Much of the major space news from 2018 seemed to involve big, new rockets and robotic spacecraft traveling to far-away places. But 2019 appears to be focused on a single celestial body: our moon. Over the next year, a lot of space organizations have plans for our sole natural satellite. Within days, China’s space agency could land its Chang’e-4 craft and the rover it carries on the far side of the moon. The lander will explore the area near the south pole on the side of the moon that always faces away from Earth. Lunar traffic will likely pick up with another planned lander/rover mission by India’s space agency that could launch as soon as Jan. 30. A few weeks later, a SpaceX Falcon 9 is scheduled to send the first Israeli lunar lander on its way. The latter is the product of private company SpaceIL, which was the sole Israeli team to compete in the Google Lunar XPrize. Although the competition ended without any winners making it to the moon, SpaceIL and at least three other finalists — Berlin’s PTScientists, India’s Team Indus and Florida-based Moon Express — are all aiming to land on the moon at some point in 2019. Moon Express and a fifth XPrize finalist, Astrobotic, have also been chosen to work with NASA to send new science experiments to the surface of the moon. At a press conference in November, the space agency said the first commercial lunar payloads from the program could fly in 2019. They’ll likely demonstrate… [Read full story]
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