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Today the United States is held as one of the super powers of the world, boasting its wealth and armed power. Among its greatest achievements is the NASA Space Program. NASA is currently the leading Space program, setting new standards by conducting experiments in space, exploring new parts of the solar system, and most of all, putting a man on the moon. All of the achievements of the space program are due to people who had the foresight to see beyond the big picture.
Earth is the cradle of mankind, but man cannot live in the cradle forever. (Torres pg. 1) This theory was that of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. Tsiolkovsky was a deaf 41year old arithmetic teacher in Russia when he calculated how man would be able to enter space. This spark was the beginning of the space age. He broke the mold by having the ambition to explore past our atmosphere. Tsiolkovsky imagined what it would be like to travel in space and scribbled in his notebook every idea he had about space. He had hopes of using a centrifugal force machine to propel himself out of the atmosphere. Latter he decided that the way to go was with a rocket he called a Reaction Machine. (Walter pg. 5-7) In 1903 he published his works in a Russian paper named Science Survey (Walter pg. 5-7) in which he titled The Investigation of World Spaces with a Reaction Machine. At the time of the publication few could imagine launching a human into the sky using a rocket. The general consensus of Tsiolkovsky s paper was that he was simply mad. It wasn t until the Russian government fell under Soviet regime that Tsiolkovsky s technological ideas were embraced.
On the other side of the ocean was a New England Yankee named Robert Goddard. Goddard was an eccentric man with superb engineering skills. At the age of thirty-six he composed The Ultimate Migration. (Walter pg. 20) In this work he described how the sun was burning out and that the inhabitants of earth would need to find a way to depart the earth. He suggested that huge fleet or arks be built and sent into space to find a new inhabitable environment. Although Goddard s ideas were far out, he was still considered a top-notch physicist and engineer. As a child Goddard was very ill and isolated. He spent most of his time reading books. One book he read was H.G. Well s The War of the Worlds. This book inspired him in what he called high altitude research. Goddard graduated from high school in 1905 and went to Clark University where he took graduate and doctoral degrees. Goddard, like Tsiolkovsky, realized the best way to leave the atmosphere was with a rocket. On July 7, 1914 Goddard won his first patent for a liquid-fuel rocket. Goddard started building prototypes in the physics shop at Clark University. Soon after, Goddard landed a job working at Clark University as a part time physics professor. Goddard tested his prototypes early in the morning at nearby Coes Pond. As Goddard continued testing, his part time university job was failing to supply him with enough money. Goddard then turned to the Smithsonian Institute for funding. After presenting a paper entitled A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes, Goddard was awarded one thousand dollars and four thousand more as he needed it.
The Research and ideas of these two individuals gave rise to the theory of space travel. Their efforts lead to manned missions and astronauts on the moon. Tsiolkovsky and Goddard were the foundation of all space programs. Their ideas, at first shunned, were latter embraced. Without these men we wouldn t have NASA, or any other space program. The birth of NASA was because of two men who dared to think the unthinkable and push past conventionality.
Now that someone had come up with the calculations, it was only a matter of time until a brave soul would strap himself to the front of rocket and pierce the atmosphere. Russia was the first with the information so it wasn t a surprise that the first man in space was a cosmonaut. The taxing, yet fulfilling job, was given to a young test pilot named Yuri Gagarin. Even being a member of the Soviet empire, young Gagarin managed to affect the United States and the NASA space program.
The one man who greatly affected the worlds view of humans exploring space, was born in the small village of Klushino in the western Soviet empire. His Father was a carpenter, but Yuri Gagarin didn t follow in his fathers foot steps. Instead, he completed high school and went on to an industrial training college. Here Gagarin found himself joining an aero club where he gained experience in flight and parachute jumping. From there Gagarin followed his dreams and began flying jets in the air force. In the Spring of 1960 his application was accepted to be a member of a small group that would be trained as future cosmonauts. (Bond pg. 12-13)
After Training for a year, Gagarin was picked among 20 others to perform the first mission. Gagarin s overseers, General Nikolai Kamanin and Chief designer Korolev, praised him, stating that he displayed an analytical mind and rare industriousness. (Bond pg. 13) Now it was only a matter of time until the rocket would be ready for its celestial flight.
On April 12, 1961 Gagarin captured the essence of what the mission was meant for in a speech he made right before liftoff. The greatest happiness for man has been to take part in new discoveries. To be the first to enter the cosmos, to engage, single-handed, in an unprecedented duel with nature .could one dream of more! (Bond pg. 14) Then Gagarin dedicated his mission to the people of a communist society. The only thing left for Gagarin to do was to climb into the tiny Vostok cabin situated atop the rocket. (Bond pg. 14)
Gagarin waited in the Vostok capsule for an hour before the mission was ready for launch. Switch to go position roared across the intercom. Soon the arm carrying the power cable swung away. Ignition lift-off! the launch was a success, sending Gagarin to be the first man in space. Little to his knowledge, Gagarin would be known around the world by the time he came back to earth. (Bond pg. 15)
News of the Russian triumph of putting a man into space reached the U.S. The already established NASA had plans of putting a man in space also. News that the Russian had done it first reached President Kennedy. Kennedy, enraged by the news, sent a letter to Vice President Lyndon Johnson in which he said that he was tired of the Russians beating the United States in the space race. Kennedy wrote that it was time to do something to prove that the United States was not second best. Vice President Johnson then passed the request on to NASA. To the surprise of the Russians the U.S. announced its plans to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. (Walter pg. 88-90)
Gagarin started what was to be known as the Space Race. Harmlessly flying his Vostok capsule into space, ignited a desire for the U.S. space program to assert America s conquest of the heavens. NASA s budget jumped from $1 billion to $6 in just one year. (Walter pg. 90) Kennedy s speeches only added more support in beating the Russians to the moon. Yuri Gagarin s flight to outer space soon was put on the back burner as Russians rushed to try and beat the Americans to the moon. Nevertheless, Yuri Gagarin changed the way Americans looked at space for decades to come.
