Despite some failures, the space exploration continues to have great strength and interest. Every year we go a little further and we understand a bit more about the "final border", and in 2018 it was not the exception. Over the last twelve months we have said goodbye to some of our favorite missions, we celebrate an anniversary, and we get closer to our neighbor, Mars. As we enter a new year, we present some of the most significant milestones in space exploration and the most important astronomical events of 2018.
THE 60 YEARS OF NASA
Created by the National Law of Aeronautics and Space 1958, the space agency initiated formal operations on the first of October of 1958. Since its inception, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) was a non-military effort that focused on civil and scientific space exploration, and space-related research.
NASA has opened the way to the United States and internationally. Just 11 years after its foundation, the space agency reached the moon and finally sent 12 astronauts to the surface. In the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, the program was dedicated to space shuttle, overseeing 135 missions that established the framework of the International Space Station. More recently, the agency explored the sun, visited all the planets in our solar system, studied asteroids and comets, launched long-range telescopes, and even sent rovers to Mars.
In the future, it is expected that NASA will be the driving force that astronauts will take to the red planet. NASA plans to develop the Lunar Orbital Platform start, a small station that will serve as a launching platform for moon missions. The experience gained from these missions will help NASA, along with its international and commercial partners, take the next step towards Mars.
PARKER SOUP AND ITS DISCOUNT ON THE SUN
In August 2018, NASA launched the solar probe Parker, a spaceship designed to travel on the brink of our star's crown with the objective of studying solar winds. These powerful explosions, produced by the dazzling Aurora Boreals, can also affect the satellites in orbit and their communication with the Earth. Even, from time to time, solar winds can be strong enough to interrupt global positioning systems (GPS) and high frequency radio communications.
Scientists who study solar winds know very little about how they originate, and Parker's solar probe expects to answer some of the most relevant questions when traveling to the sun's outdoor atmosphere, where it will take samples directly from the Solar particles and measure the magnetic fields. The probe will also measure the temperature of the sun to help scientists understand how a relatively cold star compared to others (6,000 degrees Celsius) can produce such a hot crown that reaches millions of degrees Celsius.
THE SELFIE OF INSIGHT LANDER TO MART
At 02:50 p.m. on Monday, November 26, 2018, NASA Insight Lander successfully landed on the Martian surface. It was seven risky minutes when the landing module entered the thin atmosphere of Mars at hyper-speed speeds, and slowed down for a perfect landing. Immediately afterwards, Insight took his first selfie on the surface of the red planet.
Now that it's on Mars, Insight will be busy collecting geological data from the core up to the bark. The landing module will analyze the different rocky layers of the planet, measure the planetary temperatures, and generate data on the area of the field. Scientists hope that not only can we obtain a better understanding of Mars, but also of the Earth, its differences and similarities.
VIRGIN GALACTIC TO GET AWAY FROM THE FOREIGN SPACE
After an accident in 2014 that claimed a pilot's life and caused a two-year break, Virgin Galactic returned with plans to conduct commercial space tourism flights. The company supported by Sir Richard Branson successfully completed four space flights in 2018. The last attempt in December reached 51 miles tall until reaching the Karman line, or the boundary between the atmosphere and outer space, before returning to Earth safely, with a gentle landing on Mojave's air and space port.
The data collected from the flight will be analyzed and will be used to improve the security and performance of the next attempts. The next test flight will be used to simulate the weight of the commercial load that is expected when the ship is full of passengers. More than 600 people have bought tickets to travel on Virgin Galactic reusable spacecraft. Each ticket costs $ 250,000, but Branson expects one day to lower that price to $ 40 or $ 50,000.
SpaceX CONTINUE RETURNING RECORDS
The 2018 was another exceptional year for SpaceX, and the company again showed the world that reusable rockets are the way of the future. SpaceX made 20 releases in 2018, surpassing the 2017 record of 18 releases. One of the most recent deployed 64 satellites in orbit, a record number of implementations for one mission in the United States. The head of the world record is the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) mission that deployed 104 satellites in February 2017.
SpaceX continues to amaze us with its reusable rockets. For the first time this year, the same driver that launched the Falcon 9 was used for three different launches and landings. But the Falcon 9 rocket is not the only spacecraft in the SpaceX arsenal. The company also developed the Dragon Capsule, a reusable cargo ship that made its first flight in December 2010. It is the first commercial ship and successfully operated that is recovered from the orbit. The capsule continued its streak of successful supply missions at the International Space Station in 2018.
THE END OF THE MISSION OF THE SPACIAL SHIP DAWN
NASA's Dawn mission reached its conclusion in 2018 after the spacecraft had run out of fuel. The Dawn spacecraft was launched in September 2007 and ran over 4.3 trillion (4.3 billion) in its 11-year operation. The objective of the mission was to study the dwarf planet Ceres and the giant asteroid Vesta in a belt of asteroids.
The images and data retrieved from the mission provided information about the origin of our solar system and how it could have been developed in its early years. He also provided a close-up view of the dwarf planet, and an asteroid gaze suggesting that there was ice under this rocky outer. Now that its useful life has come to an end, Dawn spacecraft will continue to orbit the dwarf planet Ceres.
THE LAST IMAGES OF THE KEPLER SPACE TELESCOPE
After nine long years of sounding deep space in search of new horizons, the Kepler space telescope finally fell out of fuel and delivered its latest images in 2018. Interestingly, it was designed to work only for 3 and a half years , but continued to operate well beyond the deadline thanks to NASA scientists who kept it in operation for another five years.
This telescope leaves a great legacy undoubtedly. During this time, Kepler collected data on thousands of planets outside our solar system, and a large amount of this new information is now available to the general public.