Mars Rover, SpaceX launches, and the Hope Probe - these are some of 2021's biggest space stories so far

Tola Onanuga
·3 min read
perseverance rover mars navcam screengrab
A screengrab from a NASA press conference of the Perseverance rover. NASA/JPL-Caltech
  • NASA's Mars Rover's daring landing on Mars is among the key space stories of 2021.

  • The red planet is also an important destination for Elon Musk's SpaceX, the UAE, and China.

  • Blue Origin and Zero 2 Infinity are among other space companies commanding attention.

  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The year has already got off to a winning start, with many key developments in the new space race.

The most notable is the impressive - and terrifying - landing of NASA's Perseverance Rover on Mars. It successfully touched down on the red planet on February 18 and landed in a deep crater called Jezero.

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The result was deeply satisfying for those who have been tracking the progress of the rover, which had been travelling to its destination for nearly seven months. The rover has been continuing to beam back photos of its descent to Mars.

Elsewhere, the UAE space agency released the first photo of Mars taken by its Hope Probe, while China's Tianwen-1 mission successfully maneuvered into orbit around Mars earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Spanish startup Zero 2 Infinity has big plans to send humans into space in giant helium balloons for a cost of $132,000.

The comparatively cheaper price may lure some prospective travellers away from SpaceX's Mars mission, which aims to send humans to the planet by 2026. Some experts have called into question whether this will really happen, however.

SpaceX has also been busy launching many more satellites. It recently sent 60 into orbit but the Falcon 9 rocket's booster did not successfully complete its landing on February 16.

The S.S. Katherine Johnson, a space supply ship carrying cargo to the International Space Station, blasted off from Virginia on February 20. The ship is named after the brilliant mathematician whose story was depicted in the 2016 film 'Hidden Figures.' It arrived at its destination on February 22.

Finally, space fans can expect Jeff Bezos' company Blue Origin to start commanding more attention. When the Amazon CEO announced he was stepping down from the role later this year, he said he planned to dedicate more time to the company.

Blue Origin's website states: "We're committed to building a road to space so our children can build the future."

Perseverance landed on Mars in dramatic style

perseverance mars rover landing photo
A photo of NASA's Perseverance rover just feet above the Martian surface - part of a video several cameras recorded of the landing on February 18, 2021. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Perseverance's first color photo

perseverance mars rover color image
The rover has been capturing stunning images like this since it touched down on Mars NASA

The UAE Space Agency is also making Mars a priority

Mars from UAE Hope Probe.JPG
The UAE's first photo of Mars taken by its Hope Probe. United Arab Emirates Space Agency/Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre/LASP/EMM-EXI/Handout via REUTERS.

Zero 2 Infinity ...and beyond

Zero 2 Infinity
The company wants to eventually offer hours of flight time for space tourists who travel in the giant helium balloons Zero 2 Infinity

SpaceX's Starlink launches

elon musk spacex starship sn8 serial number 8 steel rocket ship prototype boca chica south texas sunset sunrise getty 4x3
Elon Musk's company successfully launched 60 satellites just before 11pm (EST) on Monday, February 16. A rocket booster was lost in the process, however. SpaceX; Mark Brake/Getty Images; Business Insider

Blue Origin's bold vision

Jeff Bezos Blue Origin
Jeff Bezos announced plans to devote more time to his Blue Origin rocket company after he steps down as Amazon CEO. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

China's Tianwen-1 mission

china mars global remote sensing and small rover tianwen hx 1 martian mission spacecraft illustration rendering cas xinhua
China's Tianwen-1 mission maneuvered into orbit around Mars earlier this month. This illustration shows it departing Earth. It's the first mission that has ever tried to deliver an orbiter, lander, and rover all at the same time. Chinese State Administration of Science/Xinhua

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