This was a good year for humans in space. We got closer than we've ever been to the farthest planet in our galaxy, found evidence of water flowing on another planet, and got more insight than ever into what it's like to be floating around up there.
While these discoveries were made by scientists and technicians with far greater expertise than most of us, we can all claim their discoveries collectively as progress for humanity in understanding where we fit in this big old universe. Cheers to our good work, then!
1. Water on Mars
In September, NASA said their Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured images of dark trails "roughly the length of a football field." These are likely created by oozing, salty water.
2. Pluto's first close-up
A NASA spacecraft traveled more than three billion miles to send home these close-up photos of Pluto and one of its moons.
3. The space pyramid (?) on Ceres
OK, this one might sound a bit out there. In June this year, NASA's Dawn mission sent back images of something that looks very much like a pyramid on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres. We know it's around four miles high, but no one knows exactly what it is.
4. Thanksgiving in space
This year we've had a better glimpse than ever before of what it's actually like to live out there on the International Space Station. On Thanksgiving , NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Scott Kelly took the day off to watch football and eat some (smoked) turkey and (rehydrated) sides.
5. Astronauts on Instagram
The International Space Station orbits the earth from 400 km above us. NASA says it takes 90 minutes for the station to go around the world, which means that astronauts see 16 sunrises and sunsets a day.
6. Voyage to Jupiter
The Juno spacecraft will, in June 2016, brush up close to the largest planet in our solar system. The spacecraft will also check out Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, which scientist think may be hiding potentially life-sustaining water under a layer of ice.
7. Accepting astronaut applications!
NASA points out that they've been "named the best place to work in the federal government for the fourth year in a row." Can't argue with that.