Top 10 great space moments in 2014 (pictures)
It was a big year for space exploration, from rodeo-riding a comet to getting more familiar with Mars, distant planets and the beginning of it all.
1. Rosetta and Philae meet a comet
Photo by: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR (Click Image to Image)
The first successful soft landing on a comet wasn’t just the biggest space story of the year. It was probably also the biggest science story of 2014.
The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft traveled 10 years to drop the Philae lander onto a comet. The landing was bumpy, but scientists were able to conduct a few days worth of experiments on the comet’s surface that first week.
But neither Rosetta nor Philae may be finished yet.
Look for more great science from both in 2015.
2. Orion lifts off
Orion lift Off (Click Image to download)
A new era in space exploration began in December with the successful test flight of the Orion spacecraft, thanks to a big assist from some massive, heavy rockets.
Orion is scheduled to make an unmanned trip to the moon, but it is later expected to carry manned missions to an asteroid and Mars.
3. New Horizons awakens
Artist ‘s Impression of New Horizons near Pluto and its moon Charon (Click Image to Download)
Rosetta wasn’t the only spacecraft to wake up after a long journey in 2014. In December, NASA’s New Horizons probe switched itself back “on” after a 1,873 day-long hibernation.
Originally launched in 2006, the craft is on track for its mission to survey Pluto and its moons in 2015.
4. India’s Mars Orbiter Mission
Mars Picture taken by ISRO’s MOM (Click Image to Download)
The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan is a spacecraft orbiting Mars since 24 September 2014. It was launched on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is India’s first interplanetary mission and ISRO has become the fourth space agency to reach Mars, after the Soviet space program, NASA, and the European Space Agency. It is also the first nation to reach Mars orbit on its first attempt, and the first Asian nation to do so.
5. Comet buzzes Mars
In October, we got a rare close look at a comet on a once-in-a-million-years journey. The comet came so close to Mars that humanity’s orbiters circling the Red Planet actually had to hide on the other side to avoid the comet’s debris cloud.
The orbiters and rovers on the surface were still able to capture images of the comet as it whizzed by.
6. Exoplanets everywhere
In 2014, not only did our knowledge of distant exoplanets grow by leaps and bounds, but so did the evidence that many of them might host the elements to support life as we know it.
As of December 15, 2014, we know of 22 planets beyond our solar system where there is reason to believe they could be habitable.
7. Space is still hard
2014 was not a year without tragedy in space and near-space exploration. In October, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashed, killing one pilot.
This came within days of an explosion that happened after the liftoff of an unmanned Antares rocket carrying a payload to the International Space Station. Also, in August a SpaceX rocket exploded over Texas during a test flight.
In a year when science began to make amazing feats look easy, these were three reminders of the old adage that “space is hard.”
8. ALMA’s Image of Another Solar System
The best image ever of planet formation around an infant star.
It’s a real image of a planet-forming disk around the infant star, in this case a sunlike star approximately 450 light-years from Earth, known to astronomers as HL Tau.
It is impressive. It reveals in great detail what astronomers just a few decades ago were only theorizing about, and that is that all stars are believed to form within slow-spinning clouds of gas and dust. As the clouds spin, they flatten out into these disks. Over time, the dust particles in the cloud begin to stick together by a process known as acretion, and that process is what ultimately forms the planets like our Earth, and moons like our moon, plus the asteroids, all of which mostly still move (as they did in the original cloud) in this flat space – this disk-like space – encircling the parent star.
9.Aiming for Manned Missions to Mars
In a year when Mars rovers continued to expand our understanding of the Red Planet, momentum continued to build for a manned mission to our distant neighbor.
NASA is looking seriously at “deep sleep” methods to easily get humans to Mars, likely in the 2030s. Elon Musk started talking about getting mankind to Mars in half that time, and Mars One is already looking for astronauts to blast off in less than a decade’s time, despite potential problems.
10. Racing back to the moon
Mars is cool, but isn’t there more to do on the moon?
Lunar Mission One is just one of the teams that thinks so — it raised about a million dollars for its plan to drill the moon’s south pole.
Meanwhile, teams competing in the Google Lunar XPrize continued working toward returning to our lone natural satellite.
The moon, Mars, comets, asteroids and beyond — stay tuned to @crave to see where we go in 2015.
2 thoughts on “Top 10 great space moments in 2014 (pictures)”
Thank you for this exhilarating summary with awesome photos and incredible facts…
Clearly an amazing year for astronomy and physics… Cannot believe that we have come this far!