The first successful soft landing on a comet wasn't just the biggest space story of the year. It was probably also the biggest science story of 2014.
The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft traveled 10 years to drop the Philae lander onto a comet. The landing was bumpy, but scientists were able to conduct a few days worth of experiments on the comet's surface that first week.
In October, we got a rare close look at a comet on a once-in-a-million-years journey. The comet came so close to Mars that humanity's orbiters circling the Red Planet actually had to hide on the other side to avoid the comet's debris cloud.
The orbiters and rovers on the surface were still able to capture images of the comet as it whizzed by.
Caption byEric Mack / Photo by DarinK/deviantART/CC License
2014 was not a year without tragedy in space and near-space exploration. In October, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo crashed, killing one pilot.
This came within days of an explosion that happened after the liftoff of an unmanned Antares rocket carrying a payload to the International Space Station. Also, in August a SpaceX rocket exploded over Texas during a test flight.
In a year when science began to make amazing feats look easy, these were three reminders of the old adage that "space is hard."
Caption byEric Mack / Photo by Video screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET
In a year when Mars rovers continued to expand our understanding of the Red Planet, momentum continued to build for a manned mission to our distant neighbor.
NASA is looking seriously at "deep sleep" methods to easily get humans to Mars, likely in the 2030s. Elon Musk started talking about getting mankind to Mars in half that time, and Mars One is already looking for astronauts to blast off in less than a decade's time, despite potential problems and a fatwa.
Caption byEric Mack / Photo by Mars One/Bryan Versteeg
In March, researchers announced a groundbreaking discovery that could confirm our understanding of where we, and everything, comes from.
Scientists believed they had spotted evidence of the gravitational waves Albert Einstein predicted, remnants of the fantastic expansion of the universe that took place moments after the Big Bang.
Many think these waves could be the key to the sought-after "theory of everything," while others say the researchers may have made an error, mistaking something else for the existential ripples in space time.
Caption byEric Mack / Photo by A Spacecraft For All screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET
China succeeded in putting a rover named "Jade Rabbit" on the moon, but it was quickly beset by technical problems that jeopardized its mission, prompting Patrick Stewart to perform a "moving" farewell.