TheHistory of Space Exploration
Thefollowing paper looks into the history of space exploration, themajor occurrences that influenced it, the major players in this fieldof science and the relevance of the study in this current period.
Froma very long time, human beings have looked into the heavens full ofawe and amazement. The starry sky provided a whole expanse of mysterythat seemed hard to solve. Everything about the night sky was full ofheavenly bodies that were beautiful but still created a sense ofwonder to what they might be or what they might contain. Many ancientreligions based all their deities on these heavenly bodies. Thesepeople included the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and even the Mayans.Most of their temples’ design orientations aligned with most ofthese heavenly bodies. Their religious ceremonies revolved aroundsignificant celestial events. With this growing curiosity, earlyastronomers such as Aristarchus, Ptolemy, Galileo, and Copernicuswent further ahead to try and explain the definition of the objectsseen in the night sky (Bryant, 2014). These innovative individualswere able to prove that the earth was just another object in a muchlarger universe. The knowledge that the earth was circular andrevolved around the sun provided the explanation of the changingseasons and led to the creation of the calendar used to this day.During this period, not much thought was put into a human finallyhaving the chance to go into space and view the entire space awayfrom earth. The invention of the telescope by Hans Lippershey and itsimprovement by Galileo, enabled the study of the heavenly bodies tobe easier. These celestial objects were then classified as stars,planets, and moons. This distinction was crucial in providing moreinformation on the position of the Earth within the universe (Bryant,2014). Eventually, the earth’s placement was the third planet fromthe sun in a solar system that initially had eight other planets.Space exploration was only possible after the Second World Warthrough the use of missile rockets. These rockets were originally aGerman invention while they were trying to create more advancedweaponry. At this period, the US and the Soviet Union were in aspirited competition on which will be the first country to send ahuman being into space. In 1957, the Russians were the first tolaunch a satellite probe, Sputnik 1, into orbit. A year later, theUnited States sent Explorer 1 into space as well. Russia won the raceas they sent the first man, Yuri Gagarin, into space and he orbitedfor about a hundred minutes. At this point, the race was now on whowill be the first to make a moon landing. The United Stateseventually won this race in 1969 when Neil Armstrong became the firsthuman to set foot on the moon (Piantadosi, 2013). From this importantstage, space exploration increased multifold and various unmannedcrafts were already being sent to Mars and other planets within thesolar system to study their atmospheres and surfaces. Relevantinformation collection resulted, and eventually, human beingsrealized that Earth was the only planet with life within the solarsystem. Space exploration also brought about significant improvementsin the communication sectors and weather analysis. Communication andweather satellites that were sent into orbit helped the people invarious ways, and they are still hard to live without to date.
Themain events that led to increased research and innovation in spaceexploration were the need for recognition as a superior country.After the Second World War, the US and Russia remained as the majorsuperpowers. These two nations represented opposing views andopinions when it came to governorship. The Russians promotedcommunism while the US were for capitalism. Each country was tryingto show the world who will eventually tame and conquer spaceexploration. The amount of time and money that poured into thisventure was astronomical. Various attempts ended in failure resultingin massive losses in revenue. Eventually, after the perfection ofsending space crafts into orbit, more uses for space explorationbecame apparent. Initially, weather satellites were sent into orbitto monitor the weather patterns. These weather satellites provided away of predicting the weather and enabled scientists to predictclimate changes. Satellite communication was another reason forincreased space exploration, and this led to more satellites thatprovided relay points of signals to be sent into orbit. Thesesatellites made communication across the world to be much faster andconvenient. The fundamental influence of space exploration was,however, the need to satisfy curiosity. A lot about our universe wasa mystery and space exploration provided the best way of satisfyingthis curiosity and answering the age-old questions such as how theuniverse came into being and the origin of life. The United Statesdeveloped a space body known as the National Aeronautics SpaceAdministration (NASA). This body handled all the major spaceexplorations. One of the most successful launches was the Voyager 1sent during the 1980s, provided detailed information regarding theplanets and moons found in the solar system. As per now, the probe isstill sending signals back to Earth, and the probe will keep on doingso for the next decade. The information sent so far has shown detailsabout the other planets within the solar system that had never beenthought of before (Piantadosi, 2013). In the 1950s, there was agrowing concern among the American citizens concerning the existenceof extraterrestrial life forms or commonly known as aliens. Thisgrowing interest created another reason for increased spaceexploration that aimed at getting evidence on the existence ofextraterrestrial life. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligencecommonly known as SETI was a program developed to scan the skies forpotential signals from alien civilizations. Even though after fivedecades there has been no concrete evidence of the existence of thesealiens, the program is still under operation (Linde, pp269-311).Eventually, the major countries in the world pulled their combinedefforts to construct the International Space Station where astronautsfrom different nationalities can study and monitor the universe whilein space. This sophisticated facility has various researchlaboratories where any space debris or samples are collected andanalyzed to create a deeper understanding of space and how it cameinto being. This effort showed how space exploration could eventuallycome to unite the entire world nations (Murphey, 2015).
