Washington: NASA has achieved a lot in space exploration in 2014, including taking giant steps on Mars, testing cutting-edge technologies and making scientific discoveries while studying our changing Earth and the infinite universe .
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, said that they continued to make great progress their journey to Mars this year, awarding contracts to American companies who will return human space flight launches to U.S. soil, advancing space technology development; and successfully completing the first flight of Orion, the next step being sending astronauts in deep space spacecraft.
NASA achieved a major milestone in December on its journey to Mars as the agency's Orion spacecraft completed its first voyage to space during a four-and-a-half-hour flight test, while Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related education soared to new heights with a student-built radiation experiment aboard Orion. NASA's Office of Education, partnered with the Lockheed Martin Corp., used the Exploration Design Challenge to engage students in STEM by inviting them to help tackle one of the most significant dangers of human space flight-radiation exposure.
The agency's parallel path for human spaceflight also took a giant leap forward in September when the agency announced U.S. astronauts once again would travel to and from the International Space Station (ISS) from the United States on American spacecraft under groundbreaking contracts worked by NASA's Commercial Crew Program, in addition to selecting Boeing and SpaceX to transport U.S. crews to and from the space station using their CST-100 and Crew Dragon spacecraft.
In July, NASA announced its Mars Rover 2020, which is based on the successful Curiosity rover. Mars 2020 will carry instruments to conduct unprecedented science and exploration technology investigations on the Red Planet, including help with data for a human mission to Mars.
In December, NASA announced Curiosity has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory's drill. Curiosity's findings from analyzing samples of atmosphere and rock powder do not reveal whether Mars has ever harbored living microbes, but the findings do shed light on a chemically active modern Mars and on favorable conditions for life on ancient Mars.
Observations by Curiosity also indicate Mount Sharp near the rover's landing site was built by sediments deposited in a large lake bed over tens of millions of years.
NASA continues to advance the journey to Mars through progress on the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which will test a number of new capabilities needed for future human expeditions to deep space, including to Mars.