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

A little ice to go with all that water: While NASA was crashing into the moon to look for ice, it was also looking for the frozen stuff on Earth, only in a more conventional way. The space agency in October began a series of 17 flights to study changes to Antarctica's sea ice, glaciers and ice sheets. The flights are part of what NASA calls Operation Ice Bridge, a six-year project that is the largest airborne survey ever made of ice at Earth's polar regions. Data collected from the mission will help scientists better predict how changes to the massive Antarctic ice sheet will contribute to future sea level rise around the world, NASA stated.

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