BEIJING, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Human beings have never stopped their painstaking yet brave journey into the vast space, with much progress made in exploration of outer space over recent years as a result of rapid development of science and technologies.
The following are a few astronomical breakthroughs made in space exploration over the past few years.
-- On February 12, 2001, the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous -- Shoemaker (NEAR Shoemaker) -- successfully landed on the near-Earth asteroid Eros, becoming the first man-made device landing on an asteroid.
-- In October 2001, 2001 Mars Odyssey, a robotic spacecraft orbiting the planet Mars developed by NASA, found much evidence for water on Mars in the form of images. And with its spectrometer, it proved there was a large amount of ice under the surface of Mars.
-- In January 2010, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter found the Mars has had a rich history of water-related processes. A major discovery was finding evidence of ancient hot springs.
-- On August 6, 2012, Curiosity Mars Rover landed on Mars. Curiosity Rover is by far the most expensive Mars exploring device ever made and is powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. It is still roaming on the surface of Mars up to the present.
-- In 2013, scientists confirmed that Voyager 1 had entered the interstellar medium around August 25, 2012, making it the first human-made object to leave the Solar System. Voyager 1 is a space probe launched by NASA in 1977, to study the outer Solar System.
-- In 2014, researchers found traces of dark matter -- an elusive matter which is thought to make up more than 80 percent of the matter in the universe -- using data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
-- In July 2015, New Horizons, an interplanetary probe launched by NASA in 2006, flew pass Pluto in high speed. The probe took many high-definition images of the dwarf planet for the first time in history.