This has been an amazing year for space exploration and development.
Below is the start of a random list. Hopefully, it will get more organized in the next week.
- Asteroids. On Feb 15, while asteroid watchers were monitoring the close approach of 2012 DA14, a surprise asteroid exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia.
- Comet ISON. It was supposed to be the comet of the century. (Of course, the century is still young.) It appeared to have died, yet showed signs of life before dying again.
- Solar max. This was to be the year of a solar maximum. It has turned out to be one of the quietest solar maxima on record.
- Voyager 1. The spacecraft this time has reportedly crossed over to interstellar space, and is still transmitting.
- Europa. Hubble seems to have spotted geysers taller than Mt. Everest on Europa.
- Opportunity. The twin rover of Spirit has been operating on Mars for 10 years now. The original plan was 90 days.
- Curiosity found signs of an ancient fresh water lake in December. So far, all other lakes found have been acidic.
- MAVEN. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN was launched on its way to Mars in November.
- Saturn’s hexagon, a cloud pattern around its north pole, began to show more detail as the pole tilted toward the Sun, allowing Cassini to capture it. On July 19, Cassini took a family portrait of Saturn, Earth, Venus, and Mars (aka “The Day the Earth Smiled”).
- Kepler grew its catalog of planet candidates to 2,740 as of January, with 199 planets confirmed.
- South Korea used its homegrown Naro-1 rocket to launch a satellite into orbit for the first time in January.
- Iran put monkeys into suborbital space flights in January and December.
- MOM. The Indian Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also known as Mangalyaan, was launched on its way to Mars in November.
- Chang’e 3 and Yutu. China launched its first lander and rover to the Moon.
- CubeSats from the ISS. CubeSats were flown to the ISS on several occasions, and released behind it into orbit. At least one was funded by a KickStarter campaign.
- CubeSats mass launches. On Nov 19, a Minotaur I rocket launched 28 CubeSats into orbit. Two days later, on Nov 21, a Russian Dnepr launched 32 satellites (mostly CubeSats, but a few larger ones), into orbit.
- SES-8. SpaceX completed its first launch of a satellite to geosynchronous orbit in December.
- ISS Commercial Resupply. Orbital Sciences completed demonstration flights, qualifying it as a resupply provider; SpaceX qualified the previous year, and flew two flights under contract.
- SpaceShipTwo (Virgin Galacic) completed its first powered test flight in April.
- Grasshopper v1.0 (SpaceX) completed its final (8th) flight. Grasshopper v1.1 is in development.
- Dream Chaser (Sierra Nevada) completed an unmanned free flight test; landing was damaged, but otherwise the flight went well.
Updated: 2014 Jan 3 – CubeSats mass launches (Dnepr not just CubeSats), Saturn’s hexagon and Cassini, Kepler lists, ISS Commercial Resupply. 2014 Jan 1 – Happy New Year.