From a private moon landing mission to a meteor shower, there are plenty of space and astronomical events to look forward to this season. Check out six exciting things happening in space in the winter of 2024.
1. Vulcan’s First Certification Mission (December 24)
On Christmas Eve, a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan VC2S rocket will launch on its inaugural mission from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The mission includes two payloads: NASA’s first Peregrine Lunar Lander, Peregrine Mission One, and Celestis’ Memorial Spaceflight’s deep space voyager mission, the Enterprise Flight. Landing will take place in the following weeks.
2. Quadrantids Meteor Shower (January 3-4)
The Quadrantids is an above-average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at its peak. The shower is thought to be produced by dust grains left behind by an extinct comet known as 2003 EH1, which was discovered in 2003. This year, the waning gibbous moon will block out some of the fainter meteors, but it could still be a good show if you view it from a dark location after midnight.
3. Axiom Mission 3’s Launch (January 10)
On January 10, Axiom Space’s third private astronaut mission will launch to the ISS from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The mission will use SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, and the four crew members include a former NASA astronaut, a European Space Agency reserve astronaut, and a passenger who flew to suborbital space with Virgin Galactic earlier this year. The mission will spend 14 days docked to the ISS.
4. New Private MoonLanding Mission (January 12)
The launch of Intuitive Machines’ moon lander is set for a multi-day launch window for a moon mission opening on January 12. The Nova-C lander was built and owned by Intuitive Machines and is meant to be a pathfinder for NASA’s human spaceflight missions to the moon. It will target the rim of Malapert A, a crater near the lunar south pole.
5. NASA’s PACE Mission Begins (January 2024)
Also scheduled to launch in January 2024 is NASA’s Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission. The mission will advance the assessment of ocean health by measuring the distribution of phytoplankton, tiny plants, and algae that sustain the marine food web. This will extend and improve NASA’s over 20-year record of satellite observations of global ocean biology, aerosols, and clouds.
6. SpaceX Crew-8 Mission Launch (February 2024)
In February, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 mission will launch to the ISS. Aboard the mission will be NASA’s Matthew Dominick, Michael Barratt, and Jeanette Epps, as well as Roscosmos cosmonaut mission specialist Alexander Grebenkin. While aboard the ISS, the crew will conduct a wide range of operational and research activities alongside routine maintenance and processing of the Crew-8 SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft.