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NASA Looks Back at 2014 at Its Tops Space Achievements and Discoveries (VIDEO)

First Posted: Dec 29, 2014 07:08 AM EST

NASA has made some significant discoveries in 2014. Now, the space agency is taking a look back at some of the most notable achievements of the year as the United States rings in the new year.

What is probably first and foremost on the list is the journey to Mars. NASA is continuing its efforts to send an astronaut to the Red Planet, and the Orion spacecraft is one of the ways that the space agency will succeed. This year, Orion completed its first voyage to space during a four-and-a-half-hour flight test. This spacecraft is part of NASA's plan to develop new technologies and capabilities to send astronauts first to an asteroid and then to Mars.

"We continues to make great progress on our journey to Mars this year, awarding contracts to American companies who will return human space flight launches to U.S. soil, advancing space technology development, and successfully completing the first flight of Orion, the next deep space spacecraft in which our astronauts will travel," said Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, in a news release. "We moved forward on our work to create quieter, green airplanes and develop technologies to make air travel more efficient, and we advanced our study of our changing home planet, Earth, while increasing our understanding of others in our solar system and beyond."

In addition to Orion, NASA created groundbreaking contracts with its Commercial Crew Program. Boeing and SpaceX now transport U.S. crews to and from the International Space Station (ISS) using their CST-100 and Crew Dragon spacecraft. The goal is to end the nation's reliance on Russian spacecraft by 2017.

And Orion wasn't the only development when it comes to long-distance space missions. The SLS rocket, the most powerful ever built, moved from the concept phase to the development phase in 2014. This rocket could be huge in terms to shooting astronauts into space.

And although many know about the Mars rover Curiosity, NASA is moving forward with a new rover. In July, the agency announced its Mars Rover 2020, which is based on the successful Curiosity rover. Mars 2020 will carry instruments to conduct science and exploration technology investigations on Mars.

NASA has also set its sights on Earth. It's used its satellites to char how our very Earth is changing over time. They found that a rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appears to be in an irreversible state of decline, with nothing to stop the glaciers in the area from melting into the sea.

That's not all. The space agency revealed that the Kepler mission has discovered 715 new planets outside our solar system, which orbit 305 stars. Not only that, but the mission continues as more planets are uncovered.

Want to learn more about NASA's discoveries? You can find them all at NASA's website.

For more information, check out the video below, courtesy of YouTube.

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