The U.S., now content on beating the Russians to the moon, began to assemble a team to journey to the moon. The shuttle that was to take them on their trip to the moon was to be the Apollo space shuttle. The mission was dubbed Apollo 11. Its crew members consisted of Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and Neil Armstrong. This crew would be the first to land on the moon.
Of the three famous men, the most famous is Neil Armstrong. Neil Armstrong took the first step on lunar soil. The words That s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind (Collins pg. 8) are forever etched into history. The momentous achievement of setting foot upon the moon was a great triumph for the U.S. Space program.
Neil Armstrong was one of many astronauts born in the state of Ohio. After graduation from high school, Armstrong attended Prudue University where he acquired a degree in aeronautical engineering. Latter Armstrong completed his Masters of Science degree at the University of Southern California. Armstrong gained aviation skills when he became an aviator in the United States Navy. He later used his aeronautical degree after his service to land jobs with NASA and NACA doing test research.
By 1962 Armstrong was selected to become an astronaut for NASA. His first mission was Gemini 8. The Gemini held Armstrong and fellow astronaut Dave Scott. Their mission was to perform the first link-up in space with the satellite Agena. The task was a success, however the mission was not. Shortly after linking up, the space craft started to spin out of control. Armstrong and Scott disengaged. The mission was cut short by mission control. Scott s space walk was cancelled and Gemini 8 returned to earth. For Armstrong the mission was a first, but not the mission he is most remembered by. (www.astro)
Apollo 11 was the United States chariot for claiming the moon. Neil Armstrong received his most fame from this mission. The words the Eagle has landed (Collins pg. 8) solidified NASA as the leading space program. The Apollo mission was the first time that NASA had used a lunar module. The lunar module delicately placed the Apollo 11 crew of three on the surface of the moon. From the lunar module emerged Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. After placing their footsteps on the moon they unveiled a plaque that commiserated there accomplishments.
Landing on the moon put the U.S. ahead of Russia in the space race. Now that the United States conquered the moon it was time to move on to bigger and better things like the quest for Mars, studies in space, and the arrival of different types of individuals to space. Individuals like Sally Ride, the first American women in space, and the return of John Glenn.
Until Sally Ride, the game of space was always seen as a man s role, depicting astronaut visions of Neil Armstrong and Alan Shepard dancing in your imagination. Sally Ride broke the mold and set a precedence for women by becoming the first American women to experience outer space, proving that both man and women alike could conquer the heavens.
Sally ride was at Stanford when she first read about NASA s call for Astronauts. That year NASA interviewed 8,000 men and women. Only 35 were accepted, 29 were men and six were women. One of the six was Sally Ride. By 1983 she was assigned her first mission. (www2.lucidc)
Sally Ride was to travel upon the space shuttle Challenger. On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride made history as she blasted-off into space as the first American women to do so. The mission was considered a success for NASA, both with research and with the public. The mission accomplished many objectives successfully. Sally Ride and crew deployed two communications satellites, one for Canada and one for Indonesia. They tested out a robotic arm for retrieval purposes and photographed the earth. When Sally Ride returned she was instantly succumbed by the news and reporters. Sally Ride simply stated I didn t come into this program to be the first women in space. I came in to get a chance to fly in space. (Bond pg. 409) Despite her attempts to drown out the media, her fame was enormous. For the NASA space program it did wonders. After her career with NASA, Sally Ride wrote many childrens books, educating kids about space. She also took position as director of the California Space Institute. Today she is a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego.
Recently John Glenn has given a rebirth of interest to the Space Program. He brought the publicity back to NASA as the oldest man in space. Seventy-seven year old John Glenn made a triumphant return to space. He proposed a mission to study the effects of aging in space. Who better for the job, but himself.
John Glenn s first mission was taken when the space program was still in its infancy. John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth. After his first mission Glenn left the space program. A year later he retired from the Marines. Soon after, Glenn went into business. He became president of Royal Crown International and achieved a political status. Then in November of 1974 John Glenn won a landslide victory and became a senator for his home state Ohio. (Newcott National Geographic)
John Glenn s quest for space was not over. Glenn went to NASA and proposed a study of the aging affects of the elderly in space. John Glenn was now going to be the oldest person to return to space. At 77 Glenn had no trouble passing the rigorous Astronauts physical. Then, on October 29, 1998, John Glenn made his return to space aboard the space shuttle Discovery. From this mission valuable information was gained and history was made. (Newcott, National Geog)
John Glenn is quoted saying Nothing is one hundred percent risk free nothing. But the gain to be made is worth that risk. John Glenn s words best summarize the personality of every one of the individuals that were talked about. Each pushing the risk factor to a maximum, only to yield triumphant gains. All of them clearing the path for future generations to come. From Goddard to Glenn, each person uniquely made a profound impact on space and the American space program.
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