2017 was a year of groundbreaking discovaeries and record-setting exploration at NASA. Welcome to the final part of the PRIDE family of newspapers’ annual four-part look back at The Year in Space (and on Earth). Part One examined NASA and the Moon, the Solar System and Beyond; Part Two more closely explored Mars and the International Space Station; Part Three looked at Aeronautics, Aviation, and Earth Sciences Research; and we now conclude on Technology and Public Engagement.
“For the sixth year in a row, NASA has retained its standing as the number one large agency in the ‘Best Places to Work in Government’ rankings published by the Partnership for Public Service,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. This is no doubt due to the great work of the recently departed NASA Administrator Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009.
Last year, NASA’s investments in space technology paid off with the launch of several technology payloads delivered to the International Space Station and beyond, the completion of two big-prize competitions, and the ground-based demonstration of technologies that may one day build and repair large structures in space.
CSUNSat1, designed by California State University, Northridge in partnership with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was awarded Smallsat Technology Partnership funding in 2013. The 2U CubeSat deployed from the International Space Station in May 2017 and successfully demons-trated the effectiveness of JPL’s energy storage system that is targeted to help small spacecraft explore deep space in extremely cold temperatures. On Nov. 12, two small spacecraft missions, which launched aboard the Orbital ATK CRS-8 Cygnus resupply mission to the International Space Station, will test the high-speed optical transmission of data and small spacecraft proximity operations, and demonstrate a reflect array antenna that increases downlink data rates for CubeSats.
Since NASA’s Centennial Challenges began in 2005, there have been 18 challenges, resulting in more than $8 million in prize money awarded to more than 60 teams from across the country. In August, Team Foster + Partners of Chattanooga, Tenn-essee won first place and a prize of $250,000 for successfully completing Phase 2, Level 3 of the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Cube Quest Challenge awarded $20,000 each in prize money and secured space to launch the three winning teams’
CubeSats on Exploration Mission-1, the first integrated flight of NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft.
By engaging in public events, including South by Southwest; Philadelphia Science Festival; Space Day; Artscape; EAA AirVenture; Albuquerque Balloon Festival; Consumer Electronics Show; Super Bowl LI, Bay Area Science Festival; OshKosh; Essence Music Festival; Boy Scout Jamboree; Intrepid; and the Chicago Air & Water Show, more than five million people had the chance to interact with representatives of America’s space agency.
NASA’s social media presence continued to grow in 2017 with more than 130 million total followers across all accounts and platforms. The agency has the most followers of any agency/department in the federal government on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Google+.
The agency also hosted 13 NASA Socials this year, bringing together more than 650 followers who engage with NASA via social media for unique in-person experiences of exploration and discovery.
The total solar eclipse drove unprecedented traffic to NASA.gov, with a record 25.8 million visits on Aug. 21. Overall this year, traffic rose 24 percent over 2016 to just more than 410,000 visits daily.
For more about NASA’s missions, research and discoveries, visit the official NASA website.