The year 2021 promises to be an exciting one for space exploration, as many countries have planned ambitious missions

In 2021, the first Indian will be carried by our own rocket to space. The Chandrayaan-3 demonstrator mission will attempt a lunar landing again after the Vikram lander of the Chandrayaan-2 mission crashed in July 2019. The new mission is slated to launch in March this year and would consist of a lunar rover and a stationary lander approved by the Indian government.

K Sivan, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), revealed the estimated cost for Chandrayaan-3 to be Rs 6.15 billion (about $91.2 million), a much lower figure in comparison with Chandrayaan-2, which cost Rs 9.7 billion, as per news reports.

Chandrayaan-1, launched in 2008, was one of the first major missions in the Indian space programme. Comprising an orbiter and a surface penetrator probe, it was one of the first missions to confirm evidence of lunar water. Chandrayaan-3 will touch down in the lunar south pole’s Aitken basin, a vital component for future sustainable lunar habitation.

The agency has also identified four astronauts for Gaganyaan, the country’s first human space flight set for launch in 2021. In 1984, Rakesh Sharma flew in a Russian module, but this time, the Indian astronauts will fly in an Indian module. Sharma, the first Indian to travel to space, was part of the Soviet Union’s Soyuz T-11 expedition, launched in April 1984 as part of the Intercosmos program.

Clearly, 2021 promises to be an exciting one for space missions, and not just because of India’s space plans. There are other major countries as well planning their space missions in the near future. Russia, for one, has reinvigorated its Luna programme to launch the moon mission in 2021 with nine instruments onboard, according to news and space discovery website The country is setting the stage to put cosmonauts on the moon under its Russian lander Luna-25, the first Russian craft to reach the moon’s surface since it was part of the Soviet Union.

China’s ambitious Tianwen-1 mission will be the first Mars mission with an orbiter, lander and rover to explore the red planet. Tianwen-1, which blasted into space in July 2020, is now more than 15 million km from earth en route the red planet.

South Korea and Japan are also building lunar landers. South Korea, with its first launch of a lunar orbiter slated for the second half of 2022, has been working on a lunar orbiter programme since 2016, Yonhap news agency reported. The spacecraft is expected to reach the moon by December 2022 and conduct a year-long mission that could even be extended, according to the state-run Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI).

Japan’s first moon rover called Yaoki will take flight aboard the rookie mission for United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan Centaur rocket in 2021. The US Artemis project, which includes the goal of sending the first woman and next man to the moon in 2024, is the most ambitious mission. Subsequent missions will explore more of the moon and test the technologies and procedures needed for human exploration of Mars. In this regard, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is seeking new partners to help the agency tell the story of human exploration of the moon with the Artemis programme in ways that engage, excite and inspire audiences.

Boeing, too, hopes to launch a second attempt on March 29 this year after addressing the software issues that prevented Starliner from reaching its destination the first time.

Washington-based company Blue Origin will send its first orbital rocket aloft in 2021. Named New Glenn after the NASA Mercury astronaut John Glenn, the rocket can send up to 14 tons to geostationary orbit and 50 tons to low earth orbit.

An ambitious new NASA mission called Lucy is expected to launch in November this year to study eight space rocks over nearly a decade. With boosts from earth’s gravity, it will complete a 12-year journey to eight different asteroids—a Main Belt asteroid and seven Trojan asteroids. The swarms of Trojan asteroids associated with Jupiter are thought to be remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets. The Trojans orbit the sun in two loose groups, with one group leading ahead of Jupiter in its path, the other trailing behind. The Jupiter trojans, commonly called Trojan asteroids or simply Trojans, are a large group of asteroids that share the planet Jupiter’s orbit around the sun. These primitive bodies hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system, and perhaps even the origins of organic material on earth.