Science & Technology

2014 – A look Back on a Significant Year for NASA

As 2014 involves a shut this quick video and photos look again on a few of the occasions that came about this yr at NASA.

In 2014, NASA took important steps on the company’s journey to Mars — testing cutting-edge applied sciences and making scientific discoveries whereas learning our altering Earth and the infinite universe because the company made progress on the following era of air journey.

“We continued to make nice progress on our journey to Mars this yr, awarding contracts to American corporations who will return human area flight launches to U.S. soil, advancing area know-how improvement; and efficiently finishing the primary flight of Orion, the following deep area spacecraft through which our astronauts will journey,” mentioned NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We moved ahead on our work to create quieter, greener airplanes and develop applied sciences to make air journey extra environment friendly; and we superior our research of our altering dwelling planet, Earth, whereas growing our understanding of others in our photo voltaic system and past.”

Journey to Mars

NASA achieved a main milestone in December on its journey to Mars because the company’s Orion spacecraft accomplished its first voyage to area throughout a four-and-a-half-hour flight take a look at.

Orion is a part of NASA’s plan to develop new applied sciences and capabilities to ship astronauts farther than ever earlier than, first to an asteroid, and onward to the Pink Planet.

Science, know-how, engineering and math (STEM)-related training soared to new heights with a student-built radiation experiment aboard Orion. NASA’s Workplace of Training, partnered with the Lockheed Martin Corp., used the Exploration Design Problem to interact college students in STEM by inviting them to assist sort out one of the important risks of human area flight — radiation publicity.

NASA’s parallel path for human spaceflight additionally took a big leap ahead in September when the company introduced U.S. astronauts as soon as once more would journey to and from the Worldwide Area Station (ISS) from the USA on American spacecraft below groundbreaking contracts labored by NASA’s Industrial Crew Program. The company chosen Boeing and SpaceX to move U.S. crews to and from the area station utilizing their CST-100 and Crew Dragon spacecraft, respectively, with a objective of ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia in 2017. NASA’s parallel path for human spaceflight includes U.S. industrial corporations offering entry to low-Earth orbit whereas NASA prepares deep area exploration missions with Orion and the Area Launch System (SLS) rocket.

Artist idea of NASA’s Area Launch System (SLS) 70-metric-ton configuration launching to area. Picture Credit score: NASA/MSFC

The SLS rocket, essentially the most highly effective ever constructed, moved from the idea section to the event section in 2014. Additionally this yr, all main instruments have been put in at NASA’s Michoud Meeting Facility in New Orleans the place the rocket will likely be constructed.

For 40 years, more and more superior robotic explorers have studied the situations on Mars. This has dramatically elevated our scientific information concerning the planet, in addition to helped pave the best way for astronauts on the journey to Mars. In July, NASA introduced its Mars Rover 2020, which is predicated on the profitable Curiosity rover. Mars 2020 will carry devices to conduct unprecedented science and exploration know-how investigations on the Pink Planet, together with assist with information for a human mission to Mars.

NASA’s latest member of its fleet of robotic Pink Planet explorers, the Mars Ambiance and Unstable Evolution (MAVEN), spacecraft efficiently entered Mars’ orbit Sept. 21, the place it’s starting its research of the planet’s higher ambiance as by no means accomplished earlier than. That intensive fleet of science property, notably these orbiting and roving Mars, had entrance row seats to picture and research a once-in-a-lifetime comet flyby of Mars in October.

NASA’s Mars Ambiance and Unstable Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft artist idea. Picture Credit score: NASA’s Goddard Area Flight Heart

The company’s Curiosity rover continued this yr to assist refine our understanding of Mars. In December, NASA introduced Curiosity has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an natural chemical, within the ambiance round it and detected different natural molecules in a rock-powder pattern collected by the robotic laboratory’s drill. Curiosity’s findings from analyzing samples of ambiance and rock powder don’t reveal whether or not Mars has ever harbored residing microbes, however the findings do shed gentle on a chemically lively fashionable Mars and on favorable situations for life on historic Mars. Observations by Curiosity additionally point out Mount Sharp close to the rover’s touchdown web site was constructed by sediments deposited in a massive lake mattress over tens of thousands and thousands of years.

