The last decade has seen NASA achieve some incredible astronomical feats. From exploring the expanses of our solar system to discovering new planets in distant galaxies, NASA has been at the forefront of expanding our understanding of the cosmos. Here are just a few of the agency’s most noteworthy achievements from the last 10 years.
1. The New Horizons mission to Pluto
In 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made history by becoming the first spacecraft to visit Pluto. The mission provided scientists with the first close-up images of the dwarf planet and its moons, as well as valuable data about its composition and atmosphere. The mission also gave us a glimpse of the Kuiper Belt, a region beyond Neptune that is filled with icy objects and other remnants from the early days of our solar system.
2. The Mars Curiosity mission
Launched in 2011, the Mars Curiosity rover has been exploring the Red Planet for almost a decade, continuously sending back data and images to Earth. Through its experiments, the rover has provided valuable information about the planet’s geology, climate, and potential for microbial life. Despite encountering a few technical challenges over the years, the Curiosity mission has proven to be one of the most successful and long-lasting missions in NASA’s history.
3. The Kepler mission
Between 2009 and 2018, NASA’s Kepler space telescope monitored the brightness of over 530,000 stars in search of exoplanets, or planets outside of our solar system. The mission discovered over 2,600 confirmed exoplanets, including many that are potentially habitable. The data collected by Kepler has helped scientists better understand how planets form and evolve, and has given us a glimpse into the diversity of planetary systems beyond our own.
4. The James Webb Space Telescope
Scheduled to launch in 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope is one of NASA’s most anticipated astronomical missions. The telescope is designed to observe the early universe, study the formation and evolution of galaxies, and search for signs of life on exoplanets. With its advanced technology and capabilities, the James Webb Space Telescope is expected to help scientists answer some of the most fundamental questions about the cosmos.
5. The discovery of water on Mars
One of the most exciting discoveries of the last decade was the confirmation that liquid water exists on Mars. In 2015, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter detected evidence of flowing water on the planet’s surface, suggesting that there may be subsurface reservoirs of water that could potentially support microbial life. The discovery has renewed interest in the possibility of sending humans to Mars in the coming decades.
These are just a few of the many achievements that NASA has made in the field of astronomy over the last decade. As we continue to explore the cosmos, NASA will undoubtedly continue to make groundbreaking discoveries and push the boundaries of what we thought was possible.