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Previous year: 2007


Multi-polar world in space

While NASA had remained an uncontested leader in space exploration with its breakthrough science from faraway corners of the Solar System, other space powers continued extending their reach beyond Earth in 2008. The International Space Station had finally received its long-delayed European and Japanese-built laboratories, Chinese "taikonauts" mastered art of walking in space and Indian probe joined Japanese and Chinese spacecraft in the lunar orbit.

TOP 10 SPACE EXPLORATION ACHIEVEMENTS OF 2008:

1. Phoenix smells Martian water

Laboratory tests aboard NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander, which successfully landed on the Red Planet on May 25, have identified water in a soil sample. It was the first time ever "Martian water has been touched and tasted," said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead scientist for the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA, instrument onboard the lander.

2. Cassini spies on geysers of Enceladus, lakes of Titan

During 2008, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has pinpointed precisely where the icy jets erupt from the surface of Saturn's geologically active moon Enceladus. A series of carefully targeted pictures taken during the August 11 flyby of the moon revealed exquisite details in the prominent south polar "tiger stripe" fractures from which the jets emanate. The images revealed 300 meters-deep canyons, with V-shaped inner walls.

In the meantime, data from Cassini showed that at least one of the large lakes observed on Saturn's moon Titan contains liquid hydrocarbons, and have positively identified the presence of ethane. This makes Titan the only body in our solar system beyond Earth known to have liquid on its surface.

3. NASA returns to Mercury

On Jan 14 and Oct. 6, NASA's Messenger spacecraft flew by Mercury revealing never before seen regions of the planet closest to the Sun.

4. COROT reveals planet around Sun-like star

A team of European scientists working with the COROT space telescope have discovered an exoplanet orbiting a star slightly more massive than the Sun.

5. Rosetta images ancient space rock

On Sept. 5, ESA's comet chaser, Rosetta, flew by a small body in the main asteroid belt, asteroid Steins, delivering first view and data about this rare type of minor Solar System body.

6. Spacewalk: a small step for the US and Russia, giant leap for the Chinese

On Sept. 25, after almost a three-year gap in manned missions, the Chinese Shenzhou-7 spacecraft with a crew of three blasted off from Jiuquan launch site.Two days into the mission, Zhai Zhigang conducted the first spacewalk in the Chinese space program. The astronaut spent around 14 minutes outside of the spacecraft, while his crewmate, Liu Boming, briefly got his head and upper torso out of the hatch of the orbital module. He handed Zhigang a Chinese flag, which spurred numerous applauds among countless viewers on the ground, who watched the event on numerous displays installed on the streets of Chinese cities.

Around two hours after the spacewalk, the Shenzhou-7 released a small satellite, which was apparently intended to facilitate the practice of docking maneuvers, which was planned to be achieved in 2010. "The task (of the satellite) will test our ability to observe and control two satellites in relative motion," said Zhou Jianping, chief designer of the country's manned space program, in an earlier interview with China's official Xinhua news agency.

7. India reaches the Moon

In its first attempt, India successfully placed probe into the lunar orbit and sends an impactor onto the surface of the Moon, joining Japan and China in the unmanned exploration of the Moon.

8. Europeans in space: so close, so far

In 2008, Europe launched the ATV cargo ship to the International Space Station, coming ever closer to sending a man in space. However hopes for Russian-European cooperation on the next generation manned spacecraft or for the aggressive European manned project did not materialize, as European ministers adopted a snail pace for the venture during a November conference.

9. Just two billion years late: a probe data hints long-standing oceans on Mars

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter revealed Martian rocks containing a hydrated mineral similar to opal. The presence of opal in these relatively young rocks tells scientists that water, possibly as rivers and small ponds, interacted with the surface as recently as two billion years ago, one billion years later than scientists had expected.

10. Far and wide: Mars Odyssey confirms expansive water world of Mars

An international team of scientists who analyzed data from the Gamma Ray Spectrometer onboard NASA's Mars Odyssey reported new evidence for the controversial idea that oceans once covered about a third of ancient Mars.


OTHER MAJOR SPACE EVENTS OF 2008:

The Cold War returns… in a multifaceted way

If worsening US-Russian relations, and Chinese anti-satellite tests in 2007 were not enough to re-ignite a global arms race, events of the following year went a long way to correct that. But unlike the 20th century Cold War fought by only two superpowers, this time, the world stage seemed crowded with egomaniacs vying for global or regional domination.

