In 2019, U.S. astronauts will no longer need to ride on the Russian Soyuz rocket to reach the International Space Station, according to NASA. Both a SpaceX rocket and a Boeing spacecraft will begin transporting the ISS crew.

In a statement last week NASA explained that the first human spaceflight aboard a SpaceX rocket to the International Space Station (ISS) is expected to happen in June 2019, while a flight on a Boeing spacecraft is scheduled to follow in August 2019.

Before those crewed launches can take place, each of the vehicles must first complete uncrewed orbital flight tests, and then a crewed flight test, to be certified by NASA for ISS crew missions. As of now, NASA astronauts travel to the ISS aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft, but that contract will expire in November 2019.

The test flight dates are planned for January 2019 for the SpaceX Dragon uncrewed demo, and March 2019 for the Boeing Starliner uncrewed orbital flight test. In June, SpaceX will deploy a crewed test, and Boeing will also launch a crewed test in August. The crewed missions will be the first to launch from the U.S. since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011. 

Furthermore, In 2020 China has plans to launch an artificial moon into space with the goal of replacing street lights, according to Wu Chunfeng, chairman of space contractor Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co (CASC).

The device has been engineered to illuminate an area as large as 80km and functions by complementing the light of the moon at night, said Mr. Wu during a national mass innovation and entrepreneurship activity held recently.

What’s more, as per Mr. Wu, the precise illumination range will be controlled within a few dozen metres.

The device's power of illuminating the Earth will be eight-times stronger than the one of the real moon, which is enough to replace street lights.

Lastly, although Venus is probably not the number one destination for aspiring space tourists due to it being a hellish world of infernal temperatures, with a corrosive toxic atmosphere and intense pressures at the surface, NASA is presently working on a conceptual manned mission to Venus, called the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept or HAVOC.

For the mission, the conceptual airship would float around Venus, blown by the wind. It could also be filled with a breathable gas mixture like oxygen and nitrogen, to give buoyancy. This is possible since breathable air is less dense than the Venusian atmosphere and would thus be a lifting gas.

Although Venus is our closest planetary neighbour we still know relatively little about it. Thus, sending a mission to Venus will help us understand the evolution of the solar system and maybe even that of other star systems.

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What do you think about China's plans to launch an artificial moon? Is a mission to Venus a good idea? 

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