After a year of significant global advances in space exploration, China has topped the list for most space launches.
China launched a grand total of 37 satellites during 2018 – 36 of them involving the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. The 37th involved the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation.
The European Space Agency, which the United Kingdom is part of, launched 11 satellites this year. It launched three new missions this year: studying planets around other stars, the first European mission to Mercury, and one that maps the Earth’s global wing fields.
2019 should see another three missions launched that are more focused on advancing technology and telecommunications on Earth.
The most notable space launch by China was at the beginning of December when it launched the first mission to the dark side of the moon. It will also seek to determine whether it is possible to grow plants in this area of the moon.
“This mission is definitely a significant and important accomplishment in lunar exploration,” says Carolyn van der Bogert, a planetary geologist at Westfälische Wilhelms University in Münster, Germany.
Elsewhere in space exploration, Elon Musk has been pushing the boundaries with his company SpaceX. Musk’s hope is that one day humans, led by himself, will colonise Mars. He’s even willing to die for his cause.
“You might land successfully, and once you land successfully, you’ll be working non-stop to build the base,” he suggested earlier this year.
“So, you know, not much time for leisure. And even after doing all this, it’s a very harsh environment. So … there’s a good chance you die there.”
Earlier this week, Musk tweeted his congratulations to China: “Amazing space progress by China. This year they did more orbital launches than the USA for the first time.”
Amazing space progress by China. This year they did more orbital launches than the USA for the first time. https://t.co/rIks4ZHuCO
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 23, 2018