Space exploration involves using the capabilities of humans and robots to investigate beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. It is the physical exploration of outer space stemming from scientist’s compulsion to know more about the Universe. Development of rockets, electronics and technologies in recent years has made it possible to discover the nature of the objects visible in the night sky. Probes or spacecraft, are devices launched to space with a set of tools and instruments to explore, gather and study the atmosphere, composition of space and other moons and planets. Probes have been sent to space since 1957, when the Soviet Union sent Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite into space marking the beginning of the ‘Space Race’ between the United States and Soviet Union. This race was a competition to fight for supremacy over space exploration and show which country had the best science, technology and economy. After launching the first satellite, the Soviet Union accomplished launching the first dog in space, first man, and first woman. Yuri Gagarin was the first human to orbit Earth in 1961. Over 550 people have ventured into space since 1957.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), is a U.S. government agency that specialises in science and technology related to space and air that opened in 1958 during the Space Race. They are globally known for their numerous developments in air travel, flight, studies of the solar system and sharing their knowledge to improve life on Earth. Their robots have visited every planet in the solar system, their revolutionary aircraft has set record and helped engineers improve air transport. They have introduced new technology that is being used across the world. One of NASA’s most notable accomplishments was landing the first man on the moon, winning the Space Race on July 24, 1969. They began with Project Gemini, where astronauts tested technology for flights to their moon and testing their ability to endure spaceflight. This was followed by Project Apollo where astronauts orbited around the moon from 1968-72. In 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon during Apollo 11. They collected rock and lunar dust samples for scientists to study.
A current mission that has been occurring for 20+ years (since 1998) is the International Space Station (ISS). It is a large spacecraft orbiting Earth, a home for a crew of astronauts and cosmonauts, and a science laboratory. 19 countries worked to assemble this station which travels at 28,163km/h, orbiting Earth every 90 minutes. ISS supports a crew of 6 plus visitors and if it were on Earth, it would weigh over 450,000kg. This mission is significant as it has maintained an ongoing human presence in space, providing an area to conduct research that is unable to be done on Earth and provide progressive knowledge on living and working in space.
The Hubble Space Telescope, named after astronomer Edwin Hubble, was launched into orbit on April 24, 1990. It orbits 547km above Earth spanning the length of a large school bus. This telescope is solar powered and captures images of planets, stars, galaxies and other objects. There has been over a million observations including assisting scientists to estimate the size and age (almost 14 billion years old) of the universe, understand the formation of planets and galaxies, detection of black holes, and the atmospheres of the planets that revolve around the stars similar to our sun. Hubble has been orbiting for 30 years using images such as cameras and spectrographs. Spectrographs are instruments that split light into its individual wavelengths.
Continuing space exploration and conducting research based on data obtained from space can help humanity greatly in the future. Exploration can lead to introducing new technologies, programs, systems as it has in the past. Medical research is conducted on space that is unable to be done here that could possibly cure currently incurable diseases and infections and find new ways to improve the health of human lives. Many technologies that were initially developed from space stations have improved quality of various aspects of human life, and further understanding could create new benefits. For example, water processing technology has been produced by NASA to enhance the quality of water for those without access to clean water. This idea stemmed from the technology that is used to recycle water on the International Space Station. There are more technologies and advances to be made as a result of space exploration studies.
Space exploration vastly benefits humanity in various ways. From the very first human activity in space, quality of live has been improved here on Earth through science and technology. The first satellites that ventured into space provided critical information in enhancing satellite telecommunications and weather forecasting. Early missions developed a basis for the space exploration that occurs now. The knowledge acquired from exploring space widens understanding, nature and perspective on the universe and solar system in which we live. Health and medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, energy and environment, and information technology are a few of the areas that have been advanced as a result of working in space. This work serves to inspire those on earth, as it fulfils the desire to understand the world and questions regarding the universe. Scientific innovation has stemmed from sending humans and machines into space, along with forging international relationships when nations collaborate on missions, improving peace and stability on Earth