Spaceflight in 2010: A Year of Historic Milestones

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo private suborbital spacecraft makes its first solo test flight on October 10, 2010. (Image credit: Mark Greenberg)

This year was a big one for spaceflight, with governmental

During this watershed year, for example, NASA changed course

Here's a brief rundown of the top six spaceflight

The first live-in crew arrived at the International Space

The fact that humanity has an established, decade-long presence on a space

Assembly of the station began in 1998 and is almost

NASA plans to operate the space station until at least 2020.

5. First Successful Solar Sail Mission

For years, engineers have dreamed about powering a craft

Ikaros lifted off on May 20 along

Ikaros is demonstrating the

Japan's space agency, for example, is planning to launch a

Three of the last-ever space shuttle missions lifted off

All of the 2010 shuttle missions delivered key parts and

The STS-131 mission of the shuttle Discovery launched April

Discovery was supposed to make another trip to the station

3. SpaceShipTwo's First Flights

Space tourism made some big strides in 2010, as Virgin Galactic's suborbital space plane SpaceShipTwo

SpaceShipTwo will eventually ferry

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson publicly unveiled SpaceShipTwo in December 2009. In March 2010, it made its

Next up is a powered test flight, giving SpaceShipTwo

2. SpaceX Launches, Returns

NASA will need help getting cargo to the space station after

On Dec. 8, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) became the first commercial outfit to launch and re-enter a spacecraft

The California-based company lifted its Dragon capsule into

The mission was the first test flight under NASA's

Dragon's next test flight could take it directly to the

1. NASA's New Space Plan

President Barack Obama's new plan for NASA, announced as

Gone, for example, is the Constellation program, which aimed

NASA's new direction isn't responsible for mothballing the

In the short term, Russian Soyuz spacecraft will ferry cargo

NASA would then be free to concentrate on more ambitious

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.