Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a rather slow year for space achievements, but the industry continues to expand its reaches across the solar system as 2021 continues to move forward. Let’s take a look at the biggest plans and ongoing missions in this ambitious year for space exploration:
- Is there life on Mars?: Three countries’ spacecraft will land on Mars. NASA continues its search for life on the Red Planet with their Perseverance rover, while China’s Tianwen-1 mission will explore it for the first time in their history. Additionally, the United Arab Emirates also sent their Hope orbiter to study the planet’s weather cycles.
- Human spaceflight: After its failed attempt to reach orbit in 2020, Boeing will launch a second attempt on March 29, 2021. If the initial software issues are correctly solved and the test flight proves to be a success, Boeing could have its first crewed test flight in September 2021.
- Commercial space travel: SpaceX’s plans to send private astronauts for a mission to the International Space Station. The trip will likely include an eight days stay at the station and two additional days of travel time. Even though tourists have already visited the ISS before, this will make history as the first-ever fully private spaceflight.
- Moon missions: While Mars looks to be the hottest destination this year, lunar exploration is still very popular. For example, Russia plans to send its lander Luna-25 to the moon’s surface since it was part of the Soviet Union. It will land at the moon's south pole to study the lunar surface and atmosphere.
Space exploration will surely take us to unimaginable places this 2021 and beyond. Are you ready for it?
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This month saw the release of the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X and Series S. These join the Nintendo Switch as the main video game consoles of this new generation (the ninth one since the first consoles were released in the market back in 1975) that promise 4K gaming at up to 120 frames per second, ray tracing and faster loading speeds than its predecessors. Both Sony and Microsoft proud themselves for their brand new next gen consoles, and both claim to be the best in performance and overall gaming experience:
- Price: Both the Xbox Series X and the PS5 cost $499, while the Series S is priced at $299 and the PS5 Digital Edition costs $399. The latter 2 lack an optical drive to read discs, and the Series S’ SSD is half as large as the Series X.
- Backward compatibility: Both consoles offer almost all of their previous gen games on their gaming catalog, even though the Xbox Series X has an edge: With the same backward compatibility the Xbox One offered for Xbox 360 and original Xbox games.
- Performance: Next generation consoles are always judged by their power, speed and visual fidelity levels. Both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X & Series S have similar features in this sense, and it’s very difficult to declare a winner.
- Design: The PS5 is a towering machine, and is the biggest console Sony has ever built, while the Xbox Series X looks more like the design of gaming PCs thanks to its cuboid shape.
While both the PS5 and Xbox Series X & Series S are very powerful new consoles competing for the same market, they are both excellent options that offer 10-12 TFLOPS of graphical power and all of the load-time benefits that come from SSDs.
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NASA is taking space exploration to a new level by supporting private companies to collect moon dirt which can be sold for as high as $25,000 for each sample cache. This initiative adds to the already booked robotic rides to the lunar surface on commercial landers and plans to do the same with crewed missions, encouraging further private exploration of the moon.
The idea is to have private companies from the United States and abroad to collect from 1.8 ounces to 18 ounces (50 to 500 grams) of lunar material by 2024 and officially transfer ownership of the soil to the space agency on the lunar surface.
The goal of the initiative is to stimulate and normalize the extraction and sale of lunar resources, and eventually sell them to non-NASA buyers across the borders. Another goal for the use of lunar resources is to establish a sustainable human presence on and around the moon, preparing the agency for crewed trips to Mars in the 2030s and perform similar activities there.
There are, of course, regulations that need to be established before starting to trade space resources. NASA requires that all actions be taken in a transparent fashion, in full compliance with the Registration Convention, Article II and other provisions of the Outer Space Treaty that fuels a new era of exploration and discovery that will benefit all of humanity. Who knows, perhaps in the near future we will see a new market evolve here on earth that includes the trading of lunar rocks to showcase at home!
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