Space Missions to Watch in May: China Explores the Dark Side of the Moon, Boeing Starliner, and More

Major space forces around the world are gearing up for a number of exciting missions in May.

China Launches Its First Lunar Probe
China’s first lunar probe Chang’e 1 on a Long March 3A rocket blasts off in 2007. China Photos/Getty Images

With spring in full swing, major space forces around the world are gearing up for a number of exciting missions. The month of May will kick off with China’s National Space Administration sending a lunar lander to the far side of the Moon. Then, Boeing is scheduled to finally launch its Starliner spacecraft, a competitor of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, into orbit. The mission, originally scheduled for April, had to be pushed back due to scheduling problems.

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Elsewhere, the Russian Federal Space Agency, or Roscosmos, is preparing for a high-profile but mysterious mission. In the U.S., SpaceX is launching more Starlink satellites, further expanding its internet-beaming constellation. And, while still no launch date has been announced, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is expected to make history (again) this year by sending the oldest person to space using a New Shepard rocket. 

Here are the five missions to keep an eye on in May: 

May 3: China’s Chang’e 6 lunar lander and sample return mission. China’s next lunar mission, Chang’e 6, is scheduled to blast off from the Wenchang Space Launch Site in China’s Hainan Island at 3:50 p.m. Beijing time (3:50 a.m. EDT). A probe will be aiming for the far side of the Moon, specifically the South Pole–Aitken basin, to collect roughly 2 kilograms of material and bring it back to Earth for study. The spacecraft boasts a launch mass and landed mass of 8,200 kilograms and 3,200 kilograms, respectively. It comprises four components, modules for service and landing, an ascent vehicle and a re-entry capsule. 

May 6: Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner crewed test flight. After multiple delays, the Boeing spacecraft designed to fly astronauts to the International Space Station is ready to blast off. A ULA Atlas V booster will blast off at 10:30 pm EDT from Cape Canaveral, Florida and send two NASA astronauts, Commander Barry Eugene “Butch” Wilmore and Pilot Sunita “Suni”’ Williams, to the ISS. 

May 30:  Russia’s Progress MS-27 (88P) Soyuz 2.1a Mission. Russia doesn’t seem to have released much information about this upcoming mission. What we know so far is that it will be bound for low Earth orbit and is a “progress resupply mission” to the ISS, according to Space Launch Schedule.

TBD: SpaceX’s Starlink Group 8-5 Falcon 9 Block 5 Mission. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is expected to launch a routine Starlink mission in May, but anyone looking to watch the launch will have to check back on a specific date and time. 

TBD: Firefly Aerospace’s FLTA005 (VCLS Demo 2 Mission Two). Space startup Firefly Aerospace is planning to launch the next mission of its Firefly Alpha (Firefly A), an expendable two-stage orbital spacecraft. This will be the Firefly Alpha’s fourth mission, during which it will carry its first payload for NASA. It is scheduled to launch from the Vandenberg SFB space launch complex in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Space Missions to Watch in May: China Explores the Dark Side of the Moon, Boeing Starliner, and More