on Mars as well as to extract and analyze Martial rock samples.

The estimated launch date for the Rosalind Franklin is sometime around July and August 2020 and it is expected to land on Mars by March 2021. However, there have been issues with the parachutes to be used for the rover’s landing, and further tests are already scheduled for early 2020.

Should the parachute testing fail, the mission could be delayed until 2022.

China’s Mars Mission

Also set for a July-August launch is China’s Mars rover. Designed for three months of operation on the Martian surface, the rover is fitted with instruments that will allow it to analyze the minerals on the Martian crust, collect data on the planet’s magnetosphere as well As solar wind, and study the underground layers of the mission’s landing site.

This is China’s second attempt at a Mars mission. The first one was with the Yinghuo 1 orbiter, which was unfortunately left stranded in Earth orbit after launching aboard Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission.

The United Arab Emirates Hope Mars Mission

Yes, the United Arab Emirates is also preparing for a July-August launch for its Hope Mars Mission, also called Emirates Mars Mission. It will be the United Arab Emirates’ first uncrewed, interplanetary satellite, and the first planetary science mission headed by an Arab-Islamic country.

Just like the other missions to Mars, the Hope Mars Mission is set for a July launch. This is because the timing is just right for the alignment of the Earth and Mars, which happens once every two years.

Even more ambitious than the Mars mission, the Emirati government has also announced the plans to build a habitable settlement on the Red Planet by 2117.

China’s Chang’e 5

In late 2020, China is launching a Moon rover as well as a system to collect samples from the Moon. If the mission is a success, China will become the third country to collect Moon samples after the United States and the Soviet Union.

Earlier this year, China successfully launched and landed the Chang’e 4 lunar rover on the far side of the Moon.

SpaceX Crew Dragon And Boeing Starliner Crew Capsule

SpaceX and Boeing are both working on sending astronauts from American soil to the International Space Station (ISS), something that hasn’t been done since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011.

This year, SpaceX successfully docked on the ISS, and its first crewed test flight is set for sometime in the first quarter of 2020. As for Boeing, it only recently conducted an uncrewed test flight that ended up being cut short due to clock glitches that caused the spacecraft to burn more fuel than it should. Despite not being able to rendezvous with the ISS, it did successfully fulfill other tests and returned to Earth safely.

While the first mission only carried a mannequin named Rosie, the next test scheduled for some time in 2020 will be a crewed one.

The mission launch dates are subject to change, and there are also other significant missions set for 2020. The above missions are just some of the biggest ones scheduled for the upcoming year.

Mars 2020 Rover
This artist concept features NASA's Mars 2020 Rover on the surface of Mars. NASA/JPL-Caltech