BBC Future

2012: A year of new frontiers

  • Blades of glory
    South African athlete Oscar Pistorius became the first double leg amputee to take part in an Olympic event, running in the 400m and 400m relay. (Copyright: Getty Images)
  • High diver
    Austrian Felix Baumgartner became the first person to break the sound barrier in a freefall, reaching more than 830mph (1,335 kph) on his descent. (Copyright: AFP/Getty Images)
  • Under the ice
    In February, Russian scientists drilled more than 3.7km (2.5 miles) to reach the prehistoric water of Antarctica’s Lake Vostok – the first sample pictured is here. (Copyright: SPL)
  • Ice-free passage
    In December, a Russian tanker became the first vessel in history to negotiate the north-east passage in winter, thanks to the retreating polar ice cap. (Copyright: AFP/Gazprom)
  • The longest breath
    German freediver Tom Sietas broke the record for holding his breath underwater, managing 22mins 22secs on one gulp of air in a tank in China. (Copyright: Getty Images)
  • Into the abyss
    Movie director James Cameron also broke records in 2012 – diving to the deepest part of the ocean, Challenger Deep, in a one-person submarine. (Copyright: AFP/Getty Images)
  • Web search
    Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) said it was asking the public for help in finding alien life, launching a site where radio waves can be studied. (Copyright: SPL)
  • Listening to the Universe
    ... while it was announced that Australia and Southern Africa will host the Square Kilometre Array - the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. (Copyright: SPL)
  • Undiscovered island
    Sandy Island, near Australia, has been on charts since the 1870s, but Google and Australian research revealed the island doesn't officially exist. (Copyright: AFP/Getty Images)
  • Cosmic trip
    Voyager – the 1970s-era spacecraft sent out to explore the solar system – is set to enter interstellar space. It is the furthest a man-made object has travelled. (Copyright: SPL)
From record-setting leaps to deep dives, the past 12 months has seen mankind breaking much new ground.

More amazing image galleries of the year:

A year in space

The year in technology

A year of discovery

People of the year

The year in weather

The year in wildlife

Weird and wonderful

Future visions

Places

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