Iranian rocket launch

On Feb. 4, 2008, Iran launched what it said to be a research rocket dubbed Kavoshgar (Explorer) on a ballistic trajectory as high as 200 or 250 kilometers. The broadcast of the event on the Iranian TV was accompanied by apocalyptic shouts “Allah Akbar,” as the “launch vehicle” blasted into the sky.

This “space shot” was condemned not only by the West, but even by Russia, Iran’s traditional ally. Russian diplomats found themselves in the awkward position of expressing concern about Iranian intentions, while at the same time arguing that the planned US missile defense shield had no justification, aside from undermining Russian security.

Iran promised to follow this ballistic flight with an orbital launch in the summer of 2008, although some careless Western media (especially when it comes to interpreting any language but English), credited Iran with reaching orbit far ahead of time. On Feb. 17, wire reports, quoting Mohsen Mir Shams, the deputy head of Iran's space organization, said that the Iranian rocket launched on Feb. 4 “was transmitting” data from space On Aug. 17, Iran did fire what appeared to be a satellite launch vehicle, however by most accounts, it failed to reach orbit.

US satellite intercept

Not to be outdone (or not to appear having too much political wisdom), the US government announced on Feb. 14, it would destroy a failed military satellite. Unlike the cagey Chinese generals who ordered the clandestine anti-satellite shot of 2007, the PR-savvy Bush administration had no intention of keeping its test secret. Instead, it managed to sell to the public America’s first use of weapons in space since the 1980’s as a measure to protect the world from dangerous space junk containing frozen hydrazine fuel.

Repeating its unscrupulous reporting on "weapons of mass destruction" in the run-up to the Iraq War, the New York Times once again led the American media in disseminating official myths without much scrutiny. It prophesized that a spacecraft "the size of a school bus" could rain down its toxic debris onto populated areas. In reality, the culprit satellite was launched by a medium-lift Delta rocket, which could not carry anything close to a school bus or, for that matter, anything in size that could produce large debris reaching the ground.   

The New York Times also believed a truly ludicrous government claim that a fuel tank with toxic propellant (onboard doomed satellite) "was sturdy enough to survive reentry, based on studies of the fuel tank that fell to earth after the Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003." It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that fuel tanks from Columbia made it to the ground only because they were inside a 100-ton vehicle protected by a massive layer of thermal tiles designed to withstand multiple reentries. Despite a fatal breach in its wing, Columbia’s heat shield still preserved the vehicle during the initial phase of reentry, preventing its massive debris from completely burning up before reaching the ground. This situation can not be possibly compared to the reentry of a 2.5-ton satellite, which would simply evaporate in the searing heat of plasma, high in the stratosphere, if it was left to decay from its orbit naturally.

Most observers inside and outside the United States described the anti-satellite test as a thinly veiled demonstration of force (and cowboy mentality) to China and Russia. In the process, this decision also revealed the unexpected capabilities of the Standard Missile-3, used in the intercept. It was officially developed specifically for an anti-missile role and observers did not realize it could fly high enough to destroy an orbiting satellite.  

Amazingly, the US government, which just a year ago denounced China for littering space with dangerous debris, claimed that the American satellite intercept would not produce space junk endangering functional satellites. Yet, at the same time, a Navy destroyer assigned to conduct the intercept had to hold fire, until the Space Shuttle Atlantis on a mission to the International Space Station, returned home on February 20.

Just a few hours after Atlantis’ landing, the Navy vessel fired a Standard Missile-3 and apparently scored a hit, "successfully" completing the mission and sending an untold number of debris in every direction, possibly into higher long-lasting orbits.

Despite being an impressive engineering achievement, a satellite kill is less difficult than the intercept of an incoming ballistic missile. Unlike the enemy missile, the satellite’s orbit can be predicted long in advance of the actual intercept. Thus, it is possible to speculate that the US intercept has served as an additional incentive for the Russian government to accelerate its already ongoing efforts to perfect its ballistic missiles.


