An insane amount of cool space things happening in 2021

While we look forward to things calming down here on Earth, there's going to be plenty of activity in the heavens. Ars Technica put together an overview of plans that include everything from innovative rockets to private flights to the construction of a new space station. And three different nations have spacecraft scheduled to land on Mars in February!

The United Arab Emirates' first mission to the Red Planet, Mars Hope, is due to arrive on February 9. At this time, the spacecraft will make a challenging maneuver to slow down and enter orbit around Mars with an altitude above the planet as low as 1,000km. If all goes well, the spacecraft will spend a Martian year—687 Earth days—studying the planet's atmosphere and better understanding its weather.

China has not said when, exactly, that its ambitious Tianwen-1 mission will arrive at Mars, but it's expected in mid-February. After the spacecraft enters orbit, it will spend a couple of months preparing to descend to the surface, assessing the planned landing site in the Utopia Planitia region. Then, China will attempt to become only the second country to soft-land a spacecraft on Mars that survives for more than a handful of seconds. It will be a huge moment for the country's space program.  

NASA's Mars Perseverance will likely be the last of three missions to arrive at Mars, reaching the Red Planet in mid-February and attempting a landing in Jezero Crater on February 18. This entry, descent, and landing phase—much like with the Curiosity lander in 2012—will be must-see TV.

Read what else 2021 has in store for space exploration at Ars Technica.

[via Digg]