Neil Armstrong made history 51 years ago today when the American astronaut became the first human to step foot on the Moon. Space Exploration Day on July 20 honors the Apollo 11 mission and all advances made in space.
The White House released a presidential statement this year that recognizes the recent SpaceX launch with astronauts and the upcoming NASA Mars 2020 mission as current milestones:
This year’s observation of Space Exploration Day comes as we commence a new era of human space exploration. Following a nine-year hiatus, American astronauts once again launched into space from American soil on rockets proudly built by American workers. Furthermore, SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 was the first crewed launch of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Commercial Crew program, marking the first time in history that a commercial company sent humans into orbit.
Establishing NASA’s Commercial Crew program spanned multiple presidential administrations with the first successful crewed astronaut launch to the International Space Station happening on May 30. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will return from the ISS on the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft in August.
The upcoming Mars 2020 mission to launch the Perseverance rover to the Red Planet is also a focus of Space Exploration Day 2020 for the White House:
Soon, the rover Perseverance will launch from Kennedy Space Center, bound for the Jezero Crater on Mars, lighting the way for our brave American astronauts to one day follow. Along with the helicopter Ingenuity, we will test powered flight on another world for the first time, unlocking the mysteries of the Red Planet in order to one day plant our great American Flag to proudly fly as a beacon of liberty and American creativity throughout the galaxy.
United Launch Alliance will send NASA’s Perseverance rover to Mars on July 30 with an ETA of February 2021.
Japan’s space agency JAXA launched a Mars probe called Hope for United Arab Emirates this week. China is up next to launch an ambitious Mars orbiter, lander, and rover on a mission called Tianwen-1. China relied on Russia for its previous Mars mission.