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NASA’s 2021 Achievements Included Mars Landing, First Flight, Artemis, More

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2021, NASA completed its busiest year of development yet in low-Earth orbit, made history on Mars, continued to make progress on its Artemis plans for the Moon, tested new technologies for a supersonic aircraft, finalized launch preparations for the next-generation space telescope, and much more – all while safely operating during a pandemic and welcoming new leadership under the Biden-Harris Administration.

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  • January 3, 2022
Launch 2020: A Year of Transition for Japan
The United Arab Emirates’ Hope Probe took off at 2:58 p.m. PDT on July 19 from a launch site in Japan, headed for Mars to study its atmosphere. (Credit: MHI Launch Services via YouTube)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a typical year for Japan with four successful launches and no failures. Japan has averaged 3.8 launches annually over the past decade. Last year also saw a Japanese astronaut become the first foreigner to fly aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.

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  • June 27, 2021
Launch 2020: U.S. Reclaimed Top Spot, Flew Astronauts Again from American Soil
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The United States reclaimed the top spot in launches from China last year as NASA astronauts flew into orbit from American soil for the first time in nearly nine years, SpaceX deployed the world’s first satellite mega-constellation with reused rockets, and two new launchers debuted with less than stellar results.

American companies conducted 44 launches in 2020, with 40 successes and four failures. Bryce Tech reports that U.S. companies accounted for 32 of the 41 commercial launches conducted last year. The majority of those flights were conducted by SpaceX, which launched 25 orbital missions.

China came in second with a record of 35 successful launches and four failures. The 39 launch attempts tied that nation’s previous record for flights during a calendar year.

Let’s take a closer look at what U.S. companies achieved last year.

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  • June 23, 2021
Launch 2020: A Busy Year Filled with Firsts in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.

First in a series

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.

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  • June 22, 2021
Crew-1 Lands Safely in Gulf of Mexico
Clockwise from bottom right are Expedition 64 Flight Engineers and SpaceX Crew-1 members Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi. (Credits: NASA)

Four astronauts returned to Earth early Sunday morning on a SpaceX Crew Dragon after a six-month stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS), completing the first

The Resilience spacecraft carried NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to a splashdown off the coast of Panama City, Florida at 2:56 a.m. EDT.

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  • May 2, 2021
Crew-1 Set to Return to Earth on Sunday
NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, left, Victor Glover, second from left, Mike Hopkins, second from right, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, right, are introduced by Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana after arriving at the Launch and Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center ahead of SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission with NASA  astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is now targeting a return to Earth no earlier than about 2:57 a.m. EDT Sunday, May 2, in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Resilience, is scheduled to undock from the International Space Station at 8:35 p.m. Saturday, May 1, to begin the journey home.

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  • April 30, 2021
NASA Delays Return of Crew-1 Due to Weather
Clockwise from bottom right are Expedition 64 Flight Engineers and SpaceX Crew-1 members Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission with NASA  astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is now targeting a return to Earth at 11:36 a.m. EDT Saturday, May 1, in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Resilience, is scheduled to undock from the International Space Station at 5:55 p.m. Friday, April 30, to begin the journey home.

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  • April 27, 2021
NASA to Air Live Coverage of SpaceX Crew-1 Astronauts’ Return to Earth

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA will provide live coverage of the upcoming return activities for the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission with NASA  astronauts Michael Hopkins,  Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and  Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) from the International Space Station. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Resilience, is scheduled to undock from the space station to begin the journey home at 7:05 a.m. EDT Wednesday, April 28. NASA and SpaceX are targeting 12:40 […]

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  • April 25, 2021
Falcon 9 Launches Crew-2 to International Space Station

by Douglas MessierManaging Editor A previously flown SpaceX Falcon 9 launched four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft making its second trip to space on Friday. NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and  Megan McArthur – who serve as the mission’s spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively – are in orbit along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut  Akihiko  Hoshide and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet. The on-time […]

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  • April 23, 2021