The Top 16 Space Stories of 2011
4. New-planet Boom Faces a Budget Bust: You might expect think NASA would race to build on the success of the Kepler telescope. Instead, it is coming dangerously close to abandoning the search for other worlds.
6. In Memoriam: With great ambivalence we note the passing of the first and only reusable spaceship, the space shuttle, on July 21, 2011. Our prayers are with NASA.
12. China Launches Its First Space Laboratory: The would-be superpower advertises its technical and economic prowess with a giant flying billboard.
16. Astronomers Get First Look at Giant Asteroid: "Seeing the surface up close for the first time, in its true glory, is amazing," says Dawn project lead scientist Christopher Russell. "We're in awe."
23. The Moon Had a Long-Lost Twin: Computer simulations show the "big splat"from an ancient collision would have created "a pretty interesting spectacle for about 24 hours," says researcher Erik Asphaug.
25. Mercury's New Face: NASA's Messenger probe delivers impressive new views of the inner-most planet, which is in some respects harder to reach than distant Pluto.
33. New Survey Softens Fears of Asteroid Impacts: Reports of our impending collective death have been somewhat exaggerated.
37. Today's Forecast: Cloudy, 80 Percent Chance of a Sunspot: The next time the Sun releases a destructive magnetic belch, we may have some warning to protect the electric grid.
41. The Ozone Satellite, 1991-2011: It proved the damage caused by CFCs, helped predict climate changes, and saw the beginning of the recovery of the ozone layer.
52. Superstorm Sweeps Across Saturn: It made even the biggest storms on Earth look puny.
53. Did Earth's Gold Come From Outer Space?: Money never grows on trees, but precious metals do sometimes fall from the sky.
66. Found: Stars Cool Enough to Touch: But if you were close enough to touch, you'd be entirely squished by the gravity.
75. Is That Water Flowing on Mars?: There may be water--and even life--in them there hills.
79. Untethered Planets May Outnumber Stars: The hunt for exoplanets takes another turn for the surprising.
88. A Map of the Violent Cosmos: A new map shows the hotspots of energetic activity in our galaxy and beyond.
96. NASA's Scrappy Successors: Private spaceflight companies draw ever closer to putting people into space their own way.