In pictures: 20 key NASA projects in 2009

From the space shuttle and Mars mission to water on the moon and ice on the Earth, NASA has its hands in a variety of critical projects

Who wants $1M? NASA in November awarded $1.65 million in prize money to a pair of aerospace companies that successfully simulated landing a spacecraft on the moon and lifting off again. NASA's Centennial Challenges program, which was managed by the X Prize Foundation, will give a $1 million first prize to Masten Space Systems and a $500,000 second prize to Armadillo Aerospace for successfully completing the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. To win the prize, teams had to demonstrate a rocket-propelled vehicle and payload that could take off vertically, climb to a defined altitude, fly for a pre-determined amount of time, and then land vertically on a target that is a fixed distance from the launch pad.

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