NASA will end the year in disappointment, but still has things to be happy about

Even though NASA was forced to delay the launch of shuttle Atlantis until next year, the U.S. space agency still had what I consider to be a successful year.

The delay was caused by fuel sensors aboard the shuttle that were not functioning properly.  The malfunctioning fuel sensors are necessary to ensure the shuttle's engines are shut off if the fuel tank is completely empty - if the engines don't shut off, an explosion is possible.

I'm disappointed to hear that the last manned NASA mission of the year will be delayed until January 2, but astronaut safety should obviously be the most important factor during a shuttle launch.  As NASA desperately tries to complete construction on the ISS before the shuttle is retired, look forward to another busy year next year.

NASA and the European Space Agency hoped to deliver and install the European space lab, but the mission will have to wait until the first week of January.

While I still receive the occasional e-mail from readers who seem to be dismayed that launching a shuttle is no easy task, it looks like casual space observers appreciate the work NASA did this year.

Other nations besides the United States also have something to cheer about going into the holidays.  JAXA finally was able to finally launch its SELENE moon mission, even though it was delayed a bit longer than the agency wanted.  JAXA and NHK sent high-definition images and videos of the moon and a unique Earth-rise video.  The Chinese space agency's Chang'e I lunar probe also successfully launched and now is returning images back to Earth.

As the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) reveals further mission plans it has, the Asian space race should only continue to heat up over the next 20 years.  South Korea wants to send a probe to the moon, but the nation is only beginning its space endeavors -- look for more nations to join the space race later.

As expected, the European Space Agency and Russia also had good levels of success with their anticipated goals for space missions over the past year.

I hope 2008 proves to be as exciting as 2007 for the space community.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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