10 Amazing Space Missions You Won’t Believe Are Happening in 2017

2017 will bring us closer to space than ever before.
NASA via Getty Images

1. World View Enterprises will start sending people on high altitude balloon rides

2017 is the year near-space exploration company World View Enterprises plans to start send paying customers 100,000 feet in the air on high-altitude balloon rides. A ride, which will set you back $75,000, is five or six hours from start to finish and includes two hours in the stratosphere where you’re higher than 99 percent of Earth’s atmosphere.

Read more about the project here.


2. SpaceX will launch Falcon Heavy for the first time

Falcon Heavy, SpaceX’s heavy-lift rocket designed to one day fly humans to Mars, is set to take off for the first time ever in 2017, making it the most powerful operational rocket in the world in two ways. The spacecraft can lift more than 54 metric tons into orbit (a mass equivalent to a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel) which is more than twice the payload of the closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy. And it will do this at one-third the cost.

Read more about the project here.

Falcon Heavy

3. XCOR’s Lynx spaceplane is set to begin test flights

In 2017, California-based XCOR will begin test flights of Lynx, its suborbital spaceplane that seats a pilot-astronaut and one ticketed passenger for short flights into space. The projected cost for a ride is $150,000.

Read more about the project here.


4. NASA will launch an advanced planet-hunting telescope

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)—set to launch by December, according to some reports—will discover thousands of exoplanets around nearby bright stars. It’s the first ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey and will monitor more than 200,000 stars over two years. Spending at least 27 days focused on each of the 26 observation sectors, the telescope will look for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits, making it able to identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants—a feat no ground-based survey could achieve.

Read more about the project here.


5. Blue Origin will make a giant leap in space tourism

Blue Origin, the privately funded aerospace company founded by Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos, is expected to begin manned launches to space by the end of the year. This is the precursor to the company’s “Astronaut Experience,” which will take ordinary people over the Kármán Line on brief space vacations just for the views and experience. After a vertical launch, your capsule will separate from the booster so you can have weightless freedom, and then you’ll experience 5 Gs on the way to landing just a few miles from where you started on Earth.

Read more about the project here.

Blue Origin

6. SpaceX will test Crew Dragon

In 2012, Elon Musk’s SpaceX made history with Dragon, the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to the International Space Station—a feat previously only achieved by governments. Now with the long awaited Crew Dragon, SpaceX is looking to carry humans to the ISS and beyond. In November, the company will perform an unmanned test of the next-generation, fully autonomous vehicle designed to be an enjoyable ride. It features an advanced emergency escape system, real-time information on the state of the spacecraft’s capabilities and windows so passengers can take in the views while traveling through space. A manned flight is scheduled to follow in May 2018.

Read more about the project here.


7. The Planetary Society's Lightsail 2 will launch

In March, The Planetary Society will launch Lightsail 2 into orbit. This is the second demonstration of the technology from the nonprofit space advocacy group, which is run by beloved scientist Bill Nye.

The purpose of solar sails is to use the sun’s energy as a method of propulsion. As light reflects off a sail, most of its momentum is transferred, pushing on the sail with small but continuous acceleration. Unlike chemical rockets that provide short bursts of thrust, solar sails thrust continuously and can reach higher speeds over time.

Read more about the project here.

The Planetary Society

8. Asgardia is launching its first unmanned satellite

The private company Asgardia’s mission is to create the first “space-based nation” and prevent Earth’s conflicts from transferring there. The future country (also called Asgardia and named after Asgard, the city in the sky in ancient Norse mythology) will be a full-fledged independent nation with a flag, a national anthem, a government and embassies. In the fall of 2017, the company is set to send its first unmanned satellite into orbit.

Read more about the project here.


9. Russia’s Nauku module will head to the ISS

The long-awaited Nauka module, also called the Multipurpose Laboratory Module (or MLM), is scheduled to launch at some point this year. The launch of this module that will attach to the ISS will be used for experiments, docking and cargo and be Russia’s primary research module. The launch has been repeatedly delayed and pushed back four times since the original date in 2013. The latest reports say it has been delayed to December 2017.

Read more about the project here.


10. Google’s Lunar XPRIZE is sending not one, but two private companies to the moon

Moon Express and SpaceIL, both competitors in Google's Lunar XPRIZE, are expected to launch to the Moon and attempt to land unmanned probes. These will be the first ever private lunar landings.

Read more about the project here.


Perhaps even more revolutionary than the moon landing in 1969, this year is shaping up to be the most ambitious and important time in the history of space exploration thus far.

NASA and foreign governments as well as private companies like SpaceX, The Planetary Society, XCOR and more have plans to make serious strides in the areas of spacecrafts, planet discoveryspace tourism and colonization. For example, civilians will actually be able to go right to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere just by buying a ticket. The price tag is steep, but non-astronauts can head higher than ever before nonetheless.

Click through the slides to learn about all of the groundbreaking space missions you won’t believe are happening in 2017.

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