#1. We Landed on a Comet!
In November, mankind made yet another giant leap: We landed a robot on a comet! The robot, called, Philae, was launched with the Rosetta space probe more than ten years ago. The pathway Rosetta took to rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was long and convoluted. According to the European Space Agency, who launched the probe:
[R]endezvousing with the comet required travelling a cumulative distance of over 6.4 billion kilometres. As no launcher was capable of directly injecting Rosetta into such an orbit, gravity assists were needed from four planetary flybys – one of Mars (2007) and three of Earth (2005, 2007 and 2009) – a long circuitous trip that took ten years to complete.
The sheer physical/mathematical complexity and technical prowess required to successfully complete the mission made NASA's Mars rover ("Curiosity") landing look like child's play. Unfortunately, the mission received far less media coverage in America (presumably because it wasn't a NASA mission), and the media coverage it did receive was dominated by a small -- but incredibly vocal -- group of people who seemed more interested in scolding the lead scientist for wearing a tacky shirt than in celebrating one of humanity's finest achievements. What a pity.