NASA in 2010 set a new course for human spaceflight, helped rewrite science textbooks, redefined our understanding of Earth’s nearest celestial neighbor, put the finishing touches on one of the world’s greatest engineering marvels, made major contributions to life on Earth, and turned its sights toward the next era of exploration.
“This year, NASA’s work made headlines around the world,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “More importantly, it enlarged our understanding of the universe and our home planet, inspired people, and opened new frontiers for our dreams and aspirations.”
“NASA achievements this year across the spectrum — from science, to aeronautics, education and human spaceflight – provided incredible value to our nation,” NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said. “We continue to build upon our rich history, taking on new challenges and doing the things that no one else can do — all for the benefit of humanity.”
The following are some of NASA’s top stories for the past calendar year:
The EPOXI mission’s recent encounter with comet Hartley 2 provided the first images clear enough for scientists to link jets of dust and gas with specific surface features. NASA and other scientists have begun to analyze the images.
The EPOXI mission spacecraft revealed a cometary snow storm created by carbon dioxide jets spewing out tons of golf-ball to basketball-sized fluffy ice particles from the peanut-shaped comet’s rocky ends. At the same time, a different process was causing water vapor to escape from the comet’s smooth mid-section. This information sheds new light on the nature of comets and even planets.
NASA’s EPOXI mission spacecraft successfully flew past comet Hartley 2 at 10 a.m. EDT Thursday. Scientists say initial images from the flyby provide new information about the comet’s volume and material spewing from its surface.
“Early observations of the comet show that, for the first time, we may be able to connect activity to individual features on the nucleus,” said EPOXI principal investigator Michael A’Hearn of the University of Maryland, College Park. “We certainly have our hands full. The images are full of great cometary data, and that’s what we hoped for.”
These close-up views of comet Hartley 2 were taken by NASA’s EPOXI mission during its flyby of the comet on Nov. 4, 2010. They were captured by the spacecraft’s Medium-Resolution Instrument. Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD
NASA’s EPOXI mission continues to close in on its target, comet Hartley 2. On Nov. 4 at about 10:02 a.m. EDT, the spacecraft will make its closest approach to the comet at a distance of about 434 miles.