Curiosity element photos mixed into a self-portrait at drilling goal “Windjana.” Picture Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA continues to advance the journey to Mars by means of progress on the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which is able to take a look at a variety of new capabilities wanted for future human expeditions to deep area, together with to Mars. This consists of superior Photo voltaic Electrical Propulsion — an environment friendly technique to transfer heavy cargo utilizing solar energy, which may assist pre-position cargo for future human missions to the Pink Planet. As a part of ARM, a robotic spacecraft will rendezvous with a near-Earth asteroid and redirect an asteroid mass to a steady orbit across the moon. Astronauts will discover the asteroid mass within the 2020’s, serving to take a look at fashionable spaceflight capabilities like new spacesuits and pattern return methods. Astronauts at NASA’s Johnson Area Heart in Houston have already begun to apply the capabilities wanted for the mission.

Company officers are learning two robotic seize ideas for the robotic spacecraft that may rendezvous with the asteroid. One possibility would use an inflatable mechanism to seize a whole small asteroid. An alternative choice would use robotic arms to retrieve a boulder from a a lot bigger asteroid. NASA facilities throughout the nation are advancing and testing applied sciences for each ideas. Mission managers reviewed the 2 seize ideas in a December assembly and NASA expects to pick out a idea for the mission in early 2015.

The company has recognized three asteroids that may very well be good candidates for every seize possibility to date and anticipates discovering one or two per yr for every possibility. Efforts to establish good candidates for the mission are additionally serving to increase NASA’s present work to survey near-Earth objects and establish people who may threaten Earth. Along with the spaceflight capabilities ARM will advance, the mission may even characterize a new alternative for planetary protection demonstrations, to assist mitigate asteroid dangers sooner or later.

NASA has recognized virtually 12,000 Close to Earth Objects to-date, together with 96 % of close to Earth asteroids bigger than .6 miles (1 kilometer) in measurement. NASA has not detected any objects of this measurement that pose an influence hazard to Earth within the subsequent 100 years.

Groups at NASA facilities spent 2014 testing numerous applied sciences, together with photo voltaic electrical propulsion, new spacesuits designs and pattern assortment instruments, that will likely be utilized by astronauts on the journey to Mars and demonstrated on ARM.

NASA’s Asteroid Grand Problem is an effort to succeed in past conventional boundaries and encourage partnerships and collaboration with a number of organizations to search out all asteroid threats to human inhabitants and know what to do about them. The problem had success in 2014 partaking the general public by means of a number of new partnerships, corresponding to ECAST, SpaceGAMBIT and the Asteroid Information Hunter contest.

Worldwide Area Station

NASA’s journey to Mars consists of time aboard the Worldwide Area Station (ISS). The company is utilizing the area station to conduct cutting-edge analysis and know-how improvement and to extend our information about what it takes to dwell and work for lengthy intervals of time in area. 2014 marked 14 years of steady human presence on the orbiting laboratory. Recognizing the long-term advantages of the area station, the Obama Administration in January introduced it intends to increase operations on the ISS till at the least 2024.

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman checks his spacesuit in preparation for the primary Expedition 41 spacewalk. Picture Credit score: NASA/ESA/Alexander Gerst

A whole of 12 crew members lived and labored aboard the ISS in 2014. Two of these crew members, NASA’s Reid Wiseman and Barry Wilmore, carried out in October the primary spacewalks to start reconfiguring the ISS to accommodate future U.S. industrial crewed spacecraft. Throughout his six months aboard the ISS, Wiseman gained a massive following on social media, which he used to deliver the wonders of human spaceflight on to the general public 140 characters at a time.

ISS crews have seen eight totally different cargo spacecraft deliver greater than 50,000 kilos of provides and science analysis to the station in 2014. Two of these flights have been by SpaceX below contract with NASA. Orbital Sciences Corp., additionally below contract with NASA, had two provide missions to the area station this yr, however in October, its third flight suffered a catastrophic failure throughout launch. Regardless of the incident, NASA stays assured U.S. corporations will proceed to prepared the ground to resupply the area station and shortly ship NASA astronauts there.

