2019 is shaping up to be a monumental year for space exploration, especially by commercial interests hoping to fill the gap left after the United States stopped flying manned missions in 2001. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on launches involving spacecraft designed to carry humans aboard. Keep in mind these launch dates are likely to be delayed.
“Please be advised, there is a Santa Claus.”
Astronaut Jim Lovell, Christmas morning, 1968.
This week will mark the 50th anniversary of what I will argue was the most daring mission in the history of human space exploration. It started with three men climbing into a small capsule on December 21st. They would return to Earth six days and three hours later. It wasn’t an effort to set an endurance record and didn’t even come close. But for the first time, mankind would come close to our nearest companion, the moon. It was an enormous risk, but one NASA was willing to make to beat the Soviet Union to the moon.