ORBITAL LAUNCH ATTEMPTS IN 2008 (as of December 31, 2012 ):

  Country Launch date
Time of launch
Payload
Launch vehicle
Launch site
Launch complex
Launch pad
Launch results
1 International 1/15/2008
1149 GMT

Thuraya-3 (UAE)

Pacific Ocean
-
Success
2 India 1/21/2008
0345 GMT

TECSAR (Israel)

PSLV-C10 Sriharikota (SHAR)
First Launch Pad (FLP)
1
Success
3 Russia 1/28/2008
03:18 Moscow Time
Proton-M Baikonur
-
Success
4 Russia 2/05/2008
16:02:57 Moscow Time

Progress M-63

Soyuz-U Baikonur
1
5
Success
5 US 2/07/2008
2:45:30 p.m. EST

Columbus (ESA)

Space Shuttle Cape Canaveral
39
A
Success
6 Russia 2/11/2008
14:34 Moscow Time

THOR-5

Proton-M Baikonur
-
Success
7 Japan 2/23/2008
5:55 p.m. Japan Standard Time

KIZUNA

H-IIA F14 Tanegashima
-
-
Success
8 ESA 3/9/2008
01:03 Kourou
Ariane-5 ES Kourou
3
Success
9 US 3/11/2008
2:28 a.m. EDT

Kibo logistics

Space Shuttle Cape Canaveral
39
-
Success
10 US 3/13/2008
3:02 a.m. PDT (10:02 GMT)

NROL-28

Atlas-5 (AV-006) Vandenberg AFB
SLC-3 East
3
Success
11 US 3/15/2008
2:10 a.m. EDT (06:10 GMT)

GPS 2R-19

Delta-2 (7925) Cape Canaveral
SLC-17
A
Success
12 Russia 3/15/2008
02:18:55 Moscow

AMC-14

Proton-M/Briz-M Baikonur
-
-
Failure
13 International 3/19/2008
22:48 GMT

DIRECTV 11

Zenit-3SL Pacific Ocean
-
Success
14 Russia 3/27/2008
20:15 Moscow

SAR-Lupe-4

Cosmos-3M Plesetsk
-
-
Success
15 Russia 4/8/2008
15:16 Moscow
Soyuz FG Baikonur
1
5
Success
16 US 4/14/2008
4:12 p.m. EDT (20:12 GMT)

ICO G1

Atlas-5 (AV-014) Cape Canaveral
41
-
Success
17 US 4/16/2008
17:01 GMT

C/NOFS

Pegasus XL Kwajalein Atoll
L-1011 aircraft
-
Success
18 ESA 4/10/2008
7:17 p.m. Kourou

Star One C2
VINSAT-1

Ariane-5 ECA Kourou
3
Success
19 China 4/25/2008
15:35 GMT

Tianlian 1

Chang Zheng -3C Xichang
-
-
Success
20 Russia 4/27/2008
02:16 Moscow

GIOVE-B

Soyuz FG Baikonur
6
Success
21 India 4/28/2008
03:53:51 GMT

Cartosat 2A
IMS-1
CUTE 1.7
SEEDS
CAN-X2
AAUSAT-II
COMPASS-1
DELPHI-C3
NLS-5

RUBIN-8

PSLV Sriharikota (SHAR)
-
-
Success
22 Russia 4/28/2008 09:00 Moscow Time

AMOS-3

Zenit-3SLB Baikonur
-
Success
23 Russia 5/15/2008 00:22:56 Moscow Time

Progress M-64

Soyuz U Baikonur
1
5
Success
24 International 5/21/2008
09:43 GMT

Galaxy 18

Pacific Ocean
-
-
25 Russia 5/23/2008
19:20:09 Moscow

Kosmos-2437
Kosmos-2438
Kosmos-2439 (Rodnik 3 Strela-3)
Yubeleiny

Plesetsk
-
-
-
26 China 5/27/2008
03:02 GMT

Feng Yun 3A

Chang Zheng -4C Taiyuan
-
-
Success
27 US 5/31/2008
5:02 p.m. EDT

Kibo lab module

Space Shuttle Cape Canaveral
39
A
Success
28 China 6/9/2008
20:15 local

ChinaSat-9 (Zhongxing-9)

Chang Zheng 3B Xichang
2(W)
-
Success
29 US 6/11/2008
12:05 p.m. EDT

GLAST

Delta-2 7920-H Cape Canaveral
17
B
Success
30 ESA 6/12/2008
7:05 p.m. Kourou (22:05 UT)