Worldwide Area Station’s 3D printer throughout flight certification and acceptance testing at NASA’s Marshall Area Flight Heart. Picture Credit score: NASA/Emmett Given

Science analysis aboard the area station reached new heights in 2014. Crew members performed lots of of scientific investigations targeted on human well being and exploration, know-how testing for enabling future exploration, analysis in fundamental life and bodily sciences, and earth and area science. One such experiment, Veggie, is main the best way to permit crews to develop, harvest and eat a few of their very own meals. The station’s EXPRESS Rack 1 — a multipurpose rack system that has housed and supported analysis aboard station since 2001 — exceeded 100,000 hours of operation in October. The week of July twentieth, the area station program set a report on what number of crew hours used for science in a week – simply 5 minutes shy of 84 hours.

The area station additionally shined this yr as a know-how test-bed. This included persevering with work with the bowling ball-sized satellites that function contained in the ISS often called SPHERES, Robonaut 2 getting its experimental legs connected in August and the primary 3-D printing ever in area in November.


Know-how drives exploration, and it’s a important a part of NASA’s endeavors, together with the journey to Mars. In June, the company used a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped car referred to as the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator to check applied sciences wanted for touchdown massive payloads on the floor of Mars.

Hours after the June 28, 2014, take a look at of NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator over the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Vary. Picture Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The company continued its profitable small spacecraft know-how demonstrations in 2014 with the in-space take a look at of Phonesat 2.5. The small smartphone-controlled spacecraft hitched a trip into orbit on SpaceX’s cargo launch to the Worldwide Area Station in April.

Progress was made this yr for the 2016 launch of NASA’s Inexperienced Propellant Infusion Mission. The small satellite tv for pc is designed to check a high-performance, non-toxic, “inexperienced” gas in orbit as a potential substitute for extremely poisonous hydrazine and sophisticated bi-propellant programs at the moment in use. This previous summer season, NASA accomplished a complicated sequence of exams on one of many largest composite cryogenic gas tanks ever manufactured, bringing the aerospace business a lot nearer to designing, constructing, and flying light-weight, composite tanks on rockets.

18-foot-diameter (5.5-meter) composite cryotank is lowered into a structural take a look at stand at Marshall Area Flight Heart. Picture Credit score: NASA/MSFC

When NASA develops software program for its aeronautics and area missions, the company is aware of the code could have makes use of past the unique mission. In April, NASA printed a new on-line software program catalog with greater than 1,000 codes out there to the general public.

The company additionally created a one-stop on-line store for all the present alternatives out there to the general public to contribute to fixing powerful issues associated to NASA’s mission by means of challenges, prize competitions, and crowdsourcing actions. One such alternative, the Dice Quest Problem, was introduced in November and is NASA’s first in-space competitors that gives the company’s largest-ever prize purse. Opponents have a probability at a share of $5 million in prize cash and a possibility to take part in area exploration and know-how improvement, to incorporate a probability at flying their very personal small satellite tv for pc, often called a CubeSat, to the moon and past as secondary payload on the primary built-in flight of NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Area Launch System rocket.


Our planet is altering, and NASA is on it. Administrator Bolden declared 2014 the yr of Earth as a result of for the primary time in additional than a decade, 5 NASA Earth Science missions have been scheduled to be launched into area inside a one yr interval. Along with NASA’s present fleet of satellites, airborne missions, and researchers, these new missions will assist reply a number of the vital challenges dealing with our planet at the moment and sooner or later: local weather change, sea degree rise, freshwater sources, and excessive climate occasions.

An additional-tropical cyclone seen off the coast of Japan, March 10, 2014, by the GPM Microwave Imager. Picture Credit score: NASA/JAXA

Launched on February 27, World Precipitation Measurement mission is setting a new customary for precipitation measurements from area. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite tv for pc launched July 2 is NASA’s first spacecraft devoted to learning atmospheric carbon dioxide. NASA’s Worldwide Area Station-Fast Scatterometer (ISS-RapidScat) was launched to the area station Sept. 21 on a SpaceX resupply flight. ISS-RapidScat displays ocean winds and is the primary NASA instrument to make use of the ISS for full-fledged Earth science analysis. The Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) instrument is also heading to the area station. It’s set to launch on a SpaceX cargo flight focused for Jan. 6, 2015. As soon as put in on the surface of the station, CATS will research the distribution of aerosols — the tiny particles that make up haze, mud, air pollution, and smoke – in Earth’s ambiance. The final of those 5 new Earth science missions is the Soil Moisture Energetic Passive (SMAP), which is focused to launch Jan. 29, 2015. SMAP will map Earth’s soil moisture and supply exact indications of the soil’s freeze-thaw state to enhance understanding of the biking of water, vitality, and carbon. It additionally will air assist in predictions of agricultural productiveness, climate and local weather.

