Image of James Webb Space Telescope lifting off

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launches Dec. 25, 2021, from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls | More about this image

10 Things to Watch for in Planetary Science for 2022

Feature | January 6, 2022

Deploying a new space telescope; deflecting an asteroid with a spacecraft; and visiting a metal-rich asteroid. These items and more are on NASA’s 2022 calendar.

James Webb atop rocket
The James Webb Space Telescope sits on top of its launch vehicle before being enclosed in the rocket fairing. Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn | More about this image

1. Webb Telescope Goes to Work

The new James Webb Space Telescope delivers its first images in June.

Psyche Illustration
An illustration of NASA’s Psyche spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

2. Psyche: Mission to a Metal-Rich Asteroid

Launching in August 2022, NASA’s Psyche spacecraft will orbit a metal-rich asteroid also called Psyche in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

NASA 2022: The Future is Now

DART Liftoff
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, spacecraft launches on Nov. 23, 2021, from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls | More about this image

3. DART to Crash Into an Asteroid

DART will slam into asteroid Dimorphos this fall to test technology for defending Earth against potential asteroid or comet hazards.

Venus from Magellan
This global view of the surface of Venus was created using mostly radar images from NASA’s Magellan spacecraft with gaps filled in with data from previous missions. Credit: NASA/JPL | More about this image

4. Triple Crown Moment for Venus

Three new missions to Venus are in development in 2022, after being announced by NASA and ESA last year. NASA’s VERITAS and DAVINCI will complement the European Space Agency’s EnVision to provide the most comprehensive study of Venus ever.

Europa Clipper
Contamination control engineers in a clean room at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, evaluate a propellant tank before it is installed in NASA's Europa Clipper spacecraft. Credit: NASA/GSFC Denny Henry | More about this image

5. Europa Clipper: Tweaking the Trajectory

Scientists are busy tweaking the Europa Clipper’s planned trajectory ahead of the mission's launch in 2024. The spacecraft will determine whether Europa has the potential for conditions suitable for life.

The ExoMars rover. Credit: ESA

6. New Robots for Mars

NASA is participating in new international missions to Mars. The 2022 ExoMars Rover and Surface Platform will help understand if life ever existed on Mars.

Curiosity Selfie
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover took this 360-degree selfie using the Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI, at the end of its robotic arm. The selfie comprises 81 individual images taken on Nov. 20, 2021. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS | More about this image

7. Two Big Anniversaries on Mars

Curiosity marks 10 years on Mars in 2022. The rover is helping determine if Mars ever had the right conditions to support microbes. NASA's Mars Pathfinder mission ushered in a new era of exploration when it landed on July 4, 1997, bringing with it Sojourner – the first rover on Mars.

Pathfinder and Sojourner
This panoramic view of Pathfinder's Ares Vallis landing site shows the Sojourner rover in the distance. Credit: NASA/JPL | More about this image

Parker touches Sun
An illustration of the Parker Solar Probe “touching the Sun” for the first time in April 2021. Credit: NASA GSFC/CIL/Brian Monroe

8. Parker Solar Probe’s Close Encounters

In 2021, a spacecraft touched the Sun for the first time. Parker will have more close encounters with the Sun in 2022.

Commercial Payloads
Illustration of Intuitive Machines Nova-C lander. Credit: Intuitive Machines | More about this image

9. Private Companies Deliver Science to the Moon

Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines are scheduled to launch scientific payloads to the Moon as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.

Several upcoming NASA missions will use lasers to increase data transmission from space. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Amber Jacobson, producer

10. Going Deep to Improve Space Communications

Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) will launch aboard NASA’s Psyche mission to help spacecraft communicate faster with Earth.