2012 was a memorable year for Science. From an Austrian ‘s record-breaking jump to Earth to the death of two space pioneers, here are the unforgettable science news stories that are worth reviewing before the calendar year rolls over.
Also, check out the biggest research breakthroughs of the year.
After 253 days of travel, a one-ton robot named Curiosity touched down in Mars' Gale Crater in August. Curiosity has been rolling around the Martian surface for five months now, tweeting a lot and snapping loads of pictures.
So far from her travels we've learned that Mars's Gale Crater used to be flowing with water, the Red Planet's soils look like Hawaiian sands, and astronauts could tolerate radiation on the surface of Mars, for at least a few months. The $2.5-billion robot will continue to look for signs of life on Mars during the rest of her two-year planned mission.
Bobak Ferdowsi, a flight director for the Mars rover mission, became the surprise star of the Curiosity landing, mainly because of his stars-and-stripes Mohawk. He also cried after touchdown was confirmed.
Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner trained for five years to become the first person to break the speed of sound without an aircraft. In October, Baumgartner captivated millions of people by riding a balloon-hoisted space capsule 128,000 feet above Earth and then jumping. Preliminary data shows that he reached of top speed of 833.9 mph and succeeded in breaking the sound barrier.
Superstorm Sandy devastated parts of the East Coast when it came ashore at the end of October. Some of the worst damage was in New York and New Jersey.
At around $62 billion in damage, Sandy has been named the the second-costliest storm in U.S. history after Hurricane Katrina. Sandy killed at least 125 people in the United States.
The era of the Big Gulp came to an end in September when health officials approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on the sale of sodas larger than 16 ounces at New York City restaurants, street vendors, delis and movie theatres.
Sodas, and the sugars in them, have been linked to a host of scary health effects, including heart attacks, weight gain and memory loss. The city hopes the ban will combat obesity.
Sally Ride was the first American woman (and youngest American) in space. The Stanford University graduate was just 32 years old when she flew aboard the shuttle Challenger on June 18, 1983. The trailblazing astronaut started Sally Ride Science in 2001 to encourage young girls to participate in science and engineering. Ride died from pancreatic cancer in July at age 61.
One month after losing the first U.S. woman in space, the nation lost another space legend: Neil Armstrong. The first man on the moon died in August at age 82.
Before Armstrong's history-making moonwalk in 1969 as commander of the Apollo 11 spacecraft, he was a Navy test pilot and flew combat missions in the Korean War. Armstrong was known as a modest man who shied away from the public spotlight despite his monumental feats.
Voyager 1 left Earth on Sept. 5, 1977. 30-five years later, scientists say that the spacecraft has entered a new region between our solar system and interstellar space (the space between solar systems) called the magnetic highway. This could be the final region before the space probe becomes the first man-man object to leave our solar system. The historic event could be anywhere from a few months to a couple of years away.
NASA's final space shuttle launch in July of last year signaled the end of its 30-year Space Shuttle Program. The agency's fleet -- Discovery, Atlantis, Endeavour, and prototype Enterprise -- were all relocated and put on public display at various museums around the country in 2012.
Space Shuttle endeavour was the last orbiter to arrive at its final resting place when it rolled into a temporary hangar at Los Angeles' California Science centre in October. NASA will now rely on private companies, like Elon Musk's SpaceX, to lead a new era of space flight. They are currently using the Russian Soyuz shuttle to reach the International Space Station.
Space shuttle Endeavour is seen atop NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a modified 747 jetliner that will fly Endeavour to Los Angeles where it will be placed on public display at the California Science centre. This is the final ferry flight scheduled in the Space Shuttle Program era.
In July, a water-bloated carcass spotted under the Brooklyn Bridge scared the bajeezers out of New Yorkers and baffled animal experts. The mangled body provoked even more questions when the New York Parks Department declared it was a pig left over from a cookout, even though the creature REALLY doesn't look like a pig.
Ultimately, a zoologist helped to identify the hairless animal as a raccoon. Apparently these types of sightings aren't all that uncommon.
In October, SpaceX's Dragon capsule successfully carried nearly 1,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station before returning back to Earth. This was the first of 12 contracted delivery flights with NASA.
A study published in November provided the the most definitive and accurate evidence to date that polar ice caps on Greenland and Antarctica are melting.
Experts combined 20 years of research and found that these ice sheets, the largest reservoirs of fresh water on Earth, are losing more than three times as much ice each year than they were in the 1990s. Rapid ice loss is worrisome because it contributes to sea-level rise, which threatens coastal communities and islands.
Not only are the ice sheets melting, but in the summer of 2012 Arctic Sea Ice reached the lowest levels ever seen, blowing away the previous record low from 2007.
Movie director James Cameron became the first person to explore the deepest place on Earth when he dove to the bottom of the Marina Trench inside a steel sphere in March.
The purpose of the mission, called Deepsea Challenge, was to collect samples and video from the ocean floor. Around 20,000 microbes collected from the trench are still being analysed.
Tons of people thought the world would end on Dec. 21, 2012. It did not. NASA scientists poured a lot of energy into debunking this doomsday theory, which spawned from a misinterpretation of the ancient Mayan calendar.
Just as our calendar restarts its 12-month cycle on Jan. 1, the Mayan calendar now begins another long cycle.
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