February was a significant month, with at least three missions to Mars successful. With the US spacecraft landing on Mars, perseverance (“perseverance”) was the peak. China and the United Arab Emirates have also reached Mars with a satellite and space probe, among other things. This is not to be underestimated — about half of the missions to Mars fail,” says Van Hall, who was impressed by the American mission, one of the writers.
The fact that the UAE also reports as a new player in the universe is the result of “confusing prestige with nationalism”. “The oil-rich country wants to show that it also has something to say on a technological level.” A Mars mission is ideally suited for this, says Van Hall. It appeals to the imagination. “Because Mars has a very wonderful effect on people. It is also scientifically interesting because it is a bit like a mirror of our planet.”
2021 was also the year of the space tourist. Because mere mortals went on the first commercial flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon – mission name: Inspiration4. This trip should not be confused with the “glorious roller coaster ride” of billionaires Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin) and Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic). Van Hal expects this branch of space tourism to grow rapidly. “SpaceX also wants to put space tourists into orbit around the Moon. A Japanese billionaire has already gone to the International Space Station once. For big companies and brands, this is excellent marketing and there is also money to be made.”
How seriously is someone like Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX, taken by NASA, the European Space Agency, and other major parties? “You shouldn’t underestimate it. Some plans are really futile, take people to Mars. But SpaceX is doing better than NASA or Boeing in some areas. And yes, they’re a little cowboy too, but they’re fooled more than once right.”
Finally, Van Hal also mentions the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope as a highlight of the past year. “We can really get close to the Big Bang with this – about 150 million years later. Great!”
And what is Van Haal more looking forward to in 2022? “NASA is coming up with a big SOS rocket to take people to the moon.”