The first (left) and second (right) images that the Perseverance rover took seconds after landing on Mars, February 18, 2021.
  • 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 Business Insider South Africa 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 Thursday afternoon (EST) in a deep crater called Jezero.

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.

In other recent developments, the UAE space agency released the first photo of Mars taken by its Hope Probe, while China's Tianwen-1 mission successfully manoeuvred 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 (R1.9 million).

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 16 February. 

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." 

An illustration of NASA's Perseverance rover landing safely on Mars.

The UAE Space Agency is also making Mars a priority

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's helium balloon
Zero 2 Infinity

SpaceX's Starlink launches

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.

Blue Origin's bold vision

Jeff Bezos announced plans to devote more time to his Blue Origin rocket company after he steps down as Amazon CEO. A statement on his website read: "We're committed to building a road to space so our children can build the future."
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

China's Tianwen-1 mission

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.

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