It’s been a busy year for NASA, which has been pushing frontiers in robotic space exploration, human missions, scientific research and more. Here are some of the projects that the space agency pursued in 2016.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft successfully reached Jupiter on July 4. While robotic spacecraft have visited the planet many times before, Juno will focus on learning more about the gas giant’s atmosphere, magnetosphere, origins and structure.
The agency also launched an asteroid-sampling mission called Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-Rex). The probe is heading out to visit asteroid Bennu and is expected to return in 2023 with a sample of the space rock, which will help scientists better understand the early solar system.
Construction of the James Webb Space Telescope was completed in November, putting the largest-ever space telescope right on track for its launch date in 2018. The instrument’s primary mirror segment was assembled in February at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Now the telescope — which is expected to reveal information about the origins of the universe — is being readied for transport to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where the instrument will undergo pre-launch tests in 2017.