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In 2013, NASA helped transform access to low
Earth orbit … even as one of our venerable spacecraft reached the boundaries of the solar
system … and we moved ahead on technologies – that will help us carry out an ambitious
asteroid mission we announced … and, eventually, move on to Mars.
Here’s a quick trip back through 2013 for
those and some of the other big things that happened This Year at NASA.
With the successful completion, in 2013 of its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services
program, NASA now has two commercial partners capable of resupplying the International Space
In March, COTS saw SpaceX launch from U.S. soil and complete a successful resupply mission
to the ISS ...
And Orbital Sciences Corporation followed
suit with a demonstration flight to the station of its Cygnus cargo craft in late September.
These missions also provided student experiments access to the space station’s unique capabilities
as a microgravity platform for research. As the Nation's only national laboratory in space,
the host of science experiments conducted on the station not only advances STEM education,
but also fosters relationships with other Federal entities and the private sector.
There was also progress in NASA’s Commercial
Crew Program to develop American spacecraft to transport humans to low Earth orbit
In addition to SpaceX, Boeing continued development
of its CST-100 capsule …
Sierra Nevada Corporation conducted the first
approach-and-landing free-flight test of its Dream Chaser spacecraft …
And Blue Origin test fired a new hydrogen
and oxygen-fueled rocket engine, at the company's West Texas facility.
NASA ramped up work, in 2013 on the spacecraft that will take humans to Mars and other deep
In September, NASA astronauts conducted the first simulated launch aboard the Orion spacecraft
to evaluate its cockpit design and emergency procedures.
Orion’s avionics system was powered on for
the first time in October, a major milestone ahead of its 2014 flight test.
And, the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket
that will send Orion to space, passed its preliminary design review in August -- a key
milestone in development of the SLS.
The first scheduled human mission for Orion and SLS is Exploration Mission-2 in 2021.
NASA’s asteroid initiative – was outlined
in the President’s fiscal year 2014 budget request.
An element of it – shown in concept animation
released in 2013 – is a mission to identify, capture and then send astronauts to study
an asteroid … The technologies and procedures used might also be used to send astronauts
The initiative also includes a Grand Challenge to industry, universities, international organizations,
and the public … to help protect the planet from Near Earth Objects.
The need for that capability was punctuated
in February – with the flyby of Asteroid 2012 DA14 – a mere 17-thousand miles from
And the same day – the explosion of a meteor in the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia. NASA
scientists helped collect valuable data from that event.
While NASA began evaluating the most promising
96 of the more than 400 ideas submitted about how to protect the planet …
Plans moved ahead for the 2016 launch of OSIRIS-REx
– the agency’s first asteroid sample return mission.
The stream of humans living and working in space continued aboard the International
Space Station …
Four crews launched to the ISS – which turned 15 in 2013. New station arrivals included
Expedition 35/36 in March -- the first-ever crew to make an expedited six-hour spaceflight
to the station.
A July spacewalk by Chris Cassidy and Luca
Parmitano was cut short by a water leak in Parmitano’s helmet … but Luca was unharmed
And the Olympic torch was taken on a spacewalk in November -- as part of the Olympic torch
relay for the 2014 Winter games in Sochi, Russia.
Technologies for future space exploration
also made news. A Surface Telerobotics demo – proved an orbiting astronaut aboard the
ISS could remotely control a robot on Earth …
NASA's next-generation TDRS-K, communications
satellite was launched, to support space exploration …
And on Earth, 3-D printing for space exploration
started to take shape. It may one day give astronauts on long duration space missions
the ability to make spare parts.
Space exploration experienced celebration – with the 40 year anniversary of Skylab
Sorrow, at the loss of some other notable
NASA explorers …
And, excitement of things to come – with the selection of eight new astronaut trainees
… who may one day be among the first humans to launch from U.S. soil since the retirement
of the space shuttle.
Some of the biggest NASA news came from Mars – courtesy of a rover named Curiosity.
In March Curiosity found evidence that past life was possible on the Red Planet -- completing
its science goal just eight months into a 2-year mission.
There’s was plenty of time to explore after
that … This shot in July from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter high above -- showed the trail Curiosity
had blazed to that point.
In August Curiosity shared unprecedented shots of a Martian eclipse -- with the planet’s
larger moon Phobos, passing directly in front its other moon Deimos.
Back on Earth, Curiosity’s success has put
Mars exploration front and center – as a National priority.
And with the MAVEN spacecraft – launched in November to study the Martian atmosphere
The 2016 Insight mission to probe the subsurface of the planet’s Elysium Planitia region
And with the Mars 2020 rover mission announced in July – the push to put humans on Mars
by the 2030s has a good start.
Turns out there is sound in space -- Interstellar space to be more precise – and in 2013,
Voyager 1 sent a recording from beyond our solar system to prove it.
In October, the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration aboard the “moon-dust-investigating”
LADEE spacecraft, transmitted data between the moon and Earth at a record-breaking 622
megabits per second.
Cameras on the Cassini spacecraft produced an astounding panorama of Saturn, its moons
and rings, as well as Earth, Venus and Mars in November.
Solar observatories like the IRIS telescope – launched in June … gave researchers
unprecedented views of the sun.
Several of NASA’s eyes in the heavens got glimpses of Comet ISON before its ill-fated
November encounter with our sun …
Including the Deep Impact spacecraft in February …
And the Hubble Space Telescope – a couple
of months later – in April.
In August, Spitzer, the first telescope to
see light from a planet beyond our solar system, celebrated ten years in space …
Development of the James Webb Space Telescope
continued in advance of its launch in 2018 …
The Kepler mission awed scientists and the
public with new exoplanet findings, including discovery of numerous planets in the habitable
zone. NASA will be evaluating Kepler data for years to come …
And in February, NASA’s Van Allen Probes
discovered a third Van Allen Radiation Belt around the Earth.
NASA also continued the mission to improve life on our home planet in 2013 …
In February the next generation Landsat Data
Continuity Mission launched – extending the program’s 40 years of monitoring Earth
Catastrophic weather seen from space included a view from the ISS of Super Typhoon Haiyan,
which hit the Philippines in November …
The NASA and NOAA GOES project saw the late May and early June system that produced EF-5
tornadoes near Oklahoma City …
And the Global Precipitation Measurement satellite
– which will set a new standard for measuring snow and rainfall – was shipped to Japan
in November -- for its launch in early 2014.
NASA investigations to study pollution, climate and weather took flight -- such as the SEAC4RS
mission in August …
And the Discover AQ mission in January.
In May, a rover named GROVER began roaming
around Greenland to study snow accumulation.
NASA and Homeland Security demonstrated radar technology in September called FINDER that
can detect life signs in piles of rubble after a disaster.
And NASA announced a new strategic vision in August for its Aeronautics Research programs
to address challenges in global air transportation … making air travel more comfortable and
safer for those on the ground and in the air.
Of course, year in and year out – what NASA accomplishes is only possible because of the
efforts of thousands at NASA centers and affiliate facilities around the country – the agency’s
gratitude for an outstanding 2013.
Thanks for watching This Year at NASA … have a safe and happy holiday season – see you