Space Exploration Essay, Research Paper
Space exploration is a big part of American history and has been shrouded with controversy for years and years. Space exploration is defined as the investigation of physical conditions in space and on stars, planets, and their moons through the use of artificial satellites, space probes, and spacecraft with human crews (Whitehouse). From the space race with Russia to unmanned lunar probes, space exploration inspires and enlightens every person that comes in contact with it. One example of an inspiring event in space exploration was the Apollo project. The Apollo missions were quite possibly the most popular and publicized events in American history. The Apollo missions were often disastrous, successful, triumphant, and also neutral and routine. Throughout all the publicity and controversy space exploration will remain in American and world history forever and will continue to live in the heart of Man.
Space travel has many roots and a large history. The study of space exploration may have dated back to 1609, when Johannes Kepler, a German mathematician, figured out equations for orbiting planets & satellites (Whitehouse). He determined that the planets move in ellipses (flattened circles) rather than true circles. Another famous scientist in modern time, Isaac Newton, wrote the single greatest intellectual achievement of all time. In a single book he established the basic laws of force, motion, and gravitation and invented a new branch of mathematics in the process (calculus). This single act help our scientists immensely in figuring trajectories and equations still used today in space exploration. Without these revolutionary scientists, we may have never been able to travel through space as we do today. These marvels were small, but significant parts in space exploration history (Webb).
Space Exploration has been a huge part of American history. America led the world in technology and was becoming a world power. The United States had a successful economy and was still growing. The United States may have had a slight lead over other countries; however, the United States was not the first country in space. The Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite in history, called Sputnik I, on October 4, 1957 (Shapiro). This triggered the explosion called the space race. The United States countered with its first artificial satellite, called Explorer I, on January 31, 1958, but unfortunately lagged several months behind Soviet accomplishments. The United States had given the Soviet Union the opportunity to lead in the space race. The Soviet Union had taken the lead in the space race. With success in hand, the Soviets were determined to send a human being to space. Their plan was very methodical. Pressure from other countries became intense as media proclaimed that it waste of time and money for the Soviets. Finally, on April 12, 1961 their dream came true when the Vostok I space craft lifted Yuri Gagarin to orbit the earth (Shapiro). This single act changed the complexion of the space race. The United States was shocked with this scientific marvel. The President of the United States was especially flabbergasted. The United States reacted by working vigorously towards the end of 1961. Finally on February of 1962, the United States finally sent Mercury to do its deed: send an American to space. John Glenn, the occupant of Mercury, circled the earth three times. John Glenn returned unscratched to a hero s welcome. This win for the United States spawned victory parties throughout the nation. This victory only lead to an even more difficult challenge. The marvel that has plagued mankind for centuries dawned on America: landing on the moon (Webb).
In 1961, President Kennedy had committed the United States to the goal of landing Americans on the moon and bringing them safely back to earth by the end of the decade (Whitehouse). The resulting Apollo program was the largest scientific and technological undertaking in history. Many countries were stunned in the money that the Americans spent in the Apollo project. At the peak of Apollo preparations in 1965, NASA employed 36,000 civil servants, 376,000 contractor employees, and a yearly operating budget of $5.2 billion dollars. Between 1961 and 1973, NASA spent approximately $25.4 billion on the Apollo missions. The program included 12 manned missions: 2 into earth orbit (Apollo 7 and 9), 2 into lunar orbit (Apollo 8 and 10), 3 lunar landing missions (Apollo 11, 12, and 14), and 3 lunar exploration missions (Apollo 15, 16, and 17). These costs never set America back in the space race. America was determined to get to the moon (Whitehouse).
The objectives were quite clear for the Apollo missions and a technique was created. The Lunar Orbit Rendezvous (LOR) technique used for the Apollo missions consisted of launching the spacecraft into a stable orbit around the earth, setting a path towards the moon, moving the spacecraft into orbit around the moon, landing the lunar module on the moon, and make a safe voyage home (Webb). On January 27, 1967, the flight crew of the first manned Apollo mission was the first to carry out the new technique. Virgil Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee were going to be the first to launch the new Apollo program; however, something terribly went wrong. After over five hours of delays and problems, a spark inside the spacecraft ignited flammable material and instantly engulfed the closed compartment in flames. By the time the hatch was pried away more than five minutes later, the crew had died from asphyxiation (Taubes). This put a block in the road in American space travel, but America made a better design and created better techniques, which lead to the first manned mission to achieve lunar orbit. Apollo 8 was launched on December 21, 1968. The crew of this six-day mission, Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, Jr., and William A. Anders, conducted a complete test of the flight profiles for lunar missions. The craft entered lunar orbit on December 24, 1968, and orbited the moon for ten revolutions (20 hours 7 minutes) before returning to the earth and a controlled reentry into the Pacific Ocean. America was now ready for a lunar landing (Whitehouse).
The illustrious moonwalk, which eluded scientists for years, had finally become a reality for not only Americans, but also the whole world. July 16, 1969 had come and the crew of Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., and Michael Collins was the crew to lead the United States to a lunar landing. Apollo 11 was the first lunar-landing mission. Armstrong and Aldrin landed the lunar module on the moon Neil Armstrong was ready to make his first steps. The words spoken by Neil Armstrong as he stepped on the lunar surface would echo throughout American history: One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. The world was watching and rejoicing, but there still was a scientific expedition to conquer. The lunar module spent 21 hours 36 minutes on the lunar surface, and the crew spent 2 hours 31 minutes outside the lunar module in a local area excursion on foot to a distance of approximately 160-ft from the landing site. Armstrong and Aldrin collected 22 kg (49 lb.) of lunar rocks and soil (Whitehouse). The Apollo 11 crew had made history. Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., and Michael Collins were all welcomed home by television cameras thousands of adoring Americans. America had done it. America had gone to the moon.
Space exploration has eluded man throughout history. We may never know why we travel through space. Man has always thirsted for knowledge, something that cannot be bought with money. Whether or not knowledge is useful, he thirsts for it. He also has a fundamentally curious nature, which motivates him to attempt to discover what lies in the inky darkness outside of Earth. Many thought that space exploration was a waste of time and money; however, man will continue to explore and reach for the stars. From sending stray dogs and unmanned probes to space, mankind has gone through huge adversity to get to space. Man will continue to explore and to contemplate the wonder that is space.