SPACE EXPLORATION

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It all started with a small satellite no bigger than a dog called Sputnik, which forever changed life as we know it. Before long, television satellites followed along with communication, and then finally-manned spaceflight.

The first mission was flown by a man named Alan Sheppard in a Mercury spacecraft. Then came John Glenn, and finally several others. Today we explore those earlier missions and the dangers involved with them.

Not much was known about space in those days-how long we could stay up there, how much radiation we would be exposed to, and would we able to bring an astronaut back alive. Below are links to those earlier days and what they meant for NASA.

http://www-pao.ksc.nasa.gov/history/mercury/mercury.htm

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mercury/

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/gemini/

 

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This week we will continue on our series of space exploration, focusing today on the fist man-made objects to orbit the Earth. They were of course, satellites and the three that broke ground were the soviet built Sputnick I and II, and the American-made Explorer I.
Sputnick I was launched in the 1957 and weighed about 183 lbs, and was the shape of a beach ball. It orbited the Earth in 98 minutes, and contained a dog named Laidka.

Explorer I was designed by James Van Ellen for NASA to measure the radiation that surrounded the atmosphere. The Van-Ellen belt is named after him. That was launched a year later. Soon, there were television and radio satellites, military satellites, and so on. Today, there are more than 100 of them orbiting this planet. That also increases the danger of space junk from obsolete ones.

We saw this to an extreme when Skylab came down. You just have to make sure to look up once in a while, and hope that nothing comes down on your head. Seriously, this rarely happens. Most of the time they just fall into the ocean. Anyways, the links below explain more about satellites and their purposes:

http://history.nasa.gov/sputnik/

http://www.rocketcityspacepioneers.com/space/first-satellite-in-space

http://www.space.com/17825-explorer-1.html

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Venus

Venus, the planet was named after the Roman goddess of love. Although it is red hot, it’s not a place that one could easily love. Our sister planet has a carbon dioxide atmosphere, and temperatures that soar to 900 degrees.  In 1961, USA and USSR became fascinated with the world and began to send probes to it, making it the first world other than our own to be explored.

Past literature has been marveled by the world, making it a source of alien stories, only being surpassed by the planet Mars. Both planets were used because of their considerable close distance to our own world. What we have learned from technology is that the world was very similar to our own until it began a runaway greenhouse effect in its atmosphere which sent its temperatures soaring.
Below are links to the earlier days, and what data these probes sent back to us:

http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Venus

http://www.windows2universe.org/venus/space_missions.html

http://historicspacecraft.com/Probes_Venus.html

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Today we turn to the Mariner probes, which visited Venus, Mars, and later Mercury. NASA was eager in the sixties to get get ahead of the soviets in space exploration. Both countries sent numerous probes to Mars and Venus, in hopes that they may find something out of the unusual on either planet.

Much was learned in these earlier missions on how to send a spacecraft millions of miles away from its home world. There were successes, and there were failures, but thankfully no human lives were lost in the process of simple space exploration. Mariner was a stepping stone to the well hailed Voyager series, which was later to explore the edges of our solar system and beyond.
For me it has been exciting time to be alive, as the wonders and mysteries of the universe were just beginning to be understood. Right now we are in our infancy, imagine what we can someday accomplish.
Below are the links for the Mariner missions:

http://www.space.com/18301-mariner-10.html

http://nineplanets.org/spacecraft.html

http://historicspacecraft.com/Probes_Mariner.html

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spacecraft

Today we are going to discuss the Voyager I and II crafts, which are now on their way to other worlds that we may never visit.  The Voyager series was a major accomplishment, which became our stamp on the space around us. It visited all the planets which are beyond us, Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and the planetoid Pluto.

A message was left on one that defines who we are: A disk containing music,sounds, and pictures of the world’s cultures, in hopes that one day another civilization may find it and decipher who we are. The sad part of reality,is because of the distance in stars, that one day we may be the ones who find it. Still, it is a hope that all mankind can appreciate. Here are some links that explain the voyager missions, and the plans for its future:

http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/spacecraft/

http://www.space.com/11927-nasa-voyager-mission-facts-solar-system.html

http://www.space.com/11944-nasa-photos-voyager-spacecraft-grand-tour.html

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I was born in the sixties, and let me tell you, it was a great time to be born. Things were a little simpler then it seemed, and most things were cheaper than they are today. Cars, entertainment, music all were things within most people’s grasp. What happened to our world?

One good thing that came out of the sixties was the Apollo program, funded by the Kennedy Administration. Kennedy saw a great vision in the exploration of space and mankind. A world where we could work as one to a common goal-to reach the moon by the end of the decade. Of course, both governments also saw it as a race to see who would get there first.

Nowadays, there is even a company who sells plots on the moon for those who may hope to someday monopolize on its future value. The NASA administration apparently abandoned the idea in the end, probably because of the enormous cost it takes to get there. UFOlogists claim it is because of an alien base there, but who knows the real truth.

The disaster of Apollo 13 and the fire of another mission caused equal problems to NASA. The whole program was near being shut down. Somehow, however, it prevailed. Hopefully, one day we will return to our natural satellite.

Below are links of the Apollo mission and its preparation:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/missions/
http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/lunar/apollo.html
http://www.space.com/12771-nasa-apollo-missions-photo-countdown.html

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Skylab and the space shuttle were major accomplishments in the space program. Skylab allowed us to actually live in space for the first time, and paved the way for the present International Space Station. The space shuttle allowed us to actually reach the station, and allowed regular trips to beyond the edge of our atmosphere.
It also permitted us to see tragedy on an unprecedented scale. The Challenger and Columbia, and the astronauts who lost their lives in the name of science, and the first civilian to travel to space, Sally ride. What do you think? Should their lives have been lost, or could NASA have done more?

Someday, traveling there will be without risk. There is talk of a private space company who is creating a space station made of strong, flexible canvas structures that would be impenetrable to meteors and small space debris.

Although the shuttle was an efficient way to reach the station, it has become outdated, and was eventually grounded. New companies have surfaced with amazing results. Space One, for instance, has plans to take scenic tours to the edge of the atmosphere. The future of space travel, because of the cost, is seeming to head towards a private industry.

At any rate, the future of the International Space Station and any other space stations will need a way to get there, and there will never be a shortage of ingenious ability to reach that goal.
The following links are for today’s topic:

http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/heasarc/missions/images/skylab_images.html

Skylab: NASA Commemorates 40th Anniversary of America’s First Space Station – Photo Gallery/Broadcast

http://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/the_shuttle/

http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Space_Shuttle/Shuttle_technical_facts

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Today we will discuss the newest addition to NASA’s spacecraft, the International Space Station. The ISS has allowed us to live and work in space for long periods of time, and because other nations have joined in this effort, it is always manned by somebody.

Until recently, getting up there was not a problem for NASA. We now have to rely on private industry and other countries’ space programs to get us into orbit. With the space station, many experiments have helped us to understand our own world and the solar system that surrounds us.

The ISS has paved the way for the next step in space evolution. Soon, we will be living in space and working there. As mentioned in last week’s series, a Swedish company has plans to colonize Mars by 2025. Whether we can top that remains to be seen. Our space program has been suffering ever since the two shuttle disasters, and because of budget cuts. Some believe that we need to focus on our own problems first, which I also believe this is most essential for us to survive as a species. Cooperation is the key to survival of our race, it’s just too bad that governments don’t see it this way as well.
Below are a few links for the space station about its missions and its future:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/

http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/space/spacestation/

http://www.isstracker.com/

http://iss.astroviewer.net/

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