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The 8 Most Inspiring Moments of 2016

From planting trees to orbiting planets, here are some of the biggest accomplishments of the year.


If we're honest, we're not sure anyone out there is sorry to see the end of 2016, the year that seriously would not quit. But these are some of the bright spots of the last 12 months.

Related: The 16 Most Shocking Moments of 2016

Martin Bureau | AFP | Getty Images

1. Olympic achievements

Michael Phelps retired from swimming as the most decorated athlete in Olympic history with 28 medals total, and 23 of them are gold. His Team USA teammate Katie Ledecky was so fast that she broke her own world record.

Meanwhile, Fiji's soccer team won that nation its very first Olympic medal -- a gold -- and Puerto Rican tennis star Monica Puig became the first woman to win a medal, a gold as well, for her island. And even though neither of them placed, when a collision took down U.S. runner Abby D’Agostino and New Zealand runner Nikki Hamblin, the injured women helped each other finish their race.

Read more: The Most Inspirational Moments From the 2016 Olympics
Beacon Health System

2. Some on-the-job innovation

This summer, while building a new section of the Memorial Children's Hospital of South Bend, Ind., a construction worker named Jason Haney wanted to do something for the kids being treated in the wing across the way from the site. So he decided to make them a giant "Where's Waldo" game. After putting together an 8-foot-tall wood cut out of the stealthy, bespectacled fellow, he would hide it in unfinished parts of the building for the kids to find, to their delight.
Rob Tringali | Getty Images

3. A broken curse

After an anxiety-inducing, rain-delayed 10 innings, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series 8-7 against the Cleveland Indians. It had been 108 years since the team's last World series victory. You may not follow baseball, but it's hard not to smile watching the crowds outside Wrigley Field erupt in cheers after seeing "Cubs Win" flash across the stadium.

Read more: Watch This Endearing Mentorship Moment from the Chicago Cubs' World Series Win
Jean Revillard | Getty Images

4. No fuel, no problem

The Solar Impulse 2, the brainchild of Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, a plane entirely powered by the sun's rays, completed a 17-leg, 40,000 kilometer journey around the world this summer that began back in March of 2015. There were several starts and stops, with the plane being temporarily grounded by a broken battery pack.

Read more: You Can Fly Around the World and Drink Your Own Urine Thanks to the Power of the Sun

Sunil Ghosh | Getty Images

5. A green world record

This summer, more than 800,000 volunteers and government workers in Uttar Pradesh, India, planted 50,414,058 trees, setting a new Guinness World Record for most trees planted in a 24-hour period. The effort was part of the promise made by the country at the Paris Climate Conference at the end of 2015 to increase India's forest cover to 235 million acres by the year 2030.

Erik Simonsen | Getty Images

6. An out-of-this-world success

This summer, NASA successfully managed a tightrope walk of a mission with a small window with which to get the Juno probe to orbit Jupiter. It was the space agency's second probe to manage the feat.

Josh Barber | Getty Images

7. A groundbreaking discovery

No viral campaign in the last couple of years was quite as ubiquitous as the ALS ice bucket challenge. But it turns out dousing your friends and loved ones with freezing cold water paid off in a big a way this year. The donations from the campaign helped lead to the discovery of a gene that is linked to the cause of ALS, with major implications for future research.

Mark Davis | Getty Images

8. A daring leap of faith

Luke Aikins is a professional skydiver who comes from a long line of daredevils. It isn’t only a passion, but a thriving business -- the Aikins family owns Skydive Kapowsin in Tacoma, Wash. But this summer, Aikins, who has worked as a stuntman and for the United States Parachute Association (USPA), made a jump from 25,000 feet into a 100 by 100 foot net -- without a parachute, becoming the first person to do so. Talk about a leap of faith.

SrdjanPav | Getty Images

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