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November 16, 2013 9:42 PM   Subscribe

What are the top space / space exploration achievements for 2013?

My own opinion are ties between:
- SpaceX's successful test of Falcon 9 booster;
- US's Voyager 1's reaching interstellar space;
- Orbital Science's Cygnus cargo vehicle on Antares rocket achievements;
- India's Mars Orbiter Mission;
- SpaceX's exciting 1/2-mile Grasshopper test launch;
- China's 2nd female astronaut and 1st teacher Wang Yaping aboard Shenzou 10;
- Canada's Cmdr. Chris Hadfield's inspirational rise to fame;
- and Felix Baumgartner's jump from the edge of space (okay about .25 of the distance from actual edge of space but pretty much every student I talk to knows his name).

What others have I forgotten? Is there a single 2013 space achievement in particular which stands out above all others?
posted by Mike Mongo to Technology (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
To date? Because on Monday, NASA is scheduled to launch the next spacecraft to study Mars.

Though I'd say the achievement with the most visibility this year was the movie Gravity.
posted by casarkos at 10:11 PM on November 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

As you acknowlege, Baumgartner's jump doesn't have much to do with space, but it also didn't occur in 2013.
posted by kidbritish at 11:33 PM on November 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

The information that has come in from Kepler this year has been nothing short of astounding.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:50 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

China will launch its first lunar rover in December. Think about it, a modern day view of the surface of the Moon!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:16 AM on November 17, 2013

Response by poster: As you acknowlege, Baumgartner's jump doesn't have much to do with space, but it also didn't occur in 2013.

DOH! That jump is something I discuss everyday yet it happened last October! And of course I watched it on teevee happen live (wife sleeping, me praying) Nonetheless, it is still practically current events for all the students I work with and I totally blanked on it because of that. Thank you for the memory "nudge", kidbritish. Doh doh and doh!

And casarkos, I tend to be in agreement with you. The movie Gravity may take the year.
posted by Mike Mongo at 6:59 AM on November 17, 2013

Best answer: Are you looking for achievements, or for things that happened that put aerospace in the public eye?

Regardless: there's a lot going on this year! Some bits that I'm particularly interested in/excited about include:

Early in 2013 we launched the first of new generation of Tracking and Data Relay Satellites, part of the TDRS system which keeps the ground connected with satellites and vehicles in orbit. This system isn't particularly glamorous, but it's part of the backbone of our orbital infrastructure -- before the TDRSS, NASA had to rely on a network of ground-based stations all over the globe to stay in touch with objects in orbit, and there were gaps on our coverage. The history of the system is really interesting, actually -- it's important, everything else we have in orbit relies on it, and until this year the most recent launch was in...2002, I think?

The Space Launch System -- which will be the first heavy-lift launch system of its kind since the Apollo era, and the first human-rated NASA launch system since the end of the Shuttle program -- continues to be funded and continues to move forward on schedule. You can poke around through that link to see more of the specific work that's been done this year -- it's quite a lot! The last time we tried this -- the Ares rockets, as part of the Constellation program -- the whole thing turned into an embarrassing, underfunded, over-budged, behind-schedule mess. There have been major institutional changes at NASA -- in how the agency is organized, and in how it structures its programs and directorates -- and so far I'm hopeful that SLS (and the Orion crew capsule that'll be paired with it) might actually be able to survive long enough to accomplish something. Honestly, as a human spaceflight nerd, I'm more excited about SLS progress than anything else.

Also excited for the MAVEN launch next week.

The space-based laser communication tests on the LADDEE lunar satellite could potentially lead to some major developments in how we transmit data in the future -- they're hoping for enough bandwidth for things like HD video from other planets, which would be AMAZING.

In terms of "space in the public eye," I'd actually agree with above comments that Gravity is a big one. There's stuff to nitpick in that film, but I'd argue that it's the most realistic and comprehensive portrayal of human spaceflight since Apollo 13. (Of course, that means that lots of people now think the shuttle is still flying or that there's a Tiangong space station in orbit, but hey, you win some you lose some.)

(I'm excited that Chris Hadfield has been getting so much attention, but saddened that the public wasn't as interested in the VERY EXCELLENT and extremely charming Sunita Williams last year.)

That's all I can think of off the top of my head, and I'm away from home so I'm typing this in a hotel room on my ipad....but I may be back later...!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:19 AM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

The continued awesomeness of the Mars Curiosity science laboratory.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:46 AM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to reinforce what I said earlier, I spoke with a seven-year old about space today. And I was explaining how "space balloons" can take us up to see the entire earth fromly near-space.

He said, "Like Felix Baumgartner?" (Pronounced almost correctly too.) But my point being many people really have no absolutely idea of the extent of how famous Felix Baumgartner is with young kids.

Just put it this way: At least in the US it's Barack Obama-level.
posted by Mike Mongo at 4:50 PM on November 18, 2013

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