2014 In Space: 11 Major Achievements - InformationWeek

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12/8/2014
08:36 AM
David F Carr
David F Carr
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2014 In Space: 11 Major Achievements

Comets and capsules grabbed top headlines, but robots racked up some firsts, the commercialization of space saw advances and setbacks, and the US prepared to resume manned space launches.
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Planets outside our solar system
The first confirmed discoveries of planets outside our solar system, based on observations from the Kepler space observatory, began in 2009. But in 2014, the trickle turned into a flood thanks to new techniques in statistical analysis. On one day in February, the Kepler mission announced the discovery of 715 new worlds. The ESA's Hershel orbiting telescope has also gotten into the act.
The distant planets are too dim to be observed directly, so the strategy is to detect their shadows -- slight variations in the light from a star indicating that a planet is passing by.

(Above: ESA/NASA illustration of the mapping of an extrasolar planet)

Planets outside our solar system
The first confirmed discoveries of planets outside our solar system, based on observations from the Kepler space observatory, began in 2009. But in 2014, the trickle turned into a flood thanks to new techniques in statistical analysis. On one day in February, the Kepler mission announced the discovery of 715 new worlds. The ESA's Hershel orbiting telescope has also gotten into the act.

The distant planets are too dim to be observed directly, so the strategy is to detect their shadows -- slight variations in the light from a star indicating that a planet is passing by.

(Above: ESA/NASA illustration of the mapping of an extrasolar planet)

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D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
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12/8/2014 | 9:43:57 AM
NASA's return to space
I know it was only a 4.5 hour flight -- shy of the achievements of John Glenn's Friendship 7 back in 1962 -- but I was heartened to see the Orion launch last week, which marked the return of NASA to the launch business and, soon, manned space flight. Catch this launch video on YouTube. It's only seven minutes, but watching it makes me feel like a kid again watching Apollo missions.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
12/8/2014 | 3:13:00 PM
Re: NASA's return to space
From an information tech point of view, an automated flight is the ultimate shakedown for the spaceship's software and revamped flight computer, including guiding the craft through a reentry without burning up and deploying the parachutes at the right time to bring it in for splashdown.
jamiek111
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jamiek111,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/10/2014 | 4:00:16 AM
Minor correction
Hi David,

Great article - one minor correction:

On #9, Virgin Galactic's craft is not designed to reach orbit.  It gets going a few thousand miles an hour and flies a parabola out of and back into the atmosphere - passengers would get a few minutes of float time.  To reach orbit, it would have to reach roughly 17,000 miles an hour.

On #7, for what it's worth, SpaceX flew a 3d printed engine part in January of this year.

 

Regards,

  James
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