2011 has been a good year. We’ve discovered lots of new planets, including a few that could be able to support life, found out neutrinos might travel faster than light, and learned that quantum mechanics, the science of atoms and subatomic partials, sometimes works on much larger scales. As exciting as all that was, next year promises to be even better.
In February, SpaceX will become the first private company to send a spaceship to the International Space Station. Following NASA’s deep budget cuts in 2010, the private space industry has expanded rapidly. Privately owned spacecraft are no longer just for tourists; they will also become a taxi service for NASA astronauts. If all goes well, February’s SpaceX mission will be the first of many.
In August, the largest robotic probe ever sent to another planet will land safely (crosses fingers) on Mars. The Curiosity rover will search for signs of Martian life, either living or extinct. Resent studies have shown that Mars is not as barren as we once thought and that it has many of the chemicals and conditions needed for life to develop. There’s even circumstantial evidence that microscopic life exists there right now.
Lastly, scientists say they will either discover the Higgs Boson by the end of 2012 or prove that it doesn’t exist. The Higgs Boson is predicted by the standard model of particle physics, but no one has been able to find it. Soon, they will run out of places to look. If it turns out the Higgs doesn’t exist than there is something wrong with the standard model, and physicists will have to develop a whole new theory to explain how subatomic particles work.
These are just some of the stories we already know about. Imagine all the surprises 2012 will bring in addition to the things we’ve scheduled and are able to predict!
Tomorrow: Science Fiction in 2012.