Is 2017 a time for space travel missions and programs to shine bright and outdo previous years in scale, magnitude, and ambition?

One special focus of NASA, for instance, is a unique Earth science probe that seeks to study greenhouse gases and vegetation health from space. Aiming to better understand the natural exchanges of carbon between Earth’s land, atmosphere, and ocean, the mission has the satellite Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory at its core.

In a new report, NBC News says that it’s truly an exciting time to be alive for space enthusiasts, as the space agency — along with funding billionaires — continues to push the envelope in space exploration. The proposed 2017 budget for NASA at $19 billion may be down $300 million from last year, but it’s still considered an upgrade from the past decade when the space shuttle program came to an end.

Here’s what’s likely to happen this year in the arena of space travel.

New US President

President-elect Donald Trump is stepping into his new role as NASA continues eyeing a Mars missions in the 2030s and preparing to bolt away from Russia in riding to the International Space Station.

“The potential is there for Trump to do the same thing,” said Vector Space Systems CEO Jim Cantrell, referring to presidents’ occasional tendency to step in and offer a change in leadership track. John F. Kennedy, for instance, decided to shoot for the moon, while George W. Bush installed a NASA administrator who ushered in partnerships with private space firms.

SpaceX Returning To Flight

The Elon Musk company is poised to return to flight this month, just four months after something unexpected destroyed the Falcon 9 rocket and the satellite it is supposed to bring to space. The exact date for launching Iridium’s mobile communications fleet this January remains undetermined at present.

Jeff Bezos Still Hush-Hush On Plans

The Amazon CEO stays largely quiet on the plan of his space firm Blue Origin. His company has been going on a “launch, land, and repeat” cycle, its reusable New Shepard rocket launching into sub-orbital space.

Cantrell cites Bezos’ inclination to surprise the public with a thoroughly functional vehicle that just “blows your mind.”

Cassini Spacecraft Ends Mission

After almost two decades — it left in 1997 and arrived in its destination in 2004 — NASA’s space probe in Saturn will come to an end and will dive head-on into the giant ringed planet. Prior to fatally slamming into Saturn, the spacecraft will approach the planet’s clouds as near as 1,012 miles above.

Space-Based Internet

While hardly a new idea, a space-based internet is becoming a bright plan once again given new technologies and relatively more affordable launch costs. OneWeb, with investors including Coca-Cola and The Virgin Group, announced early on about receiving a $1.2 billion capital injection for supporting the production of a high-capacity satellite facility.

China’s Space Plans

The superpower released Tuesday, Dec. 27, its white paper on planned space activities in the next five years, which includes landing a probe on the distant side of the moon next year and launching another one to planet Mars by 2020. Last Dec. 22, the country sent the TanSat — designed to measure atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions and assist in scientific inquiry — into space via the Long March-2D rocket.

Photo: NASA/GSFC/SDO | Flickr

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