10 things to watch out for in planetary science for 2022 – NASA’s solar system exploration

Deployment of a new space telescope; deflect an asteroid with a spaceship; and visit a metal-rich asteroid. These and many more are on NASA’s 2022 calendar.

The James Webb Space Telescope sits on top of its launcher before being encased in the rocket shroud. Credit: NASA / Chris Gunn | Learn more about this image

1. The Webb telescope goes to work

The new James Webb Space Telescope delivers its first images in June.

Illustration of the psyche

An illustration of the NASA Psyche spacecraft. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU

2. Psyche: mission to a metal-rich asteroid

Launched in August 2022, NASA’s Psyche spacecraft will orbit a metal-rich asteroid, also known as Psyche, in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

NASA 2022: the future is now

DART take-off

The Dual Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, will launch on November 23, 2021 from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Credit: NASA / Bill Ingalls | Learn more about this image

3. DART crashes into an asteroid

DART will crash into the asteroid Dimorphos this fall to test Earth’s defense technology against potential dangers from asteroids or comets.

Venus of Magellan

This global view of the surface of Venus was created using primarily radar images from NASA’s Magellan spacecraft with gaps filled by data from previous missions. Credit: NASA / JPL | Learn more about this image

4. Moment of the triple crown for Venus

Three new missions to Venus are in development in 2022, after being announced by NASA and ESA last year. NASA’s VERITAS and DAVINCI will complement the European Space Agency’s EnVision to provide the most comprehensive study of Venus ever.

Mower Europe

Contamination control engineers in a clean room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, assess a propellant tank before it is installed in NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft. Credit: NASA / GSFC Denny Henry | Learn more about this image

5. Europa Clipper: Adjust the trajectory

Scientists are busy fine-tuning the Europa Clipper’s planned trajectory ahead of the mission’s launch in 2024. The spacecraft will determine whether Europa has the potential for suitable conditions for life.


The ExoMars rover. Credit: ESA

6. New robots for Mars

NASA is participating in new international missions to Mars. The ExoMars 2022 rover and surface platform will help understand if life ever existed on Mars.

Selfie Curiosity

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover took this 360-degree selfie using the Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI, at the end of its robotic arm. The selfie includes 81 individual images taken on November 20, 2021. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS | Learn more about this image

7. Two great birthdays on Mars

Curiosity marks 10 years on Mars in 2022. The rover is helping determine if Mars has ever had the right conditions to support microbes. NASA’s Mars Pathfinder mission ushered in a new era of exploration when it landed on July 4, 1997, taking Sojourner, the first rover to Mars, with it.

Pathfinder and Sojourner

This panoramic view of Pathfinder’s Ares Vallis landing site shows the Sojourner rover in the distance. Credit: NASA / JPL | Learn more about this image

Parker touches the sun

An illustration of the Parker solar probe “touching the sun” for the first time in April 2021. Credit: NASA GSFC / CIL / Brian Monroe

8. Close encounters with Parker Solar Probe

In 2021, a spacecraft made contact with the Sun for the first time. Parker will have closer encounters with the Sun in 2022.

9. Private companies bring science to the moon

Astrobotic and intuitive machines are expected to launch scientific payloads to the moon as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.


Several upcoming NASA missions will use lasers to increase data transmission from space. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center / Amber Jacobson, Producer

10. Go in depth to improve space communications

Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) will be launched aboard NASA’s Psyche mission to help spacecraft communicate with Earth faster.

Evelyn C. Tobin