Space in 2020: Many reasons to celebrate in an otherwise terrible year

Space in 2020: Many reasons to celebrate in an otherwise terrible year

SpaceX-Performance-1-Crew-Python

SpaceX sent NASA astronauts from American Earth into space for the first time in nearly a decade in 2020.

NASA

Life on the surface of planet Earth in 2020 was disturbing to say the least, but above and outside this cliff is a completely outer space where quite interesting and exciting things happened.

While humanity hunkered down to wait outside Kovid-19 Epidemic And ending a steady stream of economic, political, environmental and social conflicts, SpaceX, NASA and a host of others were sending all sorts of goods to space, including astronauts.

In late May, NASA’s Doug Hurley and Bob Bihken became the first humans to lift to orbit From American soil in about a decade when they A SpaceX Crew Dragon Rider To the International Space Station as part of the Demo-2 mission. The fully modern spacecraft, complete with a touchscreen, was also the first new NASA certified vehicle to transport astronauts since the spacecraft was introduced nearly four decades ago.

The mission was technically a demonstration, but after its success in November First operational crew dragon flight
, Carrying four astronauts to ISS.

The space explorers of the robot also had a busy year. July represents the best time to set a course for Mars for the next few years, so NASA took advantage of the opportunity, sending the Perseverance Rover to the red planet, where it would look for signs of possible life And one will also deploy a little further to explore the small helicopter. The UAE launches its Hope probe towards Mars and China’s Tianwen-1 is carrying a orbiter, lander and rover in the same direction.

In addition to new missions going into space as emissaries from a world in lockdown, some older ones brought samples to us beyond Earth. Of japan Hayabusa 2 air dropped bits It was a special copper bullet collected after being shot in the asteroid Ryugu. A capsule carrying the resulting dust and pebbles landed in Australia in December, after which the sample was taken to Japan.

When NASA acquired an asteroid this year Osiris-Rex Spacecraft Exhibited a type of cosmic pickpocketing of the potentially dangerous asteroid Bennu. It is expected to bring that specimen to Earth in 2023.


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NASA successfully launches Osiris-Rex spacecraft on asteroid …


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Of china Chang’e 5 Mission In less than a month in November and December, by launching, landing on the moon, collecting a specimen, and returning some lunar rocks and soil, it snatched up its own space swag.

These missions were in motion years ago and 2020 saw success. The epidemic engulfed other people.

NASA launches next generation James Webb Space Telescope pushed back Again, by 2021. Commercial space companies such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin continued to make progress, but have not yet begun sending tourists on microgravity graphene.

OneWeb, which aims to provide broadband access from low Earth orbit, felt the brunt of the economic downturn and filed for bankruptcy as the epidemic was going global. Company rose In the second half of the year with the British government as the owner of the new part and restarting satellites to catch SpaceX, which is already Started beta testing of its broadband planetarium, Starlink.

SpaceX and Elon Musk set more milestones in 2020 beyond acquiring manned spacecraft and deploying hundreds of orbiting routers. The company launched 26 Falcon 9 rockets, some of which have now taken seven flights. And, its latest The starship prototype finally made a high altitude flight, Which ended with a spectacular and explosive hard landing.

A starship prototype arrives for a hard landing.

Spacex video capture

Not to be forgotten, Shaktiman, Dummy piloting Musk’s red Talesa was flown off Falcon Heavy in early 2018, with Mars making a close pass at the end of this year.

Eyeing the sky

When humans and our robots were not actually traveling to space, we were too busy to monitor this with more enthusiasm than yet another zoom meeting or webinar.

It is hard to believe that in early 2020, Unusual behavior of giant star Beteluse And it can make our list of things to be concerned about the possibility of going to a supernova. It was later revealed that Betelgeuse is doing fine – and was easily forgotten as we shifted our focus to paying attention to groceries and the planet’s quest for toilet paper.

But when our dreaded and much new normal became common, heaven became a popular distraction Many new comets were discovered And promised to put on a show. Some useless, but Comet Neowise goods delivered
In July, the performance also showed itself to the naked-eyed Skywatchers which was the best in decades. Annual meteor rain Such as Persids, Taurides and Leonids also influenced in 2020. Lucky people in parts of Africa and Asia had the opportunity to take a “Ring of Fire” solar eclipse in June and other, relatively small slices of South America. Got a glimpse of Total solar eclipse In December.

But perhaps the biggest performance was Jupiter and Saturn’s Winter Solstice Great Pact It made itself easily visible for the first time in eight centuries to close the year. The two largest planets in the solar system appeared as almost twin twins for one night, and even basic backyard telescope enthusiasts outshone Saturn’s rings and gas giants many moons.

Peek at the planets

Professional astronomers entered deeper space as usual, making more exciting discoveries. They saw evidence of this Water in new places on Mars, And our second next-door neighbor, Venus, took a surprising step in the world’s ranking to search for signs of life.

Since then a controversial claim has been made, a team of Scientists reported seeing phosphine, A by-product of living organisms, in a surprisingly pleasant cloud deck above the uninhabited hellscape that is the surface of Venus.

Astronomers continue to show that the regions of our galaxy and beyond are Planetary, Including some A potentially habitable Earth-like world. There is also a feeling The second planet orbits our nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri. The new normalization for 2020 was Civil scientist and also artificial intelligence To do such a search.

However, in true 2020 style, it was not all charismatic pompous and earthy cousins. In a terrifying but disturbing reminder of the violence that exists in the universe, scientists caught the process The distant black hole completely empties a star
It is very close through a little humor, but mostly terrible Process called Spagatification.

Yes, Virginia, you have no problem turning this universe into pasta and eating it for lunch.


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And on a really sad note, the beginning of December coincided with the fall of some wild footage from Puerto Rico’s iconic Aresibo Radio Observatory. For decades, the giant dish in the forest helped us to better understand and explore the universe.

Sorry to end up on a downer. It just seems appropriate for the year that we have done it. But the place, seen through the eyes of astronauts, scientists and plain admirers like me, is one of the brightest silver lining of a year that most people would expect to forget.

I will not try to brighten my luck by saying 2021, but I will note that the next meteor shower is already here, with the quadrantids set to peak on January 2, while February will see Perseverance makes its landing on mars.

Keep looking at the sky ahead, and happy new year.

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