NASA analysis in 2014 confirmed new modifications our planet is present process. A new research printed in Could by researchers at NASA and the College of California, Irvine, discovered a quickly melting part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet seems to be in an irreversible state of decline, with nothing to cease the glaciers on this space from melting into the ocean. One other research introduced in July by NASA and the College of California, Irvine, discovered greater than 75 % of the water loss within the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 got here from underground sources. The extent of groundwater loss could pose a higher menace to the water provide of the western United States than beforehand thought. NASA analysis printed in August reveals Earth’s ambiance accommodates an unexpectedly great amount of an ozone-depleting compound from an unknown supply a long time after the compound was banned worldwide.

Glaciers and mountains within the night solar are seen on an Operation IceBridge analysis flight, coming back from West Antarctica. Picture Credit score: NASA/Michael Studinger


In 2014, NASA confirmed it’s with you if you fly, and continued to make progress in creating the following era of air transportation programs (NextGen).

In Could, NASA — together with worldwide companions the German Aerospace Heart and Nationwide Analysis Council of Canada — took to the skies over California to start a sequence of flight exams to assemble vital information that will assist within the improvement of cleaner plane fuels.

Various Gas Results on Contrails and Cruise Emissions (ACCESS II) flight take a look at in a DC-8 plane. Picture Credit score: NASA /SSAI Edward Winstead

A new NASA-developed laptop software program device designed to help air visitors controllers was introduced to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in July. The Terminal Sequencing and Spacing know-how will allow air visitors controllers to raised handle the spacing between plane as they fly extra environment friendly approaches into airports, saving each time and gas and lowering emissions

NASA additionally put futuristic new plane designs to the take a look at in 2014. The Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge challenge had a profitable flight this summer season testing a wing floor that may change form within the air. The testing may result in know-how to make airliners extra fuel-efficient, and quieter throughout takeoffs and landings. In December, a take a look at heart part of a futuristic airplane design, referred to as a hybrid wing physique, was delivered to NASA’s Langley Analysis Heart in Hampton, Virginia. A lot of the take a look at article is made out of a low-weight, damage-tolerant, stitched composite structural idea referred to as Pultruded Rod Stitched Environment friendly Unitized Construction (PRSEUS). An efficient hybrid wing physique may simultaneous scale back gas consumption, noise ranges and the emissions produced by tomorrow’s transport planes.

Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) flight of NASA’s inexperienced aviation challenge. Picture Credit score: NASA/Ken Ulbrich

NASA’s aeronautics analysis is also being examined as a new device for early wildfire detection.

In October, the company introduced Langley had signed a one-year settlement with the Division of the Inside’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to check small unmanned aerial programs (UASs) for the detection of brush and forest fires.

In Could, a dedication ceremony was held to mark the renaming of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Analysis Heart, previously the Dryden Flight Analysis Heart, in Edwards, California. Laws to redesignate the 68-year-old facility, NASA’s heart of excellence for atmospheric flight analysis, in honor of the late Neil A. Armstrong was handed by the U.S. Home of Representatives in early 2013 and by the Senate on Jan. 8, 2014. President Obama signed it into legislation on Jan. 16. The identify change grew to become official March 1.

Photo voltaic System and Past

Searching into area on our journey of discovery, a variety of new findings have been introduced in 2014.

In November, NASA introduced a rocket experiment discovered that the universe is brighter than scientists initially thought. NASA’s Kepler mission introduced in February the invention of 715 new planets exterior our photo voltaic system. These newly-verified worlds, often called exoplanets, orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet programs very like our personal photo voltaic system. Two months later, astronomers utilizing Kepler introduced they’d found the primary Earth-size planet orbiting a star within the “liveable zone” — the vary of distance from a star the place liquid water would possibly pool on the floor of an orbiting planet.

