2022 was a tough act to follow in the world of civil space achievements, with NASA’s groundbreaking Artemis 1 mission marking the long-awaited first flight of the Space Launch Vehicle, the James Webb Space Telescope commencing its science operations, Juno conducting a remarkable Europa flyby, and China successfully completing the construction of the Tiangong space station. 

This year, the Moon took center stage with three robotic landing attempts between April in August. In the end, only India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission reached the lunar surface intact.

However, it’s not just lunar landings that caught our attention in 2023. SpaceNews is delighted to reveal the finalists for the Civil Space Achievement of the Year award, and we invite you to join us on Tuesday, Dec. 5, during the SpaceNews 2023 Icon Awards event at the InterContinental Washington D.C. – The Wharf, where we’ll unveil the winner.

Tickets are on sale now, with early bird pricing available until Nov. 8. Stay tuned as we spotlight the honorees for the other award categories in the days ahead.

Let’s take a closer look at this year’s honorees, one of which will be named 2023’s Civil Space Achievement of the Year:

Chandrayaan-3 lunar landing

India joined a small club of nations to have successfully landed on the moon. So far this century, no one besides China — and now India — has completed a lunar landing, although plenty have tried (excluding, notably, the United States). Underscoring the difficulty of this feat, Chandrayan-3’s Aug. 23 landing near the moon’s south pole followed on the heels of failed attempts by Japanese commercial venture ispace on April 25 and Russia on Aug. 19.

OSIRIS-REx samples returned

Brimming with samples collected from asteroid Bennu in 2020, the NASA-funded, Lockheed Martin-built OSIRIS-REx return craft completed its seven-year, $1.2 billion mission with a touchdown in the Utah desert Sept. 24.


More than a decade went into the development of the 12-channel passive microwave radiometer small enough to fit TROPICS 3U cubesat form factor. The mission overcame the obstacle of losing the first two on an Astra rocket failure in 2022, with the remainder launching on two Rocket Lab Electrons in May and commissioned in time for the start of the 2023 hurricane season.

NASA Psyche launches

NASA’s Psyche mission to the metallic main-belt asteroid of the same name is back on track after software testing issues forced the mission to miss its original launch window in August 2022. Those problems prompted changes at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, correcting institutional issues there that could have imperiled other missions run by the lab.

ESA Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) launches 

The ESA-funded, Airbus-built JUICE mission launched in April on an eight-year voyage to Ganymede, Callisto and Europa, considered three of Jupiter’s most tantalizing moons because of the possibility of liquid oceans hidden beneath their icy surfaces.

Stay tuned for more updates as we spotlight the honorees for the other award categories in the days ahead.