Celebrating the last 10 years
A lot has happened since we put the first humans on the Moon almost 51 years ago, and things are picking up as we look ahead to sending people to Mars. It’s hard to choose just a handful of accomplishments but below, we give it a whirl.
The Deep Impact spacecraft was sent out to visit Comet Tempel 1, which it reached in 2005. As a bonus, NASA discovered it still had fuel enough to chase down another comet almost three billion miles away: the icy Comet Hartley 2. Deep Impact flew by it in 2010 at a range of 700 kilometres, managing to snap a bunch of photos that helped scientists, for the very first time, match individual jets of gas and dust emanating off it “to their sources on the nucleus,” according to Sky and Telescope.
NASA pulled off two cool arrivals in 2011. The spacecraft Messenger entered Mercury’s orbit and made history as the first artificial satellite to do so; and the spacecraft Dawn, which entered the asteroid belt that lies between Jupiter and Mars. Then, both crafts got down to business. Messenger instantly began to collect data ‘on the planet’s geology, composition, and thin atmosphere,’ reports Space.com. While Dawn, sent to observe a space rock called Vesta, discovered that it “had a battered surface, sporting mountain ranges and deep craters,” which advanced our understanding of asteroid composition. Proving, yet again, that there’s so much still to learn about our universe.