The artist’s idea depicts Kepler-186f , the primary validated Earth-size planet to orbit a distant star within the liveable zone. Picture Credit score: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

One of many largest mysteries in astronomy, how stars blow up in supernova explosions, lastly began to be unraveled in February with the assistance of NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR). The high-energy X-ray observatory has created the primary map of radioactive materials in a supernova remnant. The outcomes, from a remnant named Cassiopeia A (Cas A), reveal how shock waves seemingly rip huge dying stars aside.

NASA’s Van Allen Probes mission, which is learning the mysteries of Earth’s radiation belts, celebrated its two-year anniversary on Aug. 30. The dual probes, shortly after launch in 2012, found a third radiation belt round Earth when solely two had beforehand been detected.

In October, NASA introduced its Interface Area Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) spacecraft supplied scientists with 5 new findings into how the solar’s ambiance, or corona, is heated far hotter than its floor, what causes the solar’s fixed outflow of particles referred to as the photo voltaic wind, and what mechanisms speed up particles that energy photo voltaic flares.

Scientists utilizing NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) introduced in February that information from the spacecraft has proven a magnetic area that’s almost perpendicular to the movement of our photo voltaic system by means of the galaxy. Along with shedding gentle on our cosmic neighborhood, the outcomes supply a proof for a decades-old thriller on why we measure extra incoming high-energy cosmic rays on one aspect of the solar than on the opposite.

On Dec. 6, after a voyage of almost 9 years and three billion miles — the farthest any area mission has ever traveled to succeed in its major goal — NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft got here out of hibernation for its long-awaited 2015 encounter with the Pluto system.

The development and testing of NASA’s James Webb Area Telescope was totally underway in 2014. In October, the Built-in Science Instrument Module, or the “coronary heart” that holds the telescope’s devices, efficiently accomplished a almost four-month take a look at in a cryogenic thermal vacuum chamber. The take a look at simulated the icy, -387 levels Fahrenheit situations the telescope will function below in area. Webb is taken into account to be the scientific successor to NASA’s Hubble Area Telescope and is on observe for a 2018 launch.

The Built-in Science Instrument Module (ISIM) of the James Webb Area Telescope emerges from the thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Area Flight Heart. Picture Credit score: NASA/Chris Gunn

STEM Training Collaboration

NASA’s Workplace of Training continued to leverage alternatives in 2014 with different federal businesses, business companions and academia to supply distinctive and compelling company content material as a catalyst for growing STEM literacy all through the USA. This yr, NASA and Honeywell celebrated a decade of profitable STEM collaboration with a west coast metropolis tour of the award-winning science training program FMA LIVE! Forces in Movement. The tour marked an necessary milestone within the 10-year collaboration: reaching 1,000 colleges and greater than 400,000 college students and academics.

Social Media

NASA‘s award successful presence on social media remained robust in 2014. The company’s Twitter, Fb, Google+, and Instagram accounts are essentially the most adopted within the federal authorities on these platforms. This yr, NASA additionally launched an official presence on LinkedIn, Vine and SoundCloud. Additional, the company ranked excessive within the J.D. Energy 2014 Social Media Benchmark Research for Authorities in two measured focus areas — servicing and advertising and marketing engagement. The company hosted 22 NASA Socials, bringing lots of of people that have interaction with NASA by way of social media collectively for distinctive in-person experiences of exploration and discovery. Since 2009, NASA has hosted greater than 100 NASA Socials at greater than a dozen areas.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden poses for a fast selfie with college students who attended the NASA-sponsored Earth Day occasion. Picture Credit score: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

2015 guarantees to be an thrilling yr for NASA because it carries out the nation’s bold area program. The work NASA does will assist United States keep its world management in exploration and scientific discovery. The company will proceed investing in our ‘Launch America’ initiative to return human spaceflight launches to the U.S.; foster groundbreaking know-how improvement and aeronautics; and transfer ahead with the Area Launch System and Orion on our journey to Mars.

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