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NASA Year 2001 in Review NASA 2001:
Notable science and
engineering marvels
muted by tragic events
of September 11
NASA leadership change. Flags for heroes and families. Mars Odyssey arrives while Global Surveyor works. Search for universal live. Remote sensing Earth's climate change. GPS satellites assist farmers and in disasters. Research stops light and aids biomedicine. Deep Space 1 visits comet while NEAR lands on asteroid. Shuttle 20th anniversary during space station year of habitation. Next-generation shuttle, synthetic vision, Helios.

NASA leadership change

NASA will have new leadership fsor the first time in nearly a decade. In 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush nominated Sean O'Keefe, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, to be the agency's new Administrator. He will replace Daniel S. Goldin, the longest-serving Administrator in NASA's history, who resigned in November 2001 after serving more than nine years under three presidents. During the transition period, Dr. Daniel R. Mulville, NASA's associate deputy administrator, was Acting Administrator.

Learn more about the change of NASA leadership

Flags for heroes and families

The tragic events of September 11 in America brought the nation together with a new sense of pride and determination. Expedition Three crew commander Frank Culbertson, the only American not on Earth the day of the attacks, documented visible signs of the destruction on Earth from his high vantage point aboard the International Space Station Alpha. Later, to honor heroes killed and hurt in New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania, NASA sent 6,000 American flags into space aboard space shuttle Endeavour. The flags then were distributed to victims and their families.

Learn more about the 6,000 flags

Mars Odyssey arrives while Global Surveyor works

NASA's Mars exploration program rebounded in 2001 when the Mars Odyssey spacecraft successfully flew into orbit around the Red Planet after a six-month, 286-million mile journey. Meanwhile, NASA's Mars Global Surveyor sent back its 100,000th image of the Martian surface during 2001. The orbiter had been snapping dramatic and images for four years. In 2001, Mars Global Surveyor, in tandem with the Hubble Space Telescope, had a ringside seat to the largest global dust storm on the Martian surface seen in decades.

Learn more about Mars exploration

Search for universal life

Is there life on another world somewhere else in the Universe? In 2001, Astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to measure the atmosphere of a planet outside our own Solar System. Funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation, astronomers discovered eight extrasolar planets that have circular orbits, similar to the orbits of planets in our Solar System. In addition, NASA's Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite (SWAS) provided the first evidence of water-bearing worlds beyond our Solar System.

Learn more about the search for other worlds

Remote sensing Earth's climate change

The first complete "biological record of Earth" was created with data from the space agency's Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-View sensor (SeaWiFS). In addition, scientists suggested Earth is becoming a greener greenhouse with plant life in the northern latitudes growing more vigorously since 1981. NASA also released a new map of Antarctica made with Radarsat data. Using the new map and comparing it with a 1981 map, researchers will track Antarctic ice changes to understand the relationship of the global environment and climate change. Also, NASA research suggested that desert dust in the atmosphere over Africa might inhibit rainfall in the region, contributing to drought conditions.

Learn more about climate change

GPS satellites assist farmers and in disasters

NASA announced a commercial partnership that will place advanced global positioning (GPS) technologies in farm equipment. The equipment will help farmers navigate fields in poor weather and at night. During Summer 2001, NASA satellites tracked spreading wildfires in the western United States, helping federal, state and local governments mitigate these natural disasters.

Learn more about NASA Earth sciences enterprises

Research stops light and aids biomedicine

Using lasers developed by NASA, researchers discovered a way to bring a beam of light to a stop, store it, and then send it on its way. The discovery could advance lead to next-generation technologies, such as increasing the speed of computers. A revolutionary early breast cancer detection tool based on NASA technology began human clinical trials in November. The technology may one day allow physicians to diagnose tumors without surgery. In 2001, NASA and the National Cancer Institute began a three-year program to explore new biomedical technologies to develop and study microscopically small sensors that can detect changes at the cellular and molecular level.

Learn more about NASA science

Deep Space 1 visits comet while NEAR lands on asteroid

NASA's Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous NEAR-Shoemaker spacecraft did something it wasn't designed to do when mission managers gently landed the spacecraft on the asteroid Eros in 2001 after a year-long orbital mission. Also, in a risky fly-by maneuver, the Deep Space 1 spacecraft successfully navigated past a comet, giving researchers an unprecedented view inside the glowing core of icy dust and gas. During 2001, a NASA-funded research team presented evidence that Earth's most severe mass extinction -- an event 250 million years ago that wiped out 90 percent of life on Earth -- was triggered by a collision with a comet or an asteroid.

Learn more about exploring comets and asteroids

Shuttle 20th anniversary during space station year of habitation

Celebrating its first full year of human habitation, the International Space Station's research odyssey began in 2001 with the launch of the Destiny module -- the first science lab delivered to the orbiting science station. The space station is now the most complex and most powerful spacecraft ever built. Facing future money problems, an independent task force produced a report in 2001 to help managers get the program back on track. The construction of International Space Station Alpha is made possible by NASA's fleet of powerful space shuttles. That fleet celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2001. Across two decades, it carried more than three million pounds of cargo and more than 600 passengers into space.

Learn more about space shuttles and space stations

Next-generation shuttle, synthetic vision, Helios

In 2001, NASA started designing the technologies needed to build a second-generation reusable launch vehicle -- the next space shuttle fleet. NASA's Space Launch Initiative (SLI) also will identify 21st-century designs that can provide safer, more reliable, less expensive access to space. NASA's propeller-driven Helios aircraft used solar energy instead of rocket fuel to set a world record altitude of 96,500 feet. Also, NASA researchers tested a revolutionary cockpit display that will offer pilots an electronic picture of what is outside their windows, no matter the weather or time of day. Known as synthetic vision, it will show terrain, ground obstacles, air traffic and other important data to a flight crew.

Learn more about the next generation space shuttle

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