NASA has taken a look back at its activities throughout 2015 and, wouldn’t you know, an awful lot has been achieved.
Exploring “the expanse of our solar system and beyond”, NASA’s 2015 took in Martian planning, Plutonian photography, a rendevous with Ceres, climate change, a special little spacecraft’s 25th birthday and so much more.
Back in January, NASA captured its first glimpse of Ceres, a dwarf planet that caught our attention for the entire year.
It culminated in this representation of the bight spots that are wrecking the heads of scientists who just can’t work out why they look so bright.
This representation of Ceres’ Occator Crater in false colors shows differences in the surface composition.
Around this time, too, NASA started planning for a potential submarine tour of Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. Thought to be chock-full of salty water, it’s just one of the many bodies in our solar system that the agency wants to get prodding in the next couple of decades.
During spring, NASA also celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first-ever spacewalk, a remarkable achievement, as well as the Hubble Telescope celebrating its 25th birthday.
Scott Kelly, along with Cosmonaut Mikhail Korniyenko, began his year in space, too, but 2015’s biggest surprise was lurking just around the corner.
In late March, NASA’s Curiosity rover found evidence of the ingredients needed for life, on Mars. This culminated in the September news that water was found, and the search for life began immediately.
Connemara made the headlines as summer began, with a stretch of land on Jupiter’s Europa moon named after the Irish region captured in incredible detail, before a far more impressive shot of the whole moon landed on our laps soon after.
Indeed, Europa was a big focus of NASA’s throughout 2015, with plans for missions to the cold moon continuing throughout the year.
As the summer began winding down, some real gems were announced by NASA, with a new Blue Marble image of our planet one of the standout images.
The image of Earth taken by the EPIC camera on the DSCOVR satellite (left) and the original Blue Marble, taken in 1972
The New Horizons spacecraft started sending back images of Pluto’s moons and then Pluto itself in a breathtaking moment for scientific discovery and another excuse to use the following GIF (via Reddit), before the presses were stopped upon news that Earth 2.0 had been discovered.
Things really kicked off in the autumn, with the Curiosity rover sending back a selfie showing just how lonely life is for the little Martian machine.
Closer to home, too, NASA spared a glance, with its constant monitoring of our own environment lifting up quite a few notches.
This followed findings on key ocean rises measured by the agency – seas around the world have risen an average of nearly three inches since 1992, with some locations rising more than nine inches due to natural variation.
The mission to Mars continued to motor on, too, with greater detail emerging on the ways NASA hopes to send man up to the red planet.
It was around here, too, that The Martian film, which NASA helped out with considerably, increased society’s interest in Mars even more.
The scientific discoveries from New Horizons’ Pluto flyby dropped in November, revealing some really weird structures, including ice volcanoes and spinning moons.
Elsewhere, the agency’s first-ever 3D-printed rocket engine got one step closer to reality with a bunch of new tests.
“It was a fantastic year that brought us even closer to Mars,” said NASA administrator Charles Bolden.
“Our space programme welcomed advances from commercial partners who will soon launch astronauts from the US to the ISS, and progress on new technologies and missions to take us into deep space, improve aviation and explore our universe and home planet.”
To celebrate its plethora of achievements, the agency has made a video of as many of the key events as it could cram into three-and-a-half minutes.