The year in space in 2012 saw the first images from Mars Curiosity, a first step for business in space with the launch of SpaceX, a world-record space jump, the final journeys of NASA’s space shuttles as well as the deaths of space pioneers Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride. Featuring below the “YEAR 2012 in SPACE through PHOTOGRAPHS”.
Production by Natalie Armstrong
One Giant Leap
Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner stands at the threshold of a balloon-borne capsule just before a test jump from a height of 71,500 feet. The successful test was conducted on March 15 over Roswell, N.M., in preparation for Baumgartner’s supersonic jump from 120,000 feet. That giant leap came on Oct. 14, breaking a 52-year-old record for the highest parachute jump.
A man takes a photo as the space shuttle Endeavour passes by in Inglewood, Calif., on Oct. 13, on its way to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Transporting Endeavour cross-town was a costly feat with an estimated price tag of $10 million, paid for by the science center and private donations.
The entry, descent and landing team for the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission erupts in cheers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., after seeing the first images sent from Mars by the Curiosity rover on Aug. 5. The rover landed inside Mars’ huge Gale Crater, kicking off a mission to determine if the Red Planet could ever have hosted microbial life.
Wait … who took this photo?
NASA’s Curiosity rover used its Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI, to capture the set of thumbnail images stitched together to create this full-color self-portrait on Oct. 31. MAHLI is mounted on a 7-foot-long robotic arm, but because of the way the images were taken, the imager and the extended robot arm are not visible in this mosaic.
Stricken Ship seen from Space
The luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia can be seen lying off the Italian coast in a Jan. 17 satellite photo provided by DigitalGlobe. The ship ran aground shortly after setting off on a Mediterranean cruise on Jan. 13.
This NASA photo of the Helix Nebula, obtained on Oct. 5, shows a dying star throwing a cosmic tantrum. The picture combines data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope in infrared wavelengths with ultraviolet readings from another space telescope, the Galaxy Evolution Explorer. In death, the star’s dusty outer layers are unraveling into space, glowing from the intense ultraviolet radiation being pumped out by the hot stellar core.
Aurora from Above
The southern lights glow green in a picture taken by Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers on board the International Space Station between Antarctica and Australia on March 10. The station’s lab modules and solar panels can be seen along the upper and right edges of the image.
Mickey Mouse on Mercury
This picture, acquired by NASA’s Messenger orbiter on June 3, shows an area of the planet Mercury’s surface northwest of a crater recently named Magritte. The shadowing helps define a striking resemblance to Disney’s Mickey Mouse character, created by the accumulation of craters over Mercury’s long geologic history.
String of Starbirth
This image from the European Southern Observatory’s APEX telescope, released Feb. 15, shows part of the Taurus Molecular Cloud. Newborn stars are hidden within a sinuous filament of cosmic dust that stretches out over 10 light-years, at a distance of more than 450 light-years from Earth. The bright star above the filament is known as f Tauri.
Typhoon stirs awe from Space
The storm clouds of Typhoon Bopha form a spiral far below the International Space Station in a photo captured by Expedition 34 Commander Kevin Ford on Dec. 2. The death toll from the typhoon, which devastated mountainous and coastal towns in the southern Philippines with ferocious winds and flash floods, went beyond 1,000.
Godspeed, Neil Armstrong
Mourners in the front row at the national memorial service for moonwalker Neil Armstrong include his Apollo 11 crewmate, Buzz Aldrin; Annie Glenn and her husband, retired senator-astronaut John Glenn; and Canadian jazz singer Diana Krall. The service was conducted at Washington National Cathedral in the nation’s capital on Sept. 13. Neil Armstrong, who became the first man to walk on the moon in 1969, died on Aug. 25 at the age of 82.
Burial at Sea
Members of the Navy ceremonial guard hold a U.S. flag over the cremted remains of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong during a burial-at-sea service aboard the USS Philippine Sea in the Atlantic Ocean on Sept. 14.
Venus in Transit
The planet Venus crosses the partially cloud-covered face of the sun during the transit of Venus, as seen from New Delhi on June 6. Astronomy enthusiasts all over the world looked to the skies to watch Venus’ black dot crawl across the face of the sun, in a rare celestial spectacle that will not happen again for more than a century.
The sun in a Spacewalker’s Hand
NASA’s Sunita Williams appears to reach out toward the sun in a picture taken by Japan’s Aki Hoshide during a Sept. 5 spacewalk at the International Space Station. Williams and Hoshide used improvised tools, including a toothbrush, to clear the way for the installation of a replacement power switching unit for the station.
Two of the brightest planets in the night sky went through a series of conjunctions during late February and March. Jupiter is on the left and Venus is on the right in this picture, taken by Marek Nikodem of Szubin, Poland, at nightfall on March 12. “They are like two lanterns illuminating the darkness,” Nikodem told SpaceWeather.com. “It’s a wonderful sight.”
