Ah December, it’s a time for holidays and for the past to be remembered. As we look forward to the New Year, we also tend to look back at all that was achieved and learned in the past 12 months. I’m no exception to that tendency, and today I’m going to have a look back at some of my favorite stories in space from this year. I’ll narrow it down to just my top three.
3. Water Vapor Found At Ceres And Europa
Now this isn’t a very big and exciting story. But telescopes spotted activity on both these worlds, which suggested some form of an active subsurface creating and adding just a little bit of hydrogen and oxygen to their thin atmospheres. I’ve already discussed Europa and the excitement around that. Ceres is a dwarf planet located in the Asteroid Belt region. NASA’s DAWN spacecraft will be reaching and studying this world in 2015, so you can bet that I’ll talk more about that as more info comes!
Basically, this find suggests activity and heat in some form. Water has been deemed (rightfully so) to be a prime source for lifeforms as we know them. And, with the focus on space for the general public being the search for extraterrestrial life, this seems to be at least a little noteworthy. I’m excited to see what DAWN finds!
2. NASA Successfully Tested The New Orion Spacecraft
This one received slightly more news coverage than the last one. The first unmanned test flight of this craft launched on December 5 and successfully reentered and splashed down without incident.
What is Orion? It is the next step in NASA’s planned manned spaceflight. After the shuttle program shut down, things seemed uncertain for a while. Judging from the success of this flight, the future seems bright! The Orion is the space vehicle designed for use by humans in deep space flight. Basically, they are making this to get us to other worlds. Excited now?!
1. Rosetta And Philae Orbiting And Landing On A Comet
Perhaps the biggest news coverage in a while. ESA’s (European Space Agency) Rosetta space probe rendezvoused and successfully inserted itself into an orbit around a comet, completing a world first achievement. They took it a step further and launched a small lander vehicle to land on the comet. The descent was perilous and for a moment might have seemed to be a disaster. But, that too successfully landed, being another first time achievement as well.
Rosetta and Philae will be studying the comet 67P as it heats up and transforms. They will observe the effects the change incurs and Philae can drill and see the materials and try to age the comet as well! This is a wonderful achievement and the whole crew was relieved and happy when it finally touched down as well.
And as an added bonus, while not being an achievement, I still found this fascinating and it kind of left me in awe as I watched.
The Anteres rocket was an unmanned resupply mission to the space station. Nobody was harmed from that crash, it just looked cool.
Hope you all learned something exciting from me this year! I’ll keep you posted on whatever may come at us in the next year!