2018 may well be the beginning of new ages in spaceflight, astronomy and astrophysics.may have ushered in the beginning of a golden era of commercial space flights, while a series of missions around the solar system can increase our understanding of our neighbors. In addition, "multi-messenger astronomy" can provide a new window into the universe with the help of .
The vastness of space extends over distances often difficult to conceive. Light requires ages to travel through them. In fact, much of the space news for any year is about mission planning that will take place over many years.
Recently, for example, the talk focused on reaching Mars, where. Planning also continues for the , which will help us see the dawn of time and possibly detect signs of life in other parts of the galaxy.
But 2018 also featured more action – more real take off, More finally going there and getting there — than usual.
SpaceX starts heavy lifting
Easily, the greatest space spectacle of 2018, if not a whole generation, took off in February when SpaceXrocket.
Three Falcon 9 rockets strung together made up the most powerful vehicle to launch from US soil since the Apollo era. No astronaut was on board, however, only a mannequin in a space suit at the wheel of Musk's red Tesla. Cameras mounted along with the load of peculiar tests returned epic visions as they sailed toward Mars.
Minutes after the Heavy's launch, two of the three boosters made almost simultaneous landing off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Fla., Scoring the achievement with a display of technology that seemed fanciful and distant a few years ago.
SpaceX would set a new world record for the number of commercial releases in a year with 21,. This feat was aided by the May introduction of his " "Falcon 9, or the final version of its working rocket, Block 5 is designed to be recovered and reused up to 100 times over its lifetime, so far a single Block 5 has been used for three separate launches, record for an orbital class rocket.
While SpaceX may be the undisputed leader, it certainly does not have a monopoly on the commercial space.
Over the past year,his own smaller reusable rocket, as he advanced with plans to compete more directly with Musk. your business sends smaller satellites to orbit with its own innovative technologies that leverage 3D printing and lightweight composite materials.
And finally,in December, in its space plane, on board the company hopes to start selling seats for adventurous space tourists.
Sending spacecraft all over (and beyond) the solar system
This year has been one of the busiest of recent memory in terms of new spacecraft being launched or arriving at their destinations. There were many milestones in the mission in 2018 that some could barely catch the attention of the media,or China to the other side of the moon.
NASA also had a great year, sending its Parker Solar Probe to literally "touch" the confines of the Sun for the first time and hopefully help us understand some of its long-lasting mysteries, as why these outer layers are actually warmer than the surface of our star.
The space agency also landed on Mars for the first time since the arrival of the adorable Curiosity rover. Obased on a common flat part of the Red Planet, where it will drill deep into the surface to study the interior of our neighbor, including listening to Marsquakes and other seismic activities.
The Transmission Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which will help catalog worlds around other stars, has also been released as part of a new generation of telescopes that includes the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The time turned out to be fortuitous, with TESS launching just a few months before the reigning champion on planet-spotting,, was permanently set to sleep mode. Unfortunately, 2018 saw the announcement of yet .
While many new missions were launched, some robots linked to asteroids reached their destinations after months of travel. From Japan, threw rovers on its surface and sent back some trippy footage. Meanwhile, NASA and began to examine his temporary home. Both missions aim to eventually collect a small sample of their hosts and return them to Earth for further study.
A vintage spacecraft has passed the interstellar space boundary:Now, it is believed to be beyond the gravitational reach of the sun after decades of travel.
And there's more to come. 2018 will close with NASA's New Horizons arriving at Ultima Thule, an icy object from the Kuiper Belt in addition to Pluto on December 31.
Seeing the space more clearly
The many missions of 2018 will send scientific data that will be analyzed in the coming years. Meanwhile, other continuing efforts have yielded huge dividends this year.
Findings of new exoplanets, including many that could potentially sustain life, continued to appear, as did the evidence that several places in our own solar system could be more humid and wilder than previously imagined. Scientists have found asuggested that something might be able to and found the key .
This was also the year we started looking beyond the exoplanets and maybeorbiting an exoplanet. There were even conversations about the so-called "moon moons" orbiting these exoions. Astronomers were also able to , discard the probability of around a star and release the most comprehensive still.
For many astrophysicists, the greatest development of 2018 is the emergence of a new branch of their field: the study of the universe using gravitational waves.
Gravitational waves are undulations in space-time that were theoretical until a few years ago. Until recently, we have largely looked at the universe in terms of electromagnetism, a spectrum of radiation ranging from gamma rays and X-rays to visible light, microwaves and radio waves. An increasing number of gravitational wave detections allow ""which is like being able to hear the universe for the first time after using our sense of vision to observe it for centuries.
Space is still difficult
Space news was not all revolutionary in 2018. There were many fights as well: a planetary dust storm that, a hole that needed to be connected to the International Space Station and a scary launch aborted for the ISS.
The Google Lunar X award came to an end without a winner, evenand NASA has stepped up its plans to go to our lone natural satellite and .
The year began with thewhich was released by SpaceX, which was cleared of any guilt. But the saddest loss was the , which helped popularize a more complex and subtle understanding of our universe, while at the same time alerting to the dangers of artificial intelligence and potential interactions with alien civilizations.
There were some great birthdays in 2018 that underscored how far we've been in space.and the . There was a lot of talk from the White House about starting a , but the future is not yet clear.
More important birthdays are coming in 2019, which will mark half a century since landing at Apollo 11 in 1969, and more remarkable launches, including new US manned spacecraft from SpaceX and Boeing, are available.
But if all the space projects that are underway in 2018 are as successful as we expect, we will be revising this year in 2028 and 2068 and celebrating more historical anniversaries.
NASA is 60 years old: the space agency has taken mankind further than anyone else and has plans to go further.
Crowd Control: A crowdsourced science fiction novel written by CNET readers.