2019 was an exhilarating year for space-related events (have a read of our top 10 events from the past 12 months here), and things are only looking up as we launch into 2020 for another excellent year of space exploration and astronomical events. According to a skyrocketing number of technology predictions of 2020, it’s going to be one exciting year. Take a look at some space exploration missions and astronomical events to look forward to in 2020.

Astronomical events

21st June – The annular solar eclipse will be visible from parts of Africa including the Central African Republic, Congo, and Ethiopia as well as South Pakistan, Northern India and China. Weather permitting, people in these areas will see the characteristic ring of fire.

14th December – Patagonia is the place to be for the best viewing of the total solar eclipse of 2020, it will also be visible from Chile and some parts of Argentina. Weather permitting, some regions in southern South America, south-west Africa, and Antarctica will see a partial solar eclipse.

Unfortunately, the two events will not be visible to us here in New Zealand, but we’re looking forward to seeing the incredible photos come in from those who are lucky enough to witness them!

Space exploration

SpaceX plans to launch its Demo-2 mission in early 2020, a test flight that will carry NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to and from the International Space Station (ISS). It will mark the first time American astronauts have launched to the ISS from USA soil since the retirement of the Space Shuttles. Europe’s Solar Orbiter (SolO) will also be launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in February along with India launching its first solar mission Aditya-L1 to observe the solar corona in April. The mission is expected to be inserted in a halo orbit around the Lagrange point L1, 1.5 million kilometres from Earth for a continuous viewing of the Sun.

Mid-year in July, four new Mars missions will be launching (Mars 2020, Rosalind Franklin Rover, HX-1 rover and Hope Mars Mission) as the new launch window to Mars opens. The fourth, Hope Mars Mission which is also known as the Emirates Mars Mission, comes courtesy of another Mars debutante, the United Arab Emirates. It will launch from Japan atop an H-IIA rocket and arrive on Mars in early 2021 — the year the UAE turns 50. In the same month, OSIRIS-REx will also collect a sample from the 492-metre-wide asteroid Bennu. NASA is hoping to collect samples anywhere between several ounces to four and a half pounds to return to Earth in September 2023.

In November the Orion crew capsule, which will take astronuats back to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo era in the coming years, will head for its first trip into lunar orbit. The same month, India will also launch another mission to the Moon with Chandrayaan-3, the successor to Chandrayaan 2 after it crashed earlier this year.

In December, with the core stage of the Space Launch System rocket completed, NASA is aiming for the first launch of the SLS rocket. Japan’s Hayabusa2 is also expected to return to Earth in the same month with asteroid samples. The samples are expected to re-enter the atmosphere and land in Australia while the spacecraft heads on to new asteroid targets.

It’s safe to say, there is a lot going on in the coming months. Our fingers are crossed that these all go ahead as planned and deliver the amazing insights, discoveries and excitement that space-science and exploration is so well-known for. 2020, we’re ready!

Images: TOP – Mars Mission Hope Spacecraft infographic. Credit: Emirates Mars Mission. ABOVE – Artemis announcement. Credit: NASA.