Space Exploration Essay, Research Paper
Space Exploration is the quest to use space travel to discover the nature of the universe beyond earth. Today’s Space Exploration started in 1957 with the launch of the first artificial satellite, but since ancient times people have dreamed of leaving their home planet and exploring other worlds. Every era through out history has had a belief as to what the “heavens” are made form. The Greeks believed that the stars and space were made of a material called “Quitenses”, and other culture once thought that the stars were made of their peoples passed away. We know now what stars (or suns) are really made of; they are made of various gases that explode over and over again.
Mankind has come along ways from the days when we could only guess what was out there. The history of Space Exploration really began in 1957 with the launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, sent into space by the Soviets. Up until about 43 years ago people did not have the means to travel to or send objects into space. The hardest part of traveling into space was developing rockets that were powerful enough and reliable enough to boost an object into space. These rockets needed more then just brute force, they also needed a guidance system that was capable of keep the rocket on track, and to make sure that it reached a high enough orbit. Rockets were fist used in the 11th century China; these rockets were fuelled by gunpowder and were launched against enemy troops. In the centuries that followed these rockets made an appearance in Europe. They were once used in 1814 by the British against the Americans during an attack on New Orleans, but they had little effect. In Russia, almost a century later, a schoolteacher by the name of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky saw that rockets might be used to carry people or objects into space. He designed a plan but didn’t have the means to build the rocket. Most of the rocketry research during the 20th century was done in Germany by a mathematician and physicist Herman Oberth, and Walter Hohmann in the 1920’s. During World War II Germany undertook the first large-scale rocket program. The rocket that they came up with was named the V-2, a rocket that burned an alcohol-water mixture with liquid oxygen to produce 250,000 Newton’s of thrust. The Germans launch a number of these rockets against the Britain and the Netherlands. The V-2 did not prove to be an effective weapon, but it was the first man made object to reach a height of 80 km (the height at which outer space is said to begin ).
In the years after World War II the USSR and USA were locked in a race to who could create the first intercontinental ballistic missile. The Soviet’s were the first to do this with the completion of their R-7 rocket. Although the rocket was designed to be a weapon it carried the first artificial satellite into space. On October 4, 1957 the Soviets launched a R-7 rocket that carried Sputnik, (translates to “fellow traveler”) a 58 cm aluminum sphere containing a pair of radio transmitters. This satellites trip around the earth marked step in technology and ushered in the space age. In October of 1958 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was created in the United States. During the next two decades over 1600 spacecraft have ventured into space, but most have not left the orbit of earth. The first space traveler form earth was a dog-named Laika. She was a dog form the USSR and was carried aboard Sputnik 2. The dog died in space but form heat exhaustion and not from a lack of air.
The next major event in the history of space exploration was on July 20 of 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, of the USA, took the first step by a human or any other creature from earth on to the moon. Neil Armstrong’s words “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, may be wrong, he later stated that he had intended to say “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind” but because of static in the recording it will never be known if he said it or, merely meant to say it.
Over the course of the 43 years of today’s space Exploration history, there have been three major tragedies. There were two tragedies in 1967, with the explosion of the Apollo spacecraft at cape Kennedy and with the twisting of the parachute lines in the Soyuz spacecraft. The third tragedy happened in 1986 with the explosion of the spaceship Discovery, on aboard were seven people. This marked a day in space history because it was the first time that a person with a cause was going into space. This person was a schoolteacher who tragically, also died in the explosion.
In Space Exploration today one of the major factors that affect every mission is cost. One of the goals at NASA is be able to get to space but with out the same costs as there is now. The biggest cost is to launch the rocket itself, to put something into space it costs about $10,000 for every 10 kg, so to put one person into space it costs about $65,000 (this doesn’t include the spacecraft that is needed to get this person there). NASA is always developing new forms of propulsion to move spacecraft into space; things that they look for are cheap, reliable, and reusable. Right now most multistage boosters are not reusable, which makes them expensive. Engineers at NASA would like to create a vehicle that was completely reusable; this would cut cost by a large margin.
Robotic explorers have visited all but one world in our solar system, that is Pluto, and they have also explored a great many other smaller bodies in the solar system such as comets, asteroids, and the moons of other worlds. We know a lot about our devouring worlds such as what they are made of, what the atmosphere is like, and the climate of these worlds is. The over all goal of NASA is to find out as much as they can about the universe.
Space is a harsh environment for humans and human-made machines. Radiation from the sun and other cosmic sources can weaken material and harm the human body. In the vacuum of space, objects become boiling hot when exposed to the sun and freezing cold when in the shadow of the Earth or some other body. Scientists, engineers, and designers must make spacecraft that can withstand these extreme conditions and more.
Space Exploration has many Pros and Cons. We don’t know what is out there so you never know what we will find, and with every answered question it seems as though it just brings more unanswered questions with.
1. Microsoft Encarta ‘99, S.v. “Space Exploration”, by Andrew Chaikin
2. World Book, 1999 Edition, S.v. “Space Exploration”, by James Oberg
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