The largest rocket system ever built also recently exploded during its second test. However, producer SpaceX remains optimistic about its future plans for the “Starship”. Bill Nelson, head of the US space agency Nasa, also wrote on X, once Twitter: “Together, Nasa and SpaceX will take humanity back to the Moon, Mars and beyond.” The USA is by no means alone with committed plans for space – China in particular has become an excellent spacefaring nation. An overview of planned missions:


The US space agency Nasa is looking forward to the first manned launch as part of the “Artemis” program in 2024. After a successful unmanned test at the end of 2022, three men and one woman are scheduled to orbit the moon in the ten-day “Artemis 2” mission in November next year. In 2025, “Artemis 3”, at least according to the current plan, will see astronauts land on the moon again after more than half a century, including a woman and a non-white person for the first time.

In addition, preparations for a space station on the moon continue. SpaceX, Elon Musk’s private space company, has announced many more “Starship” tests. The most powerful rocket system in space history will eventually fly to the Moon and Mars.

The expensive operation of the International Space Station (ISS) also continues. Several astronauts are scheduled to fly there with SpaceX’s “Crew Dragon” – and Boeing’s troubled “Starliner” is scheduled to take people there for the first time in the spring.


China, which has long since become a competitive spacefaring nation, also has its sights set on the Moon and Mars. “Our eternal dream is to discover the vast cosmos, develop a space industry and China into a space power,” said state and party leader Xi Jinping as a goal.

Chinese people should be standing on the moon by 2030. Given major delays in the “Artemis” program, it is not inconceivable that they will be running around there sooner than the first new US moonwalkers. The longer-term goal is to build a research station; other countries are explicitly invited to participate. According to Chinese and their own statements, Belarus, South Africa, Venezuela, Pakistan, Russia and Azerbaijan have already agreed to cooperate.

In the spring, as a step on this path, the unmanned lunar mission “Chang’e 6” will collect samples on the back of the Earth’s satellite for the first time and bring them to Earth. Two years later, “Chang’e 7” is scheduled to carry out a precise landing on the south polar side in preparation for the station’s construction. “Chang’e 8” will then be followed by Chinese astronauts landing on the moon.

China also has its sights set on ambitious projects to explore Mars. The country has also long had its own space station, “Tiangong” (Heavenly Palace), to which a three-person astronaut team only set off in October.


Sending astronauts to the moon independently is currently not an issue for Europe. When choosing a partner, the European space agency Esa continues to rely on the USA: Esa is contributing the European Service Module (ESM) for the “Orion” spacecraft of the “Artemis” program, built by Airbus in Bremen.

A flight with an ESA astronaut is not planned for either “Artemis 2” or “Artemis 3”, but only for “Artemis 4” and “Artemis 5”, which are still a long way off. And it is unclear whether he or she will be one of two of the four astronauts on a mission who not only fly to the moon but also set foot on it. “That has not yet been defined,” Esa General Director Josef Aschbacher recently said. NASA doesn’t want to decide on this until after the “Artemis 2” flight.

For the coming year, Esa is planning to launch earth observation satellites such as “Sentinel-2C”, “EarthCare” and “Biomass”, partly with partners. They are intended to provide data on things such as the condition of forests, cloud formation and aerosols. Many of the values ​​obtained are important for recording the progress of climate change.

In addition, the new Ariane 6 carrier rocket is scheduled to take off in 2024 after several postponements – the first launch was originally planned for 2020. Esa retired its predecessor, Ariane 5, this year and after a false start, the smaller Vega-C rocket also had to remain on the ground. Since then, ESA has no longer had its own resources to launch satellites into space.

The planned launch of “Hera” in October should also be a highlight. The probe, named after a Greek goddess, is part of a dual mission by Esa and NASA to explore defense mechanisms for a possible asteroid impact on Earth. NASA’s “Dart” probe was scheduled to hit the asteroid Dimorphos in 2022.


India has increasingly ambitious space plans: Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently said he would like to have an Indian space station by 2035 and the first Indian on the moon by 2040. With the unmanned probe “Chandrayaan-3”, the country achieved the difficult landing on Earth’s companion this year – after the former Soviet Union, the USA and China.

The “Shukrayaan-1” mission to Venus is scheduled to start at the end of next year. It could provide insights into the future of the Earth, said the head of the Indian space agency Isro, Sreedhara Panicker Somanath. There will also be a mission to Mars, called “Mangalyaan-2,” soon.


Despite the costly war against Ukraine, Russia wants to increase its spending on the space program next year from the equivalent of 321 million euros to around three billion euros. In particular, companies that are involved in the development of reusable launch vehicles and propulsion systems should receive funding.

After the loss of its “Luna-25” space probe, the country also wants to push ahead with its lunar program. The first Russian lunar mission in almost five decades failed to land on Earth’s satellite in August. Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin is now demanding that the industry work faster and be more commercially successful. The number of Russian satellites must increase several times over, and launches should also become more cost-effective.

The construction of a space station to replace the aging ISS is still being prepared. The head of the space agency Roscosmos, Yuri Borissov, is planning around six billion euros for this alone by 2032. Russia works closely with China and India, among others. Construction of the Russian Orbital Station (ROS) is scheduled to begin with the launch of the first module in 2027 at the earliest.


The Asian high-tech nation Japan is also pushing ahead with its projects to explore the moon and Mars. At the beginning of September, the Japanese space agency Jaxa sent out the lunar lander “SLIM” and an X-ray telescope called “XRISM”. “SLIM” is expected to enter lunar orbit approximately three to four months after launch and land some time later. In that case, Japan would be the fifth country to achieve a soft landing on the moon.

Japan’s lunar lander is intended to test technologies for future landings on the lunar surface. The data is to be used for the “Artemis” program. Like Esa, Japan is aiming to bring its own astronaut to the moon for the first time.

The island kingdom is also planning an exploration mission to Mars. The Jaxa project called “Martian Moons Exploration” (MMX) plans to launch a probe towards the Mars moons Phobos and Deimos in 2024/2025. Jaxa plans to explore both moons and collect soil samples from Phobos, hoping to find clues to the origins of Mars and traces of possible life. The samples are scheduled to be brought to Earth in a capsule in 2029.

South Korea

South Korea is also taking part in the new space race. Among the goals of Asia’s fourth-largest economy is to create a foundation for future activities on the moon. After the first lunar probe reached its target orbit a good year ago, this year it sent photos of the back of the Earth’s satellite. It should also explore possible landing sites. South Korea wants to land on the moon by 2031. It is not yet clear whether it will be an unmanned landing with a robot.

South Korea is also one of the signatories of the “Artemis” program. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Science explained that no major rocket launches for space research are initially planned for 2024. The long-planned space agency based on NASA’s model should finally be launched. The aim is to make space research projects more effective.

Arab world

In the Arab region, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are pursuing ambitious space travel plans. The Emirates want to try again to land a rover on the moon after the failed attempt in April to land a probe from Japanese space company Ispace. Mohammed bin Rashid, ruler of the Emirate of Dubai, nevertheless praised the efforts. The Emirates had “built a space industry from scratch in just ten years.”

Saudi Arabia is competing with its small, powerful neighbor and has announced investments of more than $2 billion in space. The country wants to promote space tourism and satellite-based communication. Compared to the approximately ten times the budget of the US space agency Nasa, the resources used by the two countries are still small, despite their great oil wealth.