NASA’s Greatest Space Achievements in 2022

From the Artemis I lunar mission, to the groundbreaking images from the James Webb Telescope, to the resounding success of the DART mission, 2022 is now considered one of NASA’s most prolific years. Here is a non-exhaustive list of all these achievements.

Preparing for Human Lunar Exploration

One of the most significant missions is probably Artemis 1, which marks the beginning of an ambitious lunar program aimed at send humans back to the moon🇧🇷 This year, NASA successfully launched its SLS rocket for the first time, putting the Orion spacecraft on a longer trajectory than any other spacecraft built for astronauts before. Both vehicles performed better than expected.

NASA has also reached other important milestones in the Artemis program, ensuring the long-term exploration of the Moon and its surroundings. For example, the agency has identified thirteen potential landing sites near the lunar south pole. It also selected Axiom Space to develop future astronaut spacesuits and awarded SpaceX a contract amendment to develop an updated version of its Starship human landing system for the Artemis 4 mission.

The Earth-Moon system as seen by Orion. Credits: NASA

Maintain a human presence in low Earth orbit

During this year, NASA and SpaceX continued to successfully launch astronauts to and from the International Space Station. it was the 22nd consecutive year of human presence aboard the orbital laboratory🇧🇷 At the same time, Boeing finally successfully launched its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, completing its unmanned orbital flight test to the station. This capsule could also soon launch astronauts.

Station members hosted NASA’s first private astronaut mission, dubbed Axiom 1, which will further the agency’s goal of commercializing low-Earth orbit.

NASA astronauts also continued to deploy the ISS’s new solar panels. It is expected that the latter will see their electricity production capacity increase by up to 30%.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft also completed its first station renovation. Normally, this ability to ascend into ISS orbit was reserved for the Russians only.

NASA space station
Astronaut Nicole Mann replaces her survival gear with a space suit. Credits: NASA

Solar System and beyond

Launch of the James Webb Telescope Successfully Completed🇧🇷 Since then, the observatory has managed to capture images of galaxies that have never been observed before. He has also studied the atmospheres of several exoplanets and offered new insights into planets in our own solar system.

The DART mission was also successful, with the spacecraft hitting the target asteroid as planned as part of the world’s first planetary defense test🇧🇷 For its part, the Hubble Space Telescope has detected the most distant individual star ever seen, whose light took 12.9 billion years to reach Earth.

In the meantime, we have passed the mark of 5,000 known exoplanets🇧🇷 Among them are small rocky planets like Earth, gas giants several times larger than Jupiter, or “hot Jupiters” that evolve very close to their stars.

DART asteroid
This photograph is the last complete image taken by the DRACO imager of the lunar asteroid Dimorphos during NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission. It was taken about 12 kilometers from the asteroid and 2 seconds before impact. Credits: NASA

NASA and ESA have reached an agreement to bring back the Mars samples collected by Perseverance as part of an unprecedented large-scale mission. Analysis of these samples over the next decade may reveal traces of past extraterrestrial life🇧🇷 During that time, Ingenuity performed powered flights on the red planet. More recently, the helicopter set a new altitude record.

Finally, NASA continued to enhance its space exploration capabilities by engaging entrepreneurs, researchers, and innovators in the United States. These efforts enabled the launch of CAPSTONE, a small satellite that is testing in a nearly straight halo orbit around the Moon. This highly elliptical trajectory will be occupied by the future space station that will support the Artemis missions.

These new partnerships also made it possible to test LOFTID, a prototype heat shield that could be used to deliver heavy payloads to the planet Mars, such as habitat modules.

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