From a refrigerator-sized spacecraft intentionally hitting an asteroid to a helicopter trying to catch a rocket falling back to Earth, 2022 featured surreal moments in space that could have come straight out of a science fiction movie.
Billionaires devising strategies to explore the universe and scientists attempting to answer perplexing questions only to uncover deeper mysteries were among the memorable events.
For the first time, scientists were able to grow plants in lunar soil, and engineers were able to successfully test an inflatable heat shield that could help humans reach Mars. Additionally, researchers discovered that Earth was struck by a rare interstellar meteor nearly a decade ago.
Here are ten instances in which space exploration and travel felt more like the plot of a Hollywood film than it did in reality.
Intentionally crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid
Dimorphos is a small asteroid that orbits Didymos, a larger space rock. A NASA spacecraft deliberately hit it. Although this collision resembled something from the 1998 film “Armageddon,” the Double Asteroid Redirection Test was a demonstration of deflection technology and the first to be carried out for the purpose of protecting planets.
On September 26, a lot of people tuned in to see live footage from DART’s cameras as the surface of Dimorphos came into view for the first time. The view ended when the spacecraft hit the asteroid, but dramatic images of the aftermath were captured by space telescopes and an Italian satellite.
Humanity altered the motion of a celestial object in space for the first time with the DART mission. The moonlet asteroid’s orbit was altered by 32 minutes by the spacecraft. The double asteroid system of Dimorphos and Didymos does not pose a threat to Earth, but it was the ideal target for testing deflection technology.
A space-time heartbeat
Astronomers have been fascinated by fast radio bursts in space since their discovery in 2007, but this year’s mysterious radio burst with a heartbeat-like pattern raised the stakes even higher.
The intense, millisecond-long bursts of radio waves that are known as fast radio bursts, or FRBs, only serve to bolster speculation that their cause is more alien than cosmic.
The “heartbeat signal” is thought to have originated from a galaxy 1 billion light-years away, but the exact location and cause of the explosion are unknown.
Astronomers also saw a powerful radio wave laser called a megamaser and a spinning celestial object that was releasing enormous bursts of energy unlike anything else they had ever seen.
mysterious space rings
Astronomers made a new breakthrough in their understanding of odd radio circles, or ORCs. Scientists have been baffled by these fascinating objects since their discovery in 2020, despite the fact that they are not the goblin-like humanoids depicted in “The Lord of the Rings” books.
Each of the space rings is approximately one million light-years across, which is 16 times larger than our Milky Way galaxy. The circles are thought to have expanded beyond other galaxies and took one billion years to reach their maximum size.
The MeerKAT telescope at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory was used by astronomers to take a new, detailed picture of strange radio circles, which helped them narrow down the possible explanations for these celestial oddballs.
Strange, eerie black holes
Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope were taken aback when they observed a black hole fueling the birth of new stars because black holes are known for their bad behavior and tendency to sever stars.
From a black hole at the center of a dwarf galaxy to a stellar nursery where stars are born, their observation revealed a gaseous umbilical cord. The surge of gas given by the dark opening set off a firecrackers show of star birth as it communicated with the cloud, which prompted a group of shaping stars.
This year, a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy was photographed by astronomers, and Hubble saw a single black hole in the Milky Way. Additionally, the eerie sounds created by converting X-ray signals from black holes
A snare using copter attempts to get a rocket in midair
Rocket Lab, a company based in the United States that launches from New Zealand, is trying to find a way to get its rocket boosters back after they fall toward Earth. The company attempted to deploy a helicopter with a hook attachment twice in 2022. Rocket Lab’s plans to save money by recovering and reusing rocket parts after sending satellites into space include the wild spectacle.
When the helicopter snagged a booster, the initial attempt in May appeared to have gone as planned. However, safety concerns led the pilots to abandon the rocket component.
The rocket never came into view on the second attempt, and pilots confirmed that the booster would not be dry when it returned to the factory. During the rocket’s reentry, the company tweeted that there was a problem with data loss.
Hal, open the pod bay doors
With the historic Artemis I flight, NASA sent its first virtual assistant, a version of Amazon’s Alexa, to the moon.
Although not exactly like HAL 9000, the antagonistic voice assistant in “2001: A Space Odyssey” The decision did result in a lot of sarcastic comparisons, however.
Although the Artemis I mission did not have any crew, NASA’s ground control teams made use of the voice assistant known as Callisto to control the lighting in the cabin and play music during the flight. For the record, it lacked the ability to open or close doors.
Although Artemis I was merely a test mission, NASA is still looking into the possibility of including the voice recognition system on subsequent missions.
A trip around the moon is planned by eight artists and a Japanese billionaire
Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese fashion mogul, selected eight passengers to accompany him on a trip around the moon powered by the Starship spacecraft from SpaceX, which has not yet been flown. American DJ Steve Aoki and popular YouTuber Tim Dodd, better known as the Everyday Astronaut, make up the group.
The Dear Moon mission, which was first announced in 2018, aims to fly by 2023. Maezawa initially planned to take a group of artists on a six-day trip around the moon, but he later said that his definition of an “artist” had been expanded. Instead, Maezawa stated in a video from the previous year that he would be open to people from all walks of life so long as they saw themselves as artists.
Separately, millionaire Dennis Tito planned his own trip to the moon with SpaceX after becoming the first person to pay for his way to the International Space Station in the early 2000s.
In Australia, “Alien” pace debris was found
NASA and authorities confirmed that the objects were likely scraps of hardware from a SpaceX Dragon capsule intentionally jettisoned as the spacecraft reentered Earth’s atmosphere in May 2021. Chunks of space debris were reportedly discovered on farmland in Australia’s Snowy Mountains.
Space debris frequently lands on Earth. However, given that the majority of space trash is disposed of in the ocean, it is much less likely that the objects will land on land.
The startup intends to launch satellites into space using a centrifuge
SpinLaunch intends to whip satellites around in a vacuum-sealed chamber and toss them into space rather than putting them on a rocket, making it one of the most original space startups in the world.
Last year, the company started testing a smaller version of its technology, but in 2022, things got more serious. In October, SpinLaunch completed its tenth test flight.
Additionally, there is a connection to science fiction. Jonathan Yaney, the person who started SpinLaunch, credits Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” which was written more than 50 years before the first satellite went into space, as the source of SpinLaunch’s inspiration.
It’s not satisfactory whether the organization’s innovation will at any point work out as expected. However, in the interim, this group will attempt to bring art to life in the New Mexico desert.
On an unmanned mission, Jeff Bezos’ joyride rocket explodes
As if it weren’t surreal enough to watch celebrities and Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos travel to space on his own self-funded suborbital rocket last year, hearing that the rocket exploded over West Texas a little more than a year later, even though there were no passengers on board, was harrowing and reaffirmed the proverb “space is hard.” On the other hand, on September 12, the crew capsule, which was carrying science projects and other inanimate payloads, was able to successfully land.
In a statement released in September, the Federal Aviation Administration stated that “the capsule landed safely and the booster impacted within the designated hazard area.” Bezos’ Blue Beginning has been in an in-between state since and has not gotten back to flight.
Additionally, neither of the companies that were at the forefront of suborbital space tourism last year are carrying out routine flights because Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is still grounded.