Wonders of the World at Night
“Startrails Over Dolomites” by German astrophotographer Christoph Otawa won second-place honors in the “Beauty of the Night Sky” category of the 2012 “Earth & Sky” contest. The annual contest, presented by The World at Night, highlights images that blend earthly landscapes and night-sky vistas.
Members of the media photograph the Russian Soyuz rocket as it launches with Expedition 33/34 crew members, Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy, Flight Engineer Kevin Ford of NASA, and Flight Engineer Evgeny Tarelkin of ROSCOSMOS to the International Space Station on Oct. 23, in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Ford, Novitskiy and Tarelkin will be on a five-month mission aboard the International Space Station.
Saturn in Shadow
Saturn and its rings glow in a backlit, enhanced-color image from the Cassini orbiter. The picture combines images that were acquired using infrared, red and violet filters on Oct. 17. Two of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus and Tethys, sparkle on the left side of the planet.
This broad panorama of the Carina Nebula, a region of massive star formation in the southern skies, was taken in infrared light using the HAWK-I camera on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope. The image, released Feb. 8, shows many previously hidden features scattered across a spectacular celestial landscape of gas, dust and young stars.
Touchdown in the Dark
Russian support personnel and news media representatives approach the Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft shortly after its landing in a remote area of Kazakhstan on Nov. 19. The Soyuz craft brought NASA’s Sunita Williams, Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide and Russia’s Yuri Malenchenko back to Earth after their four-month stint on the International Space Station.
Pencil or witch’s Broom?
The oddly shaped Pencil Nebula (NGC 2736) is pictured in this image from the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, released on Sept, 24. This nebula is a small part of a huge remnant left over after a supernova explosion that took place about 11,000 years ago. “The brightest part resembles a pencil; hence the name, but the whole structure looks rather more like a traditional witch’s broom,” the ESO science team said.
A Glimpse of the Guppy
A crowd in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood watches NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft approach Boeing Field on June 30, carrying a key piece of a space shuttle mockup that went on display at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. The mockup had been used at NASA’s Johnson Space Center for astronaut training.
Spectators watch a total solar eclipse from Ellis Beach in Queensland, Australia, on Nov. 14. Eclipse-hunters flocked to northeast Australia to witness the first total solar eclipse in Australia in a decade and the last eclipse of its kind that anyone will see until 2015.
Cosmic Holiday Ornament
An image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the planetary nebula NGC 5189. The image was captured by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 on Oct. 8 and published Dec. 18 with a holiday theme. “The intricate structure of this bright gaseous nebula resembles a glass-blown holiday ornament with a glowing ribbon entwined,” the Hubble team said in a photo advisory.
A polar storm on Saturn is seen in this raw image taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Nov. 27. Storms like this are common on many of the solar system’s planets, including Saturn. Cassini, the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn, was launched in 1997 and has been observing the gas giant and its moons since 2004.
Loops on the Sun
Cascading loops spiral above an active region on the sun in an extreme-ultraviolet image sent back to Earth by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Laboratory on Jan. 15-16. These loop structures are made of superheated plasma, just one of which is the size of several Earths.
Big Orange over the Big Apple
A full moon rises over the skyline of Lower Manhattan and One World Trade Center in New York on May 6. May’s full moon occurred when the moon was near the closest point in its orbit around Earth, leading many to call it a “supermoon.”
A nearly spherical shell of glowing gas surrounds U Camelopardalis, an unstable star nearing the end of its life. This picture was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and released on July 9.
Thorbjørn Haagensen took this picture of the northern lights on April 3 from Hillesøy, close to Tromsø in northern Norway. The winter season is prime time for auroral displays, but with the onset of spring, the northern lights begin to pale up north. “Beginning in the middle of May, the midnight sun brings sunshine all night long,” Haagensen said.
Cat’s Eye Nebula
This NASA image shows the planetary nebula NGC 6543, as seen during the first systematic survey of such objects in the solar neighborhood made with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. A planetary nebula is a phase of stellar evolution that the sun should experience several billion years from now, when it expands to become a red giant and then sheds most of its outer layers, leaving behind a hot core that contracts to form a dense white dwarf star.
The space shuttle Endeavour, perched atop its modified 747 carrier jet, is escorted by two other planes as it passes in front of Los Angeles’ Hollywood sign on Sept. 21. The iconic black and white orbiter flew 25 times to space over the past two decades. After weeks of preparation, Endeavour arrived at the California Science Center on Oct. 14 to begin its new mission as a museum exhibit.
Gentlemen, Your Suits Await…
Spacesuits are laid out for NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko before an exam on a simulator of the International Space Station at the Russian cosmonaut training center at Star City, outside Moscow, on Nov. 28. The three-man crew flew to the International Space Station in December.
The night lights of the Americas shine in this visualization of our planet at night, which is based on data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October. The image, released by NASA Earth Observatory on Dec. 5, has been nicknamed the “Black Marble.”