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article imageThe year in space — Headlines that made the news in 2016

By Karen Graham     Dec 31, 2016 in Science
From Space X successfully landing a rocket on a floating platform to NASA's Juno probe reaching Jupiter after a journey of 1.8 billion miles, 2016 has been a year of many accomplishments in the space industry. Let's look at a few of the stories.
Digital Journal has recorded the successes and failures of the world's race for space over the years, and 2016 was no exception. With humanity eyeing colonization of other planets, the quest for better technology, including more powerful spacecraft and habitats for space travelers has created a competition between international space agencies and privately owned companies.
Series of photos showing the expansion of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module to its full size on...
Series of photos showing the expansion of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module to its full size on May 28, 2016.
NASA
Room with a view of the world — ISS gets inflatable room
Elon Musk's Space X launched its eighth Dragon cargo spacecraft on April 8, 2016, heading to the International Space Station. But besides a massive variety of supplies for the ISS, the spacecraft also carried an inflatable room.
Called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), the inflatable room was a demonstration model meant to pave the way for future bases on the Moon, and Mars exploration. The BEAM is about 13 feet long and 10.5 feet in diameter and weighs 3,000 pounds. Plans are to test the BEAM for two years.
The technology behind the BEAM is important for the future of space exploration because one of the biggest dangers for humans is radiation after they get beyond low-Earth orbit and there are increased risks for crews living inside aluminum walls that could be punctured by space debris. And, the BEAM also has applications for use on Earth, from temporary shelters to hyperbaric chambers for pressurized oxygen delivery, as well as many other applications.
Artist s depiction of Juno orbiting Jupiter.
Artist's depiction of Juno orbiting Jupiter.
NASA
Juno gets 'up-close and personal' with Jupiter on July 4th
NASA's Juno spacecraft's arrival at Jupiter on July 4 was the culmination of a five-year-long voyage, traveling 1.8 billion miles. This writer felt this one accomplishment was one of the world's most historic moments and a superhuman feat of technology, science, and engineering.
What is our goal behind exploring the massive gas planet? The spacecraft has been circling the massive planet on a 20-month mission to learn more about the origin of the solar system. Scientists want to know what lies beneath the clouds that surround Jupiter, and they want to learn more about its intense magnetic field, 20,000 times more powerful than Earth's.
Juno is carrying nine science instruments and also has a camera that can capture still images and video of Jupiter and its moons.
Because of the intense radiation being emitted from Jupiter, the delicate camera and scientific instruments on Juno are protected by a titanium vault.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sits on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral  Florida
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sits on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida
HO, SPACEX/AFP/File
SpaceX successfully launches satellite and lands Falcon 9 rocket
The August 14 SpaceX mission was one of six successful attempts to launch and recover a booster rocket. Two previous recoveries were on land and four recoveries, including this one, were out at sea on a drone ship.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says the choice of landing sites has more to do with a mission's parameters and not the stability of the landing site, itself, even though a sea-based landing is more difficult.
Whether or not a drone ship or dry land is used for a recovery also depends on the weight of the payload and the velocity of the rocket. There could not be enough fuel to get the rocket back to its launch site, and this is where having a drone ship close to the trajectory of the rocket is very helpful, and saves on fuel.
Astronaut Jeffrey Williams during his 2006 mission on the ISS
Astronaut Jeffrey Williams during his 2006 mission on the ISS
NASA
Astronaut Williams overtakes Kelly for most days in space
The record for the most time spent in space is held by Russian cosmonauts who manned the MIR space station. But American astronauts also have distinguished records for the most days logged in space. In August 2016, astronaut Jeffrey Williams, who returned to Earth in September broke the record held by Scott Kelly for the most cumulative days in space.
Kelly, the former record holder had spent a total of 520 days in space. But Kelly beat the old record, tallying up 534 days. According to the story, it was all done in a very civilized manner. Kelly, at NASA's Mission Control, greeted Williams with a joke, saying "how would you feel about staying in orbit 190 more days?"
Williams will rank 14th on the list of people with the most time spent in space. Gennady Padalka holds humanity’s record and has logged 879 days in space, between both Mir and the ISS. He and his brother Mark also have another record, of sorts. They are still the only siblings to have traveled to space.
Artist s rendering of US astronaut planting a flag on Mars.
Artist's rendering of US astronaut planting a flag on Mars.
NASA / Artist rendering
Elon Musk's ambitious vision for the future of Mars Colonization
On September 27, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, speaking to a rapt audience at the 67th International Astronautical Congress in
Guadalajara, Mexico, finally told the world about his company's long-anticipated plans to colonize Mars.
Elon Musk has done wonders in keeping the world hooked on interplanetary travel, and his announcement earlier in 2016 about colonizing Mars gave him the attention such an audacious plan needed. All we needed is a visualization of what would be needed to accomplish the feat.
Picture it, a huge carbon-fiber interplanetary spaceship with a 300-foot tall booster rocket capable of 13,000 tons of thrust, propelled by 42 Raptor rocket engines using cryogenic methane as fuel, blasting off from the Kennedy Space Center one day in the not-so-faraway future, on a trip to Mars.
And while this writer is getting far too old to ever go on a trip into space, she does envision a future where her grandchildren or great-grandchildren will someday travel to another planet. It is exciting to think about that kind of future.
More about the year in space, 2016, NASA, Space X, Jupiter
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