Skynet 5C
Turksat 3A

Ariane-5 ECA Kourou
3
Success
31 Russia 6/19/2008
10:36:45 Moscow Time

QuickLaunch
QuickLaunch
QuickLaunch
QuickLaunch
QuickLaunch
CDS-3

Cosmos-3M Kapustin Yar
-
-
Success
32 US 6/20/2008
07:46:25 GMT

Jason 2

Delta-2 7320 Vandenberg AFB
SLC-2W
W
Success
33 Russia 6/26/2008
03:59 Moscow

Kosmos-2440

Proton-K
Block DM
Baikonur
-
Success
34 ESA 7/7/2008
18:47 Kourou (21:47 UT)

ProtoStar I
BADR-6

Ariane-5 ECA Kourou
3
Success
35 International 7/16/2008
05:21 GMT

EchoStar XI

Pacific Ocean
-
Success
36 Russia 7/22/2008
06:40:09 Moscow

SAR-Lupe-5

Cosmos-3M Plesetsk
-
-
Success
37 Russia 7/26/2008
22:31 Moscow

Kosmos-2441 (Persona)

Soyuz 2-1b Plesetsk
-
-
Success
38 US 8/3/2008
03:34 GMT

Trailblazer
PRESat
NanoSail-D

Falcon 1 Omelek Island
-
-
Failed to reach orbit
39 ESA 8/14/2008
5:44 p.m. local time

Superbird-7 AMC-21

Ariane-5 Kourou
3
Success
40 Iran 8/17/2008
?

?

Safir Omid -
-
-
Failed to reach orbit
41 Russia 8/19/2008
04:43 local

Inmarsat-4 F3

Proton M Baikonur
39
Success
42 Russia 8/29/2008
11:15:53 Moscow

RapidEye-1
RapidEye-2
RapidEye-3
RapidEye-4
RapidEye-5

Dnepr Baikonur
-
Success
43 China 9/6/2008
03:25 GMT

Environment 1, 2

Chang Zheng 2C Taiyuan
-
-
Success
44 US 9/6/2008
18:50:57 GMT

GeoEye 1

Delta 2 (7420) Vandenberg AFB
SLC-2W
W
Success
45 Russia 9/10/2008
23:50 Moscow Time

Progress M-65

Soyuz-U Baikonur
1
5
Success
46 Russia 9/20/2008
03:48 local

Nimiq 4

Proton M Baikonur
-
Success
47 International 9/24/2008
09:28 GMT

Galaxy 19 (IA-9)

Pacific Ocean
-
Success
48 Russia 9/25/2008
12:49 Moscow

Kosmos-2440
Kosmos-2441
Kosmos-2442
(GLONASS-M)

Proton M Baikonur
-
-
Success
49 China 9/25/2008
21:10:04 Beijing (13:10:04 GMT)

Shenzhou-7

Chang Zheng 2F Jiuquan
-
-
Success
50 US 9/28/2008
23:15 GMT

Mass simulator

Falcon 1 Omelek Island
-
-
Success
51 Russia 10/1/2008 10:37 Moscow Time

THEOS

Dnepr Dombarovskiy
-
-
Success
52 Russia 10/12/2008
11:01 Moscow
Soyuz FG Baikonur
1
5
Success
53 US 10/19/2008
1:47 p.m. EDT

IBEX

Pegasus XL Kwajalein Atoll
L-1011 aircraft
-
Success
54 India 10/22/2008
00:52 GMT

Chandrayaan 1

PSLV Sriharikota
-
-
Success
55 China 10/25/2008
01:15 GMT

Shijian 6 A
Shijian 6 B

Chang Zheng 4B Taiyuan
-
-
Success
56 US 10/25/2008
02:28:25 GMT

COSMO-SkyMed

Delta 2 (7420) Vandenberg
SLC-2W
W
Success
57 China 10/29/2008
-

VENESAT 1 (Simon Bolivar 1)

Chang Zheng 3B Xichang
2
-
Success
58 China 11/5/2008
00:15 GMT

Shiyan 3Chuangxin 1-02

Chang Zheng 2D Jiuquan
-
-
Success
59 Russia 11/6/2008
02:44:20 local

ASTRA 1M

Proton M Baikonur
-
-
Success
60 Russia 11/14/2008
18:50 Moscow Time

Kosmos-2445 (Kobalt-M)

Soyuz U Plesetsk
2
Success
61 US 11/14/2008
7:55:39 p.m. EST

MPLM

Space Shuttle Cape Canaveral
39
A
Success
62 Russia 11/26/2008
15:38 Moscow Time
Soyuz-U Baikonur
1
5
Success
63 China 12/1/2008 12:42 Local?

