10 Cool Things NASA Did In 2013

As usual, we did lots of awesome stuff at NASA this year. It’s hard not to do cool things when your job description includes “explore space.” You can check out our full list of 2013 accomplishments here, but here are a few of our favorites:

1. We announced that we’re going to actually CAPTURE a giant space rock and send astronauts in the new Orion spacecraft to study it. Not a movie. Really doing it.


2. Voyager has left the solar system. Yes, something made by humans and launched from Earth in the 70s is now in interstellar space. Someone put the Enterprise crew on alert.


3. Commercial spaceflight is in business, with SpaceX’s Dragon and Orbital’s Cygnus flying resupply missions to the International Space Station from American soil.


4. We sent multiple crews from around the world to humanity’s ultimate home away from home — the International Space Station. By the way, it’s been up there for 15 years, and humans have been living, working and doing science research there for 13 of them. No sign of Bullock or Clooney yet, though.


5. Curiosity finds signs Mars could’ve supported life in the past. It also has this awesome Mars-zapping laser.


6. As usual, we launched lots of cool stuff – Four space station crews, the MAVEN mission to Mars (below), the LADEE mission to the moon, the IRIS mission to study the solar atmosphere, Landsat to look down on Earth, and more.


Also, one of our launches got photobombed by this frog.

7. Speaking of launches, lots of people saw them from their own back yard, with rockets leaving NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia visible up and down the East Coast. And about a quarter million people signed up on the Spot the Station site to find out where and when to see the orbital outpost overhead.

NASA’s Ed Campion

8. We dropped a 5 ton helicopter from 30 feet to test crash survivability and improve safety.

9. Earth waved at Saturn and we got this awesome photo back from Cassini showing our place in the Solar System:


And if you waved at Saturn, you got to see your face in Earth and Saturn mosaics.

10. This Russian Meteor — OK, not technically a NASA “thing,” but our web traffic spiked nearly 20 times normal, with almost 12 million page views that day. When space comes down to Earth, people are interested.


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