2012 vs 2312: Landmarks and Changes in Space Exploration

2312_MMThis week, Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 (US | UK |AUS) was released in paperback! Robinson’s beautifully crafted novel came out over a year ago, and what a year it’s been. 2312 has since won the Nebula Award, was nominated for the Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke Awards, and was a Tiptree Award honoree. So if 2312 has been on your radar, now is a pretty good time to pick it up in paperback.

The last twelve months have seen some pretty big triumphs and losses in the space sciences, too. Let’s take a moment to reflect on some of those historic developments.

1. Asteroid Miners Wanted: The private sector has taken some huge leaps forward this year. In fact, when 2312 was released in hardcover, an asteroid mining company called Planetary Resources launched with the goal of eventually mining precious resources from near-earth objects. The timing could not have been more fitting since one of the technologies explored in 2312 is the mining and terraforming of asteroids. Most recently, Planetary Resources is wrapping up a Kickstarter project to fund their ARKYD telescope raising over $1,000,000 in the process.

2. Here Be Dragons:  The private sector scored another big win that summer when Space X successfully launched and recovered their first Dragon spacecraft  — becoming the first commercial spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station. Space X has a lot of great footage of their missions on their website which you should really check out.

3. Retirement of the Shuttle Program: One of the sadder stories of the year was the retirement of NASA’s shuttle program. Although I’m tickled pink to be able to visit the Shuttle Enterprise at the Intrepid Museum here in New York ,it is somewhat depressing to realize that the shuttles have all been grounded permanently.

4. Curiosity Arrives on Mars: As one era closes, a new one begins.  On August 6th, 2012 Curiosity landed on Mars. Unlike Spirit, which landed in 2004 at a time when fewer of us had high-speed Internet and vast social networks, Curiosity’s exploration of the fourth planet from the sun is something we can all easily feel connected to.

5. Voyager Missions Celebrate 35 Years in Operation: Launched in 1977 (the same year as Star Wars: A New Hope!), Voyager 1 and 2 are both still flying strong. Although neither probe has reached interstellar space yet, Voyager 1 penetrated a new region of Deep Space in December 2012, which is reason enough to celebrate and break out the Romulan ale.

6. Sally RideNeil ArmstrongJanice E. Voss, and Alan Poindexter Pass Away: We sadly loar several pioneers of space exploration in 2012. May they rest in peace and may the mission continue.

7. Chris Hadfield becomes my new favorite person: There really isn’t a better way to close out this list than by directing you to Commander Hadfield’s Youtube channel and what might be the best cover ever.

I could probably go on – and on and on – about this, but I’ll stop there and turn it over to you. Let us know what made your highlight reel. Were you able to see any of the shuttle fly-overs? Show us some pictures!