1. New Horizons – 2015
It’s been eight years since the New Horizons probe was launched into space, next year it will reach it’s primary destination, Pluto and Charon, Pluto’s moon. It’s travelled over four billion kilometres and is the first craft that will take clear, high resolution pictures of Pluto, Charon and four other moons and other objects in the Kuiper belt. Here is the most clear picture we have of the icy body and is also why I’m most excited about this mission, we will finally see Pluto on July 14, 2015!
2. Dawn – 2015
The second most anticipated item on the list has to be Dawn. Dawn is a probe that was launched in 2007 and had two primary targets in the Asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It’s first target was Vesta, an asteroid, which it reached in 2011 and Ceres a dwarf planet, here is the best image we have of Ceres.
Just like Pluto the image is really blurry.
3. SpaceX’s first manned mission – 2016
This is cool because of the technology, here’s a list of the new stuff:
- Fully reusable capabilities; able to fly multiple times, significantly reducing the cost of access to space
- Propulsive-landing “almost anywhere in the world” with the accuracy of a helicopter (plus a backup parachute system for emergencies)
- Eight side-mounted SuperDraco engines, clustered in redundant pairs in four engine pods, with each engine capable of producing 71 kilonewtons (16,000 lbf) of thrust
- The first fully 3-D printed engine, the SuperDraco. Engine combustion chamber of printed Inconel, an alloy of nickel and iron, using a process of direct metal laser sintering. Engines contained in a protective nacelle to prevent fault propagation in the event of an engine failure.
- Composite-carbon-overwrap titanium spherical tanks for holding the helium used for engine pressurisation, SuperDraco fuel and oxidiser
- Updated third-generation PICA-X heat shield
- A futuristic interior with luxury seats and tablet-like computer, swivelling down for optional crew control by the pilot and co-pilot