From NASA to SpaceX, just look to space for good news from 2018
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View Larger Image. The space agency also landed on Mars for the first time since the arrival of the adorable Curiosity rover. The Mars Insight lander set down on an unremarkable flat portion of the Red Planet where it will drill deep into the surface to study our neighbor's interior, including listening for "Marsquakes" and other seismic activity.
The timing turned out to be fortuitous, with TESS launching just a few months before the reigning champ in planet-spotting, the Kepler Space Telescope , was put permanently into sleep mode. Unfortunately, saw the announcement of yet another delay for the launch of JWST. While many new missions launched, a couple of asteroid-bound robots reached their destinations after months of travel.
Japan's Hayabusa-2 arrived at the space rock Ryugu , dropped rovers on its surface and sent back some trippy footage.
Both missions aim to eventually collect a small sample from their hosts and return them to Earth for further study. One vintage spacecraft even pushed past the boundary of interstellar space: Voyager 2 is now thought to be beyond the gravitational reach of the sun after decades of travel. And there's more to come. The many missions of will send back scientific data that will be analyzed for years to come.
Meanwhile, other ongoing efforts paid big dividends this year.
The discoveries of new exoplanets, including many that could potentially support life, continued to roll in, as did evidence that a number of places in our own solar system could be wetter and wilder than previously imagined. An artist's conception of an exomoon around the planet Kepler b. Could this big moon have its own submoon? This was also the year we began to look beyond just exoplanets and perhaps spotted the first exomoon orbiting an exoplanet.
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There was even talk of so-called "moon moons" orbiting those exomoons. Astronomers were also able to identify 12 previously unknown moons around Jupiter , rule out the likelihood of alien megastructures around a star and release the most comprehensive map of the Milky Way yet.
For many astrophysicists, the biggest development of is the emergence of a new branch of their field: the study of the universe using gravitational waves. Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time that were theoretical until just a few years ago. Until recently, we have largely observed the universe in terms of electromagnetism, a spectrum of radiation ranging from gamma rays and X-rays to visible light, microwaves and radio waves.
An increasing number of gravitational wave detections allow for " multi-messenger astronomy ," which is sort of like being able to hear the universe for the first time after only using our sense of sight to observe it for centuries. The news from space wasn't all revolutionary in Google's Lunar X Prize came to an end without a winner, even as Elon Musk sold all the seats on a future SpaceX flight around the moon and NASA ramped up its plans to go to our lone natural satellite and stay there.
The year started with the mysterious loss of a spy satellite that was launched by SpaceX, which was cleared of any blame.
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But the saddest loss was the passing of famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking , who helped popularize a more complex and nuanced understanding of our universe while also warning of the perils of artificial intelligence and potential interactions with alien civilizations. There were a few big birthdays in that underscored just how far we've gone in space. There was a lot of chatter from the White House about starting up a Space Force , but its future remains unclear. More big anniversaries are coming up in , which will mark half a century since the Apollo 11 moon landing in , and more landmark launches, including new American-made crewed spaceships from SpaceX and Boeing, are on tap.
But if all the space ventures that got underway in are as successful as hoped, we'll be looking back on this year in and and celebrating more historic anniversaries. NASA turns 60 : The space agency has taken humanity farther than anyone else, and it has plans to go further.
Using CRISPR to resurrect the woolly mammoth : Bringing extinct species back from the dead is now on the table thanks to the gene-editing technology.