Space Stories to Watch in 2016

An artist's conception of Juno in orbit around Jupiter. image credit: NASA

2015 was an amazing year in space, as worlds such as Pluto and Ceres snapped into sharp focus. 2015 also underlined the mantra that ‘space in hard,’ as SpaceX rode the roller coaster from launch failure, to a dramatic return to flight in December, complete with a nighttime landing of its stage 1 Falcon 9 rocket back at Cape Canaveral. So, what’s in store for 2016? How about a mission to Mars, Jupiter, and – just maybe — a groundbreaking discovery in astrophysics? Here’s our drill-down of space stories to watch in 2016:

Juno Arrives at Jupiter

After several years of space travel, NASA’s Juno mission will enter orbit around Jupiter next year. Launched from Cape Canaveral on August 5th, 2011, Juno will only be the second spacecraft to enter orbit around Jupiter, and the first mission to the outer solar system that won’t utilize nuclear power. Instead, Juno is equipped with three enormous bus-sized solar panels. Juno will study the magnetosphere, magnetic field and gravitational environment of Jove in its wide-ranging path. Expect Juno to enter orbit around Jupiter on July 4th, 2016.

Gravitational Waves Discovered?

Could astronomers directly detect gravitational waves in the coming year… just over a century after Einstein’s special theory of relativity predicted them? It’s a very real possibility, as the Advanced LIGO project went online in late 2015. Sporting ten times the sensitivity of the original LIGO project, Advanced LIGO ‘should’ detect gravitational waves generated by black hole and pulsar mergers and extra-galactic supernovae. If it doesn’t, something is seriously wrong with our theories of cosmology. This could be the physics story of 2016 along the lines of the CERN Higgs-Boson discovery, if direct detection is accomplished.

Heavy Rockets Take Flight

Both China and SpaceX may debut their heavy lift rockets —> Read More