Space Exploration – A brief history

04 Aug

Astronomers have been recording observations and hypothesis for over 2,000 years.Early astronomers did not use empirical data to back their theories. These early pioneers were all philosophers and advanced their beliefs through compelling argument.

In the early days the Greeks were the first people to study astronomy, They were the first who classified stars based on constellations and also the first to declare that Earth is spherical, and the orbits of the planets are circular. Islamic astronomers also contributed greatly to the study of astronomy, for example they studied the rotation of the Earth, as well as the solar and lunar eclipses.

Invention of telescope by Han Lippershey, a dutch optician in 1608 started a new era in modern astronomy. Telescope is a very useful instrument in astronomy and Galileo Galilei, an Italian asronomer was the first man to observe objects in space using a telescope.

There after , astronomers around the globe made more discoveries of objects in space and galaxies. For example, in the early 1900s Andromeda galaxy and planet Pluto were discoverd by American astronomers.

After World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union created their own missile programs. On October 4, 1957, the Soviets launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, into space. Four years later on April 12, 1961, Russian Lt. Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit Earth in Vostok 1. His flight lasted 108 minutes, and Gagarin reached an altitude of 327 kilometers (about 202 miles).

The first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, went into orbit on January 31, 1958. In 1961 Alan Shepard became the first American to fly into space. On February 20, 1962, John Glenn’s historic flight made him the first American to orbit Earth.

“Landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth within a decade” was a national goal set by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. On July 20, 1969, Astronaut Neil Armstrong took “a giant step for mankind” as he stepped onto the moon. Six Apollo missions were made to explore the moon between 1969 and 1972.

During the 1960s unmanned spacecraft photographed and probed the moon before astronauts ever landed. By the early 1970s orbiting communications and navigation satellites were in everyday use, and the Mariner spacecraft was orbiting and mapping the surface of Mars. By the end of the decade, the Voyager spacecraft had sent back detailed images of Jupiter and Saturn, their rings, and their moons.

Skylab, America’s first space station, was a human-spaceflight highlight of the 1970s, as was the Apollo Soyuz Test Project, the world’s first internationally crewed (American and Russian) space mission.
In the 1980s satellite communications expanded to carry television programs, and people were able to pick up the satellite signals on their home dish antennas. Satellites discovered an ozone hole over Antarctica, pinpointed forest fires, and gave us photographs of the nuclear power-plant disaster at Chernobyl in 1986. Astronomical satellites found new stars and gave us a new view of the center of our galaxy.

In April 1981 the launch of the space shuttle Columbia ushered in a period of reliance on the reusable shuttle for most civilian and military space missions. Twenty-four successful shuttle launches fulfilled many scientific and military requirements until January 1986, when the shuttle Challenger exploded after launch, killing its crew of seven.

The Challenger tragedy led to a reevaluation of America’s space program. The new goal was to make certain a suitable launch system was available when satellites were scheduled to fly. Today this is accomplished by having more than one launch method and launch facility available and by designing satellite systems to be compatible with more than one launch system.

Space systems will continue to become more and more integral to homeland defense, weather surveillance, communication, navigation, imaging, and remote sensing for chemicals, fires and other disasters.The International Space Station is now in orbit and permanently crewed. With many different partners contributing to its design and construction, this high-flying laboratory has become a symbol of cooperation in space exploration, with former competitors now working together.


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