Environment & Science

2013: A look back on the year in space

This artist rendering released by NASA shows NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft barreling through space.
This artist rendering released by NASA shows NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft barreling through space.

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Space enthusiasts had plenty to talk about in 2013.

There was the giant fireball in northern Russia that lit up the sky and blew out windows. India launched a mission to Mars and China landed a rover on the moon. The Kepler space telescope revealed that there may be billions of Earth-like planets in the Milky Way.

And of course, movie goers got a taste of life in space from Alfonso Cuarón's thriller Gravity.

KPCC asked some well known space scientists about their favorite stories from the past year.

Bill Nye, the Science Guy and CEO of the Planetary Society

"It's been an exciting year in space," Nye told KPCC in an interview. "Especially robotically."

He described the China National Space Administration's successful landing of a rover on the moon as "extraordinary."

"Talk about pulling yourself up by the boot straps. I mean they had a lot of Soviet era technology but they are advancing at a steady pace."

He says part of the Planetary Society's mission is to encourage all people around the world to engage in space exploration. Nye sees China's recent space mission as a step in the right direction.

Bill Nye's other top stories from 2013:

The Chelyabinsk meteor strike /  The launch of NASA's MAVEN mission 

Laura Danly, curator of Griffith Observatory and host of All Space Considered

Laura Danly said 2013 was a productive year, even though the rate of new missions has dropped compared to a decade ago.

"Still, there are some really ground breaking things we are doing with a lot less resources," Danly said. "So I think it was over all a very good year."

One of her favorite stores was the announcement that Voyager 1 had indeed left the solar system

Scientists believed the spacecraft, launched in 1977, had left the influence of the sun in 2012 but it wasn't until the summer of 2013 that they had enough proof to confirm this.

"To know that we have sent a legacy of our civilization into interstellar space is kind of unbelievable," Danly told KPCC.

"It just connects us to the cosmos in a much broader way."

Laura Danly's other top stories from 2013:

The discovery of thousands of new exo-planets /  The detection of 28 neutrinos / NASA's work with the Curiosity rover on Mars

Bobak Ferdowsi, Engineer on the Mars Curiosity Mission and JPL's "mohawk guy"

Bobak Ferdowsi said space was very much in the public eye this past year.

"I don't think I've ever had so many conversations about space as I did in 2013," he said in an interview with KPCC.

Ferdowsi says Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has a lot to do with that.

For part of 2013 Hadfield commanded the International Space Station. While there he posted pictures and videos of life in space. One showed him wringing a towel to demonstrate how water behaves in zero gravity, another showed him playing with a can of free floating mixed nuts.

"These are the mundane things on Earth that you don't even pay attention to and you realize that here in space it's a completely different thing," Ferdowsi said.

Hadfield also recorded a cover of David Bowie's Space Oddity while on the space station. 

Ferdowsi's other top stories of 2013:

Dating of rocks on the surface of Mars / New discoveries on Jupiter's moon Europa

Share your favorite space stories of 2013 below!