Spaceexploration has significant relevance to the lives of people onearth. Satellite communication provides a means of sendinginformation across the entire globe. Television signals’transmission was made possible through the use of satellites.Currently, filming of any event can be transmitted via satellite andany person at any location can see a live feed of what is happening.Satellites assist soldiers in combat to monitor enemy positions andfind ways that they can defeat them. The use of satellitecommunication enables anyone with a satellite phone to communicatewith another person from any point on earth, regardless of thedistance. Weather satellites have made meteorologists able to provideaccurate forecasts of weather patterns even weeks before they happen.This ability helps many people avoid catastrophic weather activitiessuch as tornadoes and hurricanes. With growing concern about globalwarming and climate changes, the weather satellites can predictfuture climate variations and fluctuations. The use of weathersatellites also helps in monitoring the levels of pollution,especially in the air and oceans. This information assists in thecreation of environmental management strategies that will eventuallyhelp protect the ecosystem (Piantadosi, 2013). Space explorationstill provides useful information about our solar system. Currently,unmanned rovers are studying the planet Mars and analyzing whetherthe planet still has some water in it and even living organisms.Sophisticated telescopes sent into space scan the nearby stars to oursolar system while trying to locate planets similar to ours thatmight have the same conditions to harbor life. The need for thisprocess is to see whether there can be other habitable planets wherehuman beings will eventually go live on when the earth begins to beless hospitable. The monitoring of asteroids helps scientistsunderstand their trajectories and contribute in predicting whetherthe earth is on a collision path with one. An asteroid collision canbe very catastrophic and might even lead to the extinction of alllife on this planet. Space exploration can also help in the locationof various planets, moons or rocks that might be of use on earth. Forexample, asteroids are rich in iron which is an essential metal onearth and if mined, can be very useful economic wise. Other planetsand planetoids have rich sources of hydrogen that are an importantelement used as rocket fuel. Finding such objects that containhydrogen will significantly help deep space exploration where mannedspace crafts will use them as fuelling points for the long voyageinto deep space (Piantadosi, 2013).
Withall these importance and relevance of space exploration, some peopleare still skeptical. They claim that space exploration is anexpensive venture that to date has not brought any significantbenefits to the human race. The concerns of these people are validsince, after over six decades of space exploration, the benefits fromthese ventures are still intangible. These skeptics eventually led tothe cutting down of the budget allocated to NASA. Since then, thefrequency of probes sent into space reduced and currently there areno manned space explorations. Another concern is from theenvironmentalists who see that all the probes and satellites sentinto orbit lead to pollution. These machines when they eventually runout of power, they keep on orbiting the earth and add up to the spacejunk. Thus, the earth’s orbit is like a dumping ground (Murphey,2015).
Fromthe initiation of space exploration, human beings have achieved greatadvancements in technology and innovations. The first competitionbetween the US and Russia led to the rapid growth of spaceexploration. This increase enabled the launch of both weather andcommunication satellites that assist people on earth to this day. Theorganizations such as SETI and NASA came into being through this needfor space exploration and with them many job opportunities andfields of research came into being. The current knowledge thathumanity has about their universe would never be possible withoutspace exploration and the probes that continue to send signals backto earth. The current advantages that arise from space explorationand its prospects are very promising. Space exploration will continueto provide human beings with more insight and might eventuallyprovide another home away from earth.
Bryant,Walter W. AHistory of Astronomy (Routledge Revivals).Routledge, 2014.
Linde,Peter. "SETI: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence." TheHunt for Alien Life.Springer International Publishing, 2016. 269-311.
Murphey,Megan. "Johnson Space Center: The Home of Human SpaceExploration." (2015).
Piantadosi,Claude. Mankindbeyond Earth: the history, science, and future of human spaceexploration.Columbia University Press, 2013.