Yaogan-4

Chang Zheng 2D Jiuquan
-
-
Success
64 Russia 12/2/2008
08:00 Moscow Time

Kosmos-2446 (Oko)

Molniya-M Plesetsk
-
-
Success
65 Russia 12/10/2008
16:43 Moscow Time

Ciel-2

Proton M Baikonur
39
Success
66 China 12/15/2008 11:22 Local

Yaogan-5

Chang Zheng 4B Taiyuan
-
-
Success
67 ESA 12/20/2008
22:35:07 GMT

Hot Bird 9 W2M

Ariane-5 ECA Kourou
3
Success
68 China 12/23/2008
00:54 GMT

Feng Yun 2E

Chang Zheng 3A Xichang
-
-
Success
69 Russia 12/25/2008
13:43 Moscow
Proton M Baikonur
-
-
Success

The 2008 space launch score card (as of December 31, 2012 ):

Country
Total launches
Failures
Russia*:
27
1
US**:
15
1
China:
11
0
ESA/Arianespace:
6
0
Sea Launch:
5
0
India:
3
0
Japan:
1
0
Iran:
1
1
Totals:
69
3

*Not including Zenit-3SL missions from the Sea Launch platform; **Including "private" Falcon 1 launches


2008: Russia to launch the TNS-O No. 2 nano-satellite developed by RNII KP in cooperation with the University of Bremen for testing flight control systems via Globalstar network and mobile phones.

End of 2008: Russia to launch the TNS-1 nano-satellite developed by RNII KP for testing technologies for a medium-resolution remote-sensing system.

Dnepr to launch Ukraine's Sich-2 remote-sensing satellite.

Dnepr to launch VENµS from Baikonur.


Next year: 2009


Compiled by Anatoly Zak and S. Günes; Last update: December 31, 2012

Editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: February 24, 2008

Copyright © 2008 RussianSpaceWeb.com

Major space events
(in chronological order):

Thuraya

The Zenit rocket with the Thuraya-3 communications satellite lifts off on Jan. 15, 2008, bringing the Sea Launch venture, back in business a year after a launch accident. Credit: Sea Launch


Kavoshgar

An Iranian rocket dubbed Kavoshgar (Explorer) shortly before launch on Feb. 4, 2008. Credit: BBC


GSTB-V2

After many delays, the Soyuz rocket finally launched, GIOVE B (GSTB V2) a second test version of Europe's Galileo navigation satellite on April 27, 2008. EADS Astrium consortium displayed at scale model of the spacecraft in 2005. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2005 Anatoly Zak


Lunar Lander

ILA-2008 air and space show took place in Berlin, Germany, on May 29-June 1, 2008, highlighting Europe's space hopes in the wake of the Columbus laboratory's and ATV cargo ship's inauguration. Copyright © 2008 Anatoly Zak


Enceladus

Along with magnificent views of Enceladus, NASA's Cassini spacecraft delivered fascinating scientific data about this remarkable natural moon of Saturn during 2008. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA


mars

Martian surface near the planet's north pole, where NASA's Phoenix spacecraft found water ice, following its treacherous landing on May 25, 2008. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA


Steins

On Sept. 5, 2008, Europe's Rosetta spacecraft, flew by an asteroid Steins, revealing a previously unseen view of a diamond-shaped space rock. Credit: ESA


Shenzhou-7

On Sept. 27, Zhai Zhigang conducted the first spacewalk in the Chinese space flight. As a number of other elements of the nation's space program, the spacesuit used in the mission closely resembled Russian hardware.


Companionsat

On Sept. 27, Shenzhou-7 spacecraft took the first "self-portrait" by means of a small "Companionsat," which was launched by the crew a couple of hours after the first Chinese spacewalk. Copyright © 2008 Anatoly Zak


Mercury

A spectacular image taken on Oct. 6, by NASA's Messenger spacecraft reveals a giant 80-kilometer-wide crater with bright rays of impact debris extending hundreds of kilometers across ancient surface of Mercury. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA/APL


Chandrayaan-1

India's Chandrayaan-1 mission lifts off on its way to the Moon on Oct. 22. Click to enlarge. Credit: ISRO