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2016: This Year at NASA!

2016: This Year at NASA!

As 2016 comes to a close and prospects of the new year loom before us, we take a moment to look back at what we’ve accomplished and how it will set us ahead in the year to come.


2016 marked record-breaking progress in our exploration activities. We advanced the capabilities needed to travel farther into the solar system while increasing observations of our home and the universe, learning more about how to continuously live and work in space and, or course, inspiring the next generation of leaders to take up our journey to Mars and make their own discoveries.

Here are a few of the top NASA stories of 2016…

International Space Station

One Year Mission…completed!


NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth after spending a year in space. Testing the limits of human research, findings from their One Year Mission will help send humans farther into space than ever before.

Commercial Resupply


Commercial partners Orbital ATK and SpaceX delivered tons (yes literally tons) of cargo to the International Space Station. This cargo supported hundreds of science experiments and technology demonstrations crucial to our journey to Mars.


Expandable Habitats


The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was one of the technology demonstrations delivered to the space station in April. Expandable habitats greatly decrease the amount of transport volume for future space missions.

Booster Test Firing


In June, a booster for our Space Launch System (SLS) rocket successfully fired up. It will be used on the first un-crewed test flight of SLS with the Orion spacecraft in 2018. Eventually, this rocket and capsule will carry humans into deep space and one day…Mars!



This year we updated the milestones for our InSight mission with a new target launch window beginning in May 2018. This mission will place a fixed science outpost on Mars to study its deep interior. Findings and research from this project will address one of the most fundamental questions we have about the planetary and solar system science…how in the world did these rocky planets form?

Solar System and Beyond



On July 4, our Juno spacecraft arrived at Jupiter. This mission is working to improve our understanding of the solar system’s beginnings by revealing the origin and evolution of Jupiter.



In September, we launched our OSIRIS-REx spacecraft…which is America’s first-ever asteroid sample return mission. This spacecraft will travel to a near-Earth asteroid, called Bennu, where it will collect a sample to bring back to Earth for study.

James Webb Space Telescope


In February, the final primary mirror segment of our James Webb Space Telescope was installed. This will be the world’s most powerful space telescope ever, and is scheduled to launch in 2018. Webb will look back in time, studying the very first galaxies ever formed.



In May, our Kepler mission verified the discovery of 1,284 new planets. Kepler is the first NASA mission to find potentially habitably Earth-sized planets.

Earth Right Now

Earth Expeditions


Our efforts to improve life on Earth included an announcement in March of a collection of Earth Science field campaigns to study how our planet is changing. These Earth Expeditions sent scientists to places like the edge of the Greenland ice sheet to the coral reefs of the South Pacific to delve into challenging questions about how our planet is changing…and what impacts humans are having on it.

Small Satellites


In November, we announced plans to launch six next-generation Earth-observing small satellite missions. One uses GPS signals to measure wind in hurricanes and tropical systems in greater detail than ever before.

Aeronautics Research

Our efforts in 2016 to make air travel cleaner, safer and quieter included new technology to improve safety and efficiency of aircraft arrivals, departures and service operations.



In June, we highlighted our first designation of an experimental airplane, or X-plane, in a decade. It will test new electric propulsion technology.

Drone Technolgy


In October, we evaluated a system being developed for the Federal Aviation Administration to safely manage drone air traffic.


Electric Propulsion


We selected Aerojet Rocketdyne to develop and advanced electric propulsion system to enable deep space travel to an asteroid and Mars.



Our technology transfer program continued to share the agency’s technology with industry, academia and other government agencies at an unprecedented rate.

Centennial Challenges


Our Centennial Challenges program conducted four competition events in 2016 to spark innovation and enable solutions in important technology focus areas.

Watch the full video recap of ‘This Year @NASA’ here:

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