There are a lot of exciting things happening in space this year — here’s what to look forward to


Space travel is all about momentum.

Rockets turn their fuel into momentum that carries people, satellites and science itself forward into space. 2021 was a year full of records for space programs around the world, and that momentum is carrying forward into 2022.

Last year, the commercial space race truly took off. Richard Branson and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos both rode on suborbital launches – and brought friends, including actor William Shatner. SpaceX sent eight astronauts and 1 ton of supplies to the International Space Station for NASA. The six tourist spaceflights in 2021 were a record. There were also a record 19 people weightless in space for a short time in December, eight of them private citizens. Finally, Mars was also busier than ever thanks to missions from the U.S., China and United Arab Emirates sending rovers, probes or orbiters to the red planet.

In total, in 2021 there were 134 launches that put humans or satellites into orbit – the highest number in the entire history of spaceflight. Nearly 200 orbital launches are scheduled for 2022. If things go well, this will smash last year’s record.

I’m an astronomer who studies supermassive black holes and distant galaxies. I have also written a book about humanity’s future in space. There’s a lot to look forward to in 2022. The Moon will get more attention than it has had in decades, as will Jupiter. The largest rocket ever built will make its first flight. And of course, the James Webb Space Telescope will start sending back its first images.

I, for one, can’t wait.