Space Top Ten for 2010

Falcon rocket, Space Exploration Technologies,...

Image via Wikipedia

Everybody gets into the “Top Ten” game at year’s end.  So I thought I’d expand on last year’s Space Highlights in 2009 and do a top ten list.  I used NASA’s Year in Review 2010 and a NASA Television year-end YouTube video to produce a list of twenty or so from which I sorted and picked these.  If this website had more hits, I’d have run a poll, but I usually only get less than 3 sampling from polls here, so I just picked ’em myself by my own preferences.

The ranking was hard with some of these…I’m sure you’d rank them differently.  Here they are.

(Just barely getting this out in time to be my last post for 2010)

10> Space Exploration Spinoffs

Always deserving of a place somewhere…this year there are around fifty.  I don’t need to say more in this article, just click here.

9> Exoplanet Research

Lots of new planets discovered by Kepler and some new assumptions supported as to the possible density of Earth-like (i.e. planets like Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) and of planets in general.  More sophisticated instruments and experiments are on the way, as well as many more discoveries by existing spacecraft and observatories.

Bottom line–Media should not speculate, but we already knew that.

8> Comet Flyby–Hartley 2

NASA has always been very good at orbital flybys, but nevertheless they shocked us all with an astonishingly close pass of the comet Hartley 2 that yielded way cool closeups of the comet’s nucleus and surrounding icy debris.

 7> Hubble 20 year Anniversary

Just might be the greatest spacecraft of all time.  Up there doing great science still, and it will outlive the launch platform that put it up there since it’ll still be in use even after the Shuttle is retired.

6> Opportunity Rover breaks record

Longest functioning probe on the martian surface.

 5> Arsenic Eating Bactria

This story sprang up and died faster than I could post an article on it.  What some folks thought would be full disclosure of alien visitations turned out to be a strange bacteria residing in a California lake.  Nevertheless, it is significant, just not the same kind of significance that may have been portrayed by NASA’s initial announcement of the finding.  This caused a media speculation frenzy that later embarrassed some people.

4> Chilean Miners

NASA knows a lot about people surviving in cramped quarters and tough circumstances, and contributed to the health and well-being of the miners in Chile as well as aided in their rescue.

Falcon rocket on the pad, Space Exploration Te...

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3> SpaceX Capsule Test Launch

As I noted here in an earlier post, this successful test by SpaceX not only set a milestone as the first successful commercial capsule launch and recovery, but also marked a point where commercial space has passed up NASA’s Constellation Program, (which continued on schedule while Congress wrestled with the details of its existence come 2011) because the Orion Crew Capsule has never launched.

International Space Station insignia.

Image via Wikipedia

2> 10 Years in ISS and MIR Record breaking

The ISS has achieved a milestone, two actually, of 10 years of habitation and the breaking of the record set by the Russian MIR Space Station for continuous human habitation.  The work done by the Russians was ground breaking in the area of human endurance of the conditions of space, most notably zero gravity and their work in this area while operating MIR served as a foundation for the achievements of the ISS which has conducted over 600 experiments in space.  While limited to low-Earth orbit, has will prove a key foundation for future human endurance records and deeper penetration of space by humanity.

1> Cancellation of Constellation

For better or for worse, like it or hate it, this was the single largest and furthest reaching event this year for our country’s space exploration future.  The Constellation Program had developed for 5 years and had dates for moon and Mars launches that had been slipping, along with the program’s cost.  Obama announced that the program would be scrapped which triggered highly publicized legislative battles and media debates and subjected him to criticizim for erasing the existing goal for a Mars landing and not replacing it with a new one…which he later did.  Whether you liked Constellation, or not, whether you think the changes are an improvement, or not, the publicity it generated regarding the space exploration effort engaged a lot of people and may have strengthened NASA’s future by increasing public awareness.

Project Constellation insignia

Image via Wikipedia

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~ by Bill Housley on December 31, 2010.

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