Above and beyond
We found God, took a leap of faith and lost two of our science and space heroes
Although looking a little like Number 5, the kooky robot from the Short Circuit films, the Mars rover, Curiosity, is a much more professional, sensible and likeable automaton. And it needs to be, as it is charged with finding out if Mars ever had the conditions to support life.
On August 6th it landed in a crater on Mars after a tricky space voyage. Since then it has been taking photos and collecting souvenirs (soil samples) which it analyses before transmitting back to Earth-based boffins. Thus far, it has discovered that the soil on Mars has a "complex chemistry".
In God particle we trust
Well, hello, God! After a search that spanned five decades, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern in Switzerland announced in July that they may have found the elusive Higgs Boson, also known as the God particle. Named after Prof Peter Higgs, now 83, who theorised about its possible existence in 1964, the Higgs Boson is the final piece in the Standard Model of Physics puzzle. It's what gives everything mass - ie its shape - so we may finally have a unified theory of Kelly Brook. But we're not in quantum-physics heaven yet. But the science world is still being cagey, and we may not have confirmation of the Higgs Boson's discovery until sometime in 2013. Kevin Courtney
Go ahead, jump
Two months after Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner stepped outside the Red Bull Stratos capsule, 39km above the New Mexico desert, and prepared to freefall and flat spin his way into the history books, it is already difficult to recollect precisely what the point of the whole exercise was.
What will remain etched forever in the minds of the eight million people who followed his progress live on YouTube, however, is the spine-tingling moment when he paused momentarily at the capsule's ledge, with the curvature of the earth visible below, before dropping like a stone into the bright blue ether.
In the end, Baumgartner broke three world records: highest freefall, fastest freefall and the highest ever manned balloon flight. Perhaps just as significantly for his soft drink sponsors, the stunt was also the most watched live event in YouTube history.
One giant leap
Other deaths this year may have garnered more attention, but Neil Armstrong's is the only name assured of being remembered by the ages. A self-proclaimed "nerdy engineer", he flew bombing missions in Korea before joining the space programme. On July 20th 1969, as captain of the Apollo II, he became the first person to walk on the moon. Destined to live forever in the shadow of that great achievement, he took up a position at the University of Cincinnati and withdrew from public life.
He died in August, aged 82, after complications from coronary artery bypass surgery. A family statement paid tribute to his "service, accomplishment and modesty."
What is the stars?
A self-taught astronomer, a pipe-smoking eccentric and a wayward political thinker (whose views tended towards the far right), Patrick Moore had any number of claims to fame. He served in the Royal Air Force, authored more than 70 books, knew the likes of Orville Wright and Neil Armstrong and once played piano with Albert Einstein.
But perhaps Moore's most singular achievement was hosting The Sky at Night on BBC television for 55 years. He died on December 9th, aged 89.