To say that 2020 was a challenging year would be an understatement.

More than 15,000 people died of COVID-19 in Canada since the virus first arrived and more than 1 million people lost their jobs. With lockdowns still in place, many more Canadians are still without a job. Weddings and funerals were cancelled and students were asked to adjust to distanced learning.

The past 12 months will be remembered for the emergence of COVID-19, but 2021 is a new year. Here’s a look at some historic milestones on the horizon in 2021. 

VACCINE ROLLOUT

COVID-19 vaccinations are currently being administered around the world in efforts to create widespread immunity. 

In Canada, vaccinations are being given to some of the most vulnerable Canadians and front line health-care workers. The federal government is expecting anyone in the general population who wants a shot to be vaccinated by the end of 2021.

Canada has secured more than 400 million vaccine doses from multiple manufacturers, including 60 million from Pfizer and Moderna -- the only two COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in the country.

As of Jan. 1 there have been 99,559 Canadians who have received their first shot. 

2021 OLYMPICS

For the first time ever, the 2020 Olympics were postponed due to the pandemic.

The IOC has since rescheduled the summer games for July 2021 and altered how the games will be held. Although the Olympics are expected look different, the games are still scheduled for next summer, although it’s yet to be seen if COVID-19 could alter those plans.

"It is appropriate to make ceremonial events and programs simpler and have them in some way reflect and respect the world's experience of the COVID-19 pandemic," the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee recently said in a statement.

BIDEN'S INAUGURATION

U.S. president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration is scheduled to take place on January 20. COVID-19 restrictions will likely prevent large crowds from gathering in Washington. However, the ceremony is expected to garner a large television audience.

U.S. vice-president elect Kamala Harris will also make history as the first woman of colour to assume the office. Biden will be the 46th person to serve as president in the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump will join a short list of one-term presidents who were unable to win re-election. He is one of 10 people to serve only one term in office.

SPACE RACE

Both NASA and the Chinese space agency are inching closer to exploring Mars. 

China's first Mars exploration mission, Tianwen-1, is currently on its way to orbit the red planet. The mission’s objectives are to map the planet’s geological structure and to asses surface soil characteristics including water and ice distribution.

The U.S. Mars rover mission is also underway and its objective upon landing will be to search for ancient microbial life and explore the planet’s habitability.

The United Arab Emirates also has a robotic spacecraft currently on a mission to Mars with similar objectives. All three countries are expected to arrive in February 2021. 

ROYAL MILESTONES

The Queen is expected to reach a milestone of her own as she turns 95 on April 21.

Prince Philip will also celebrate his landmark 100th birthday on June 10. The couple celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in November. The Queen continues to be the longest reigning monarch in British history.

RETURN OF TRAVEL

Non-essential travel is expected to return to some degree of normalcy as widespread vaccinations are administered and mass immunity is established.

With COVID-19 caseloads still rising across the United States, both the U.S. and Canadian governments have agreed to continue restricting movement between the two countries.

Canada also recently announced that in order to enter the country by air, passengers will have to test negative for COVID-19 prior to boarding their flight.

TECHNOLOGY ADVANCES

One of the lasting effects of the pandemic is the way humans interact with technology. Artificial intelligence has helped people from remote learning to the way companies do business. 

More 5G networks are being built worldwide to improve the next generation of technology.

Canadian internet providers have launched 5G networks across Canada with more coverage coming online this year. With stronger internet connection on its way to cities and rural communities, people will be able to stay more connected.

Japan, Korea and China have all set up national committees to take a global lead in establishing 6G efforts. This refers to different generations of technology standards in wireless communication services.

Japan hopes to have the 6G prototype ready for 2025 and is aiming to put the new technologies into practical use by around 2030.

"We're going to see innovation in gadgets and platforms, smart boards, mics, 360 cameras, it's going to evolve," said tech analyst Ritesh Kotak.