WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2017 — The Moon became a key focus point for NASA in 2017, whether it was blocking out the Sun during one of the most-viewed events in U.S. history, or reinvigorating the agency's human space exploration plans.
One of the numerous NASA-related activities and actions the Trump Administration did in 2017 was to reconstitute the National Space Council. During its first meeting on Oct. 5, Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to develop a plan to help extend human exploration across our solar system, and return astronauts to the Moon in preparation for human missions to Mars and other destinations.
The White House's support of NASA in 2017 extended across the breadth of the agency's activities, including:
“When you see highlights of NASA's achievements over the year listed in one place, it's pretty amazing what we've been able to achieve,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “Seeing so many challenging efforts become completed accomplishments is a testament to the determination of our entire extended NASA team. While I'm proud of what we did in 2017, another full plate of missions awaits us in 2018 that will surely inspire with their discoveries and technological advances.
“And for the sixth year in a row, NASA has retained its standing as the number one large agency in the 'Best Places to Work in Government' rankings published by the Partnership for Public Service. I want to congratulate and commend our amazing workforce for their teamwork and dedication, which has enabled so many achievements in all our missions on behalf of the American people and the world.”
Solar System and Beyond
2017's top story in terms of public interest for NASA was, by far, the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse. It was one of the biggest internet events in recent history and the biggest online event NASA has ever measured. There were more than 50 million views of the live broadcast on NASA.gov and multiple social media platforms, and almost 31 million unique views on Facebook before and after the eclipse. These numbers mean the agency was able to share the scientific study of this celestial phenomenon with millions of people around the world, capturing a wealth of images before, during, and after the eclipse by spacecraft, aircraft, high-altitude balloons, and astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
Here are some of this year's other highlights in the solar system and beyond:
In 2017, NASA made progress in the preparations to send astronauts to Mars, as well as reaching the milestone of 20 years of continuous robotic scientific exploration of the Red Planet. And a record 2.4 million space fans signed up this year to send their names to Mars on NASA's InSight mission, a robotic lander designed to study the interior and subsurface of the planet in 2018.
Here are some of this year's highlights about progress toward human deep space missions to the Moon and Mars:
International Space Station
In 2017, six NASA astronauts have lived aboard the International Space Station, supporting more than 120 new U.S. research investigations conducted in the unique microgravity laboratory to prepare for future deep space exploration and improve life on Earth. Investigations included research leading to new knowledge about combustion processes, tests of a drug to help fight cancer, and technology demonstrations like the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). In addition, the space station hosts many external experiments that observe Earth and our environment from space and study space physics, such as neutron stars, black holes, and the search for dark matter. More than 170 total U.S. investigations this year are advancing our understanding in biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, human research, technology development and education.
Here are some additional space station highlights from 2017:
Safely moving increasing numbers of people and cargo more efficiently between airports aboard airplanes of all sizes, which burn less fuel, release fewer emissions, and fly both quieter and faster, remained the focus of NASA's aeronautical innovators as they achieved several technical milestones in 2017. Some of those milestones are laying the foundation for the return of the X-plane to NASA's research toolbox.
Here are some research highlights realized in 2017 that herald NASA's great aviation transformation:
In 2017, NASA further used the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives, and safeguard our future. The 60th anniversary of space-based research of Earth, and the beginning of the United States' exploration of space, comes in January 2018, followed by NASA's 60th birthday on Oct. 1.
Here are some highlights from this year in NASA's Earth sciences research:
This year, NASA's investments in space technology paid off with the launch of several technology payloads delivered to the International Space Station and beyond, the completion of two big-prize competitions, and the ground-based demonstration of technologies that may one day build and repair large structures in space.
Here are some of NASA's technology highlights for 2017:
For more about NASA's missions, research and discoveries, visit:
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