NASA’s 2021 Achievements Included Mars Landing, First Flight, Artemis, More

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2021, NASA completed its busiest year of development yet in low-Earth orbit, made history on Mars, continued to make progress on its Artemis plans for the Moon, tested new technologies for a supersonic aircraft, finalized launch preparations for the next-generation space telescope, and much more – all while safely operating during a pandemic and welcoming new leadership under the Biden-Harris Administration.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches NASA IXPE Scientific Satellite

Falcon 9 lifts off with NASA’s IXPE satellite on Dec. 9, 2021. (Credit: NASA webcast)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer ( IXPE) early Thursday morning from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft will study of the most energetic objects in the universe – the remnants of exploded stars, powerful particle jets spewing from feeding black holes, and more.

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Join Our Virtual NASA Social to Experience the Newest X-Ray Astronomy Mission – #IXPE!

NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission is the first satellite dedicated to measuring the polarization of X-rays from a variety of cosmic sources, such as black holes and neutron stars. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Social media users are invited to register to take part in our global virtual NASA Social for the Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission, scheduled to launch Dec. 9, 2021. This will be NASA’s first satellite dedicated to measuring X-ray polarization from many sources in space.

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NASA Provides Laser for LISA Mission

The first prototype of a laser sits on a testbed at the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM), headquartered in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. CSEM will test and characterize the laser, which will be used to conduct gravitational wave experiments in space for the LISA mission. (Credits: European Space Agency/CSEM)

By Karl B. Hille
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Greenbelt, Md. — Finding the biggest collisions in the universe takes time, patience, and super steady lasers.

In May, NASA specialists working with industry partners delivered the first prototype laser for the European Space Agency-led Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, or LISA, mission. This unique laser instrument is designed to detect the telltale ripples in gravitational fields caused by the mergers of neutron stars, black holes, and supermassive black holes in space.

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Launch 2020: China’s Space Program Continued to Surge with a Number of Firsts

Long March 3B lifts off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. (Credit: China Aerospace Science and Technology Group)

China’s surging space program showed no sign of slowing down last year as it tied its own launch record and moved ahead with ambitious space missions and a set of new launchers.

China compiled a record of 35 successes and four failures in 2020. That matched the number of launch attempts made in 2018, a year that saw 38 successes and a single failure.

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Long March 11 Launches Scientific Satellites on 11th Flight

A Chinese Long March 11 rocket launched the Gravitational Wave High-energy Electromagnetic Counterpart All-sky Monitor (GECAM) mission on Thursday.

Long March 11 lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 4:14 a.m. The two GECAM satellites were placed in their intended orbits,  according to a press release from Long March 11’s developer, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT).

The GECAM satellites, which each weigh 163 kg, are designed to detect the electromagnetic counterparts of gravitational waves. The data will aid scientists in their studies of black holes and neutron stars.

Long March 11 is now 11-for-11 since its maiden launch in September 2015. Nine flights have originated from land, the other from an ocean platform. The four-stage, solid-fuel booster can launch payloads weighing 700 kg into low Earth orbit and 500 kg into sun synchronous orbit.

The launch was the 355th launch of the Long March series of rockets.

UK Invests in European Space Agency Programs

SEVILLE, Spain (UKSA PR) — The UK Space Agency has today (28 November) announced it will invest £374m [$411.75 million] per year with the European Space Agency (ESA) to deliver international space programmes over the next five years.

The UK is one of the founding members of ESA, an inter-governmental organisation established in 1975 to promote cooperation in space research, technology and applications development. ESA is independent of the EU, bringing together countries across Europe and around the world.

Membership enables the UK to collaborate with space agencies across the world on projects like the International Space Station and the ExoMars programme to send a UK-built rover to search for signs of life on Mars.

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ESA Ministers Commit to Biggest Ever Budget of $15.84 Billion

Credit: ESA

Ministers approved funding lunar Gateway, space station operations until 2030, Mars Sample Return and Hera asteroid missions

SEVILLE, Spain (ESA PR) — ESA’s Council at Ministerial Level, Space19+, has concluded in Seville, Spain, with the endorsement of the most ambitious plan to date for the future of ESA and the whole European space sector. The meeting brought together ministers with responsibility for space activities in Europe, along with Canada and observers from the EU.

The Member States were asked to approve a comprehensive set of programmes to secure Europe’s independent access to and use of space in the 2020s, boost Europe’s growing space economy, and make breakthrough discoveries about Earth, our Solar System and the Universe beyond, all the while making the responsible choice to strengthen the efforts we are making to secure and protect our planet.

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Scientists Take First Ever Image of a Black Hole

Video Caption: A global team of astronomers, led by Harvard scientists, have captured an image of a black hole for the first time. The result of a massive, years-long effort by dozens of researchers, the Event Horizon Telescope focused on a pair of supermassive black holes – the one at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, known as Sagittarius A*, and a second that lies at the heart of an elliptical galaxy called M87. The work opens the door to allowing astronomers and physicists to put Einstein’s theories of gravity and general relativity to the test under the most extreme conditions in the universe.

Scientists have captured the first-ever image of a black hole. It is outlined by emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity. (Credit: EHT collaboration)

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