Kate HowellsDec 07, 2020

The Best of 2020

In November 2020 we asked our members and supporters to cast their votes for the year's planetary science and exploration highlights. Here are the winners!

Best solar system image

Taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft in September, you chose this for your favorite solar system image of 2020. How could anyone not love such a stunning view of Jupiter's clouds?

Juno view of Jupiter, September 2020
Juno view of Jupiter, September 2020 NASA's Juno spacecraft captured this view of Jupiter's swirling clouds during its 29th close pass over the giant planet in September 2020.Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill

Most exciting planetary science moment

It was undoubtedly thrilling when NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully collected a sample from asteroid Bennu. Relive the moment with our guide below.

Your Guide to the OSIRIS-REx sample collection

NASA's OSIRIS-REx successfully collected a sample from asteroid Bennu on 20 October 2020.

Best comet NEOWISE image

The appearance of comet NEOWISE in mid-2020 was a welcome surprise for skywatchers. Although every view of comet NEOWISE blows us away, this gorgeous view against a starry background was your favorite.

Comet NEOWISE aligned to the stars
Comet NEOWISE aligned to the stars This image of comet NEOWISE was taken with a 15-minute exposure, and aligned to the background stars.Image: SimgDe

Planetary science mission of the year

You made OSIRIS-REx your mission of the year, in addition to voting the spacecraft's sample collection at asteroid Bennu as your most exciting moment.

OSIRIS-REx, NASA's sample return mission to asteroid Bennu

NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission returned a sample of asteroid Bennu to Earth in 2023.

Best LightSail 2 photo of Earth taken this year

This was a tight race, but the image you loved the most was this shimmering view of LightSail 2 above southeastern Africa.

LightSail 2 image of southeast Africa
LightSail 2 image of southeast Africa This image taken by The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 spacecraft on 7 September 2020 shows Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi and the southern portion of Madagascar across the Mozambique channel. Lake Kariba is at left and Lake Malawi can be seen towards the horizon. North is approximately at the upper-left.Image: The Planetary Society

Most exciting upcoming mission

We're as excited as you are for NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope mission. 

James Webb Space Telescope, the world's new great space observatory

JWST is observing galaxies that formed just after the Big Bang and determining whether planets orbiting other stars could support life.

Best human spaceflight image

You voted this photo from the SpaceX Crew-1 mission as your favorite. The four astronauts made the first operational flight to the International Space Station under NASA's Commercial Crew program.

SpaceX Crew-1 crew members
SpaceX Crew-1 crew members The second crew to fly aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon vehicle pose prior to their scheduled October 2020 mission to the International Space Station. From left to right: mission specialist Shannon Walker, pilot Victor Glover, Crew Dragon commander Mike Hopkins, and mission specialist Soichi Noguchi.Image: SpaceX

The best thing that The Planetary Society accomplished with the support of our members

The people's solar sailing spacecraft, LightSail 2, completed its primary mission this year, an accomplishment that won for the best thing we achieved with your help. Thank you!

LightSail 2 completes its primary mission to demonstrate controlled solar sailing for cubesats

One year after launch, The Planetary Society’s solar sail spacecraft is embarking on an extended mission dedicated to further advancing solar sailing technology.

More than 3,000 people cast their votes for the best of 2020. Thanks for your support, and we looking forward to doing this again in 2021. Onward!

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