2022 has been a very busy year for astronomy and Space on so many levels. From launches to first photos and many firsts, 2022 will go down in history as a year of many firsts. This doesn’t cover all of the historic events nor important events of 2022, but does provide some of the most crucial stories.
Artemis 1 Launch
After years of planning and effort to get the US back to the moon, including the numerous scrapped programs and launch vehicles, NASA launched their new moon rocket program Artemis 1 on November 16th, 2022. Successfully down on December 11th in the Pacific Ocean, Artemis 1 became the first passenger ship that NASA used a skip entry for landing.
NASA was able to test how the spacecraft would function, how their mission operations would go, and all of the systems to ensure that they are ready for future missions. This mission is the first in 50 years to send a human rated system to the lunar orbit.
With the successful completion of the launch and missions, NASA is able to analyze the data, make improvements and plan for future missions. The next mission, Artemis 2, which will see humans orbit but not land on the moon is tentatively scheduled for May 2024. It is currently scheduled to have Artemis 3 return humans to the lunar surface sometime in 2025 if all goes well.
James Webb Space Telescope First Images
After nearly a decade in development and a Christmas 2021 launch, the James Webb Space Telescope had its first image released July 12th, 2022. It is said that the team took the images a few weeks before the release date before processing them and members of the team cried when seeing the images as they were so beautiful!
Accomplishments by the JWST in 2022 include finding one of the earliest galaxies just days after the telescope began capturing data, distant exoplanets, and large complex galaxies. We look forward to the amazing discoveries that JWST will usher in the future to help our understanding of science.
The first privately funded launch of astronauts to the ISS, Axiom-1 launched April 8th and splash landed on April 25th for a 17 day trial of 240 orbits, that included 26 scientific payloads. Launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a SpaceX rocket, the mission opens the way for privately funded space launches to orbiting platforms such as the ISS by showing that they can be do well and not interfere with science occurring on the same platforms. This success shows that future endeavors in space such as a joint space research station and hotel could potentially work, if designed snd implemented properly.
Boeing Starliner Launch And Docking
This is a PNW related story, which is why it was worth covering. This story is important as Boeing is a company that was awarded money under the NASA commercial crew program to send astronauts to the ISS. WIth their first orbital flight test being a failure, it was important that the 2nd orbital flight test performing well and almost flawlessly to show NASA that Boeing can perform up the contract standards. Launching on May 19th, the 2nd flight was successful as it did dock with the ISS; however, there were several anomalies experienced during the flight that were worked around. As a result of this flight, Boeing and NASA both signaled their confidence in the abilities of Boeing being able to send astronauts to the ISS, which led to the first crewed launch being scheduled no earlier than April 2023.
SpaceX Breaks Record For Rocket Launches Per Year
SpaceX keeps launching more rockets each year and breaking their own record for the number of rockets launched. In 2021, SpaceX set the record for 31 launches in 52 weeks, which is 1 rocket launch every 1.68 weeks. This was broken with at least 52 launches in 2022, which is 1 per week. This increase is a 1.68x increase in flights, which is a staggering increase. With this speed, it is important to lowering the cost of reaching space and increasing reliability. This is crucial towards making space more affordable and ensuring humanity an increased space presence.