10 really good things that happened in 2020: from Captain Sir Tom Moore's NHS walk to the UAE's Hope spacecraft

While 2020 might be the year we’d rather all forget, there were plenty of things worth celebrating, too

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To paraphrase Hugh Grant's British Prime Minister in Love Actually: "When you get gloomy about the state of the world, think about all the good things that happened this year."

And although it's been easy to doomscroll your way through 2020, when you really look – to paraphrase further – you'll find that good news is actually all around.

Scroll through the gallery above to see more inspiring moments from the past 12 months.

So if John Krasinski's hit internet show Some Good News taught us anything, it's that positive stories can be found just about anywhere, even in the midst of a pandemic …

1. The UAE’s Hope spacecraft launched

In this handout photograph taken and released on July 20, 2020 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries an H-2A rocket carrying the Hope Probe known as "Al-Amal" in Arabic, developed by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to explore Mars, blasts off from Tanegashima Space Centre in southwestern Japan. The first Arab space mission to Mars blasted off on July 20 aboard a rocket from Japan, with the probe dubbed "Hope" successfully separating about an hour after liftoff. - --- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / (MITSUBISHI HEAVY INDUSTRIES)" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS ---
The launch of the Hope Probe from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre in July. AFP

Launching on July 20 from Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan, the Hope spacecraft is set to arrive on the red planet on Tuesday, February 9, 2021. Carrying an exploration imager, ultraviolet spectrometer and an infrared spectrometer, the tools will be used to collect and study interplanetary dust, which scientists and astronomers believe played an important role in the formation of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

2. Captain Sir Tom Moore raises £32 million for Britain’s NHS

MARSTON MORETAINE, ENGLAND - In this handout image provided by Capture the Light Photography, Colonel Tom Moore and his daughter Hannah celebrate his 100th birthday, with an RAF flypast provided by a Spitfire and a Hurricane over his home on April 30, 2020 in Marston Moretaine, England. Colonel Moore, formerly a Captain, received a promotion in honour of his 100th birthday and in recognition of the funds, in excess of £29m, he raised for the NHS by walking laps of his garden. (Emma Sohl - Capture the Light Photography via Getty Images)
Captain Sir Tom Moore, as he became following his knighthood, raised money and the world's spirits during quarantine. Getty Images

What started as a bid by his daughter to get the former army captain exercising in his garden turned into a story that touched the world. When Captain Sir Tom Moore set himself the goal of completing 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday in April 2020, little did he know that his endeavour would end in a knighthood from the Queen and almost £33 million ($44.7m) raised for NHS charities.

“I’ve always believed things will get better,” he said of his optimistic outlook. “The sun will shine again, the birds will sing and we’ll all have a lovely day tomorrow.”

3. Kamala Harris made history

Kamala Harris, 56, made history as the first woman to be elected to the White House, when she and Joe Biden won the 2020 US election. And Harris will not only become the first female US Vice President, but also the first black and South Asian American person to become VP when Biden is sworn in next month.

“I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision, to see what can be, unburdened by what has been,” she said of the women who have supported her and come before her. “I stand on their shoulders.”

4. Nasa collected asteroid samples for the first time

Nasa’s Osiris-Rex Spacecraft collected asteroid samples after two years of circling the rock. Courtesy Nasa
Nasa’s Osiris-Rex Spacecraft collected asteroid samples after two years of circling the rock. Courtesy Nasa

If further proof was needed that patience pays off, after almost two years spent circling the asteroid Bennu, in October, Nasa's Osiris-REx spacecraft used its robotic arm to gather pieces of the space rock – the first time this has ever happened. Expected to arrive back on Earth in September 2023, scientists say the materials collected could offer insights into the formation of the solar system. One small scoop for mankind, indeed.

5. Joe Wicks brought PE home

Much like Captain Sir Tom Moore, British health and fitness guru Joe Wicks, 34, didn’t take lockdown sitting down. Instead, the fitness instructor became a PE teacher for the world, by sharing workout videos on YouTube that the whole family could join in with.

