May 21, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Looking Back on 2014: NASA Marks the Top Discoveries of the Year

Jan 01, 2015 05:14 PM EST

In terms of discoveries and technological advancements, 2014 marked an important  year for NASA. In fact the US space agency made huge strides towards its goal of sending astronauts to Mars.  And these achievements were reached through a combination of front-line testing and scientific findings, while at the same time examining our own planet and the vast universe around it.

NASA executive, Charles Bolder said in a recent press release that the agency has granted contracts to American companies to again launch human-crewed missions from the United States.  In addition, he mentioned the first successful test flight of Orion, the next generation of air shuttles designed for deep space exploration.   Bolder also boasted of their efforts to make their crafts more environmentally friendly, while also working to create innovations that will lead to more effective space travel.

The successful test of the Orion in December was a significant breakthrough in the agency's planned mission to Mars.  Orion is on track to carry humans farther than ever before, including the moon, comets and then to Mars.

The International Space Station has become an integral part of NASA's plans for Mars.  Astronauts onboard the ISS continue to conduct research while also gaining unique insight of the effects of living and working in space for extended periods of time. Together NASA and government leaders alike recognize the importance of the ISS for its goals with the Obama administration, saying it plans to fund operations on the ISS until 2024.  This year, thirteen astronauts from NASA stayed and worked on the station, and many more are training to join the crews in 2015.

As space exploration depends primarily on technology, a significant part of NASA's activities have been focused on developing better devices.  In June the agency tested technologies required for landing large payloads on the surface of Mars, with the help of a new rocket-controlled, saucer-molded vehicle known as the "Low Density Supersonic Decelerator".

In addition to these latest technological developments for space exploration, NASA has also taken steps in analyzing the Earth itself.  In 2014 these missions included analyzing environment changes, water level changes in both the ocean and freshwater, as well as, severe weather conditions.

NASA also completed a new hybrid wing body for testing cutting edge airplane designs in NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.  These new hybrid wings are made out a lightweight, damaged adapted, sewed composite that are powerful and could improve fuel utilization and emissions by cargo planes.

This past year turned out to be a big one for NASA, with the space agency seeing many new breakthroughs, and while they have made great strides in making it possible for human-piloted missions to Mars, the agency and astronomers alike are hopeful that 2015 will bring with it even more accolades and achievements that will help bring science to new lands and new distances in space.

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