A story from earlier in the year which hopefully will be the start of big things to come was the news that a small california based company called Space X has managed to build a rocket to put a satellite into orbit. This may not sound particularly impressive as governments have been doing this for 50 years, but what is new is that this has been done by a private company without state support.
SpaceX was started by Elon Musk who is a South African entrepreneur who made hundreds of millions from publishing software and then PayPal. When PayPal was sold to ebay he and wanted to do something interesting with his money, first he thought that he wanted to start a mars program, but found that space launch costs were far to high to make it practical even with his immense wealth.
So he decided to try to bring launch costs down to something more reasonable by starting his own space rocket business. This has been tried before and previous attempts have failed, and so did his first 3 launches, but in september at thefourth attempt hs Falcon 1 rocket made it into ortbit. This is capable of launching half a tonne into orbit, but in the new year he is intending on launching his first Falcon 9 rocket which should be capable of putting up to 12.5 tonnes into orbit which is comparable with some of the larger rockets available today.
He is on record as saying that the thing about rocket science is that it is very difficult, so he may not be sucessful with this new rocket first time, but I have to hope that he gets there as if getting into space is cheaper all sorts of exciting scientific possibilities open up, allowing us to go to new places and to look at the universe in new ways.