Live-streaming his workouts for free every day, Wicks kept spirits and heart rates up with his own brand of enthusiasm, which saw him dress up as cartoon characters and get as breathless as the people working out with him. Reaching more than 80 million views and counting, his second video in lockdown broke records by attracting more than one million viewers who got off the couch and joined in.

6. Taylor Swift released two lockdown albums

FILE - Singer-actress Taylor Swift attends the world premiere of "Cats" in New York on Dec. 16, 2019. A concert film featuring Taylor Swift performing songs from her new album is coming to Disney+. The singer announced Tuesday that “folklore: the long pond studio sessions” will premiere on the streaming platform on Wednesday.  (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
Taylor Swift showed she had been busy during lockdown, producing two acclaimed albums. AP

It may have been a quiet year when it came to festivals and live concerts, but popular singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, 31, delivered not one, but two albums for her fans.

On July 24, the singer released her eighth studio album, Folklore, calling it "an entire, brand new album of songs I've poured all of my whims, dreams, fears, and musings into." The record went on to be nominated for Album of the Year and Pop Vocal Album of the Year at the Grammys. She then followed up with another surprise album, Evermore, on December 11, sharing the music video for the track, Willow.

7. Museums opened to all

Although due to social distancing, museums were off-limits during quarantine, one good thing still came of it: they all went online. Throwing open their doors to a whole new audience who might not otherwise have been able to visit them, museums across the world offered virtual tours as well as insights into their collections.

Among the museums which embraced the new normal were the British Museum in London, which hosted virtual visitors to tour the Great Court, see the Rosetta Stone and Egyptian mummies; New York’s Guggenheim, where the vast collection of art was on display; the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, in which the virtual tour covered six floors of contemporary art from Korea and the world; and Berlin’s Pergamon Museum, which houses ancient artefacts including the Ishtar Gate of Babylon and the Pergamon Altar.

8. ‘Parasite’ made Oscars history

Director Bong Joon Ho wins the Oscar for Best International Feature Film for "Parasite" of South Korea at the 92nd Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 9, 2020. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Director Bong Joon-ho's 'Parasite' scooped four Oscars at the Academy Awards, and was the first subtitled film to win Best Picture. Reuters

Scooping four awards in total at the 2020 Oscars, South Korean film Parasite did what no other subtitled film in the Academy's 92-year history has ever done, and won Best Picture. Director Bong Joon-ho also took home the Oscars for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, along with Best International Feature Film. Accepting the latter award Joon-ho said: "Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films."

9. Healthcare workers got the appreciation they deserved

Medical workers, hospital staff and emergency services were truly the heroes of the year, working selflessly on the front lines as the entire world battled Covid-19. And people across the globe made sure these essential workers knew their efforts were appreciated.

Videos of residents clapping and cheering on balconies, outside front doors and in their homes flooded social media this year, whether in the US, UK, UAE or beyond. In the UK in particular, residents also pinned pictures of rainbows to their windows, signifying their thanks to the NHS.

10. Love still prevailed

FILE PHOTO: Bride Pelsin Akkoyun and groom Nizamettin Bingol, wearing protective face masks, walk following their civil wedding ceremony, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Diyarbakir, Turkey, July 2, 2020. Turkey reopened its wedding halls in one of the final steps of reopening from the shutdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). REUTERS/Sertac Kayar/File Photo
Bride Pelsin Akkoyun and groom Nizamettin Bingol, wearing protective face masks, walk following their civil wedding ceremony in Diyarbakir, Turkey, on July 2, 2020. Reuters

Big bashes were off the cards for most of the year, with restrictions curtailing large weddings for many around the world. However, as smaller celebrations began to be allowed, couples across the globe grabbed their nearest and dearest – or even just eloped – for intimate weddings filled with what got most of us through this year: love and hope.


Read more:

Glossary of 2020: the 36 new words and phrases that defined the year

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