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Exploration; to travel in a little-known region for discovery, as defined by Webster. Since the age of the Greeks, Anglo-Saxons have been interested in space exploration. From Copernicus to Gaileo to Newton, space has been looked upon with adoring eyes. Space has been regarded time after time as the final frontier. That was until 1957, with the launch of the Sputnik-1, when the Soviet built satellite became the first man-made satellite successfully launched out into outer space. In 1958, the United States matched the Soviets with their own satellite, Explorer III. After that, it became a free-for-all out into the darkest regions of the final frontier. The ascension into space for the United States started off with rockets, satellites, and probes then later moved on to shuttles and larger spacecrafts. In 1946, the United States started their climb towards the heavens with the NRL V-2. The rocket gave the first observations of the Sun’s UV spectrum. In 1949, the NRL V-2 gave the first observations of solar X-rays. In 1958, the
Explorer III became the US’s first satellite and it also discovered Earth’s radiation belt.
On August 17th, 1958, the US set its sights upon the moon with the Pioneer 0 but it exploded in its first stages of ascension. It was followed later in the year by Pioneer 1 and Pioneer 3 both lunar orbiters, but again failure because both separately failed to reach atmospheric escape velocity. The following years Pioneer 4 and 5 were launched as space probes and are presently still in solar orbit. In 1962, the Aerobee Rocket was launched and observed the first x-ray star. In the 1960’s, NASA began the Ranger space probe program. They were NASA’s earliest Moon exploration program probes. These spacecrafts were designed to perform a crash landing upon the Moon’s surface. They were intended to take pictures and return scientific data up until the impact of the probe with the lunar surface. On April 23rd, 1962, the Ranger 4 became the first US lunar impact on the Moon’s surface. The Soviets had done it first with Luna 2 on September 14th, 1959. The Ranger’s provided scientists with more than 17,000 close up pictures of the lunar surface and specifically the areas of Mare Tranquillitatis and Ocean Procellarum. (Johnson) These pictures gave us more information about the Moon and its surface in just a few years than all the previous attempts put together, though Pioneer 3 and 5 missed the Moon and are in solar orbit. The Mariner space program probes were designed to fly past and/or orbit planets, specifically Mercury, Venus and Mars. On August 27th, 1962, the US achieved the world’s first successful interplanetary spacecraft when the Mariner 2 was launched. It arrived at Venus at a distance of 34,800 kilometers and scanned its surface with infrared and microwave radiometers. It also captured data that showed Venus’ surface to be about 425 C. (Hamilton) On November 28th, 1964 the Mariner 4 was launched. It gave the first glimpse of Mars at close range, traveling within 9,920 kilometers of Mar’s surface. It also confirmed Mar’s thin atmosphere of carbon dioxide.
(Cook) On November 3rd, 1973, Mariner 10 was launched. It was the first dual planet mission. It recorded Venus’ temperature to be -23 C and produced 10,000 pictures of Mercury covering 57% of the planet’s surface. It also recorded the surface temperatures ranging from 187 C on the day side and -183 C on the night side. (Hamilton) Furthermore, it was also the first probe to use one planet’s gravity to propel itself towards another planet. On April 30th, 1966, the Surveyor 1 achieved the US’s first soft landing on the lunar surface. The Soviets beat the US with the Luna 9 soft landing on January 31st. The Surveyor series were unmanned spacecrafts designed to land on the Moon’s surface. Their objective was to provide information about the lunar surface to see if the terrain was safe, in preparation for manned landings. Their legs were “instrumented to return data on the surface hardness of the Moon.” Additionally, “Surveyor dispelled the fear that Apollo spacecraft might sink several feet or more into the lunar dust.” (Johnson) Between August 10th, 1966 and August 2nd, 1967, the US launched 5 spacecrafts from the Lunar Orbiter series. The series was designed to orbit the Moon and take pictures and collect data of the Moon’s surface in support of the ensuing manned Apollo landings.
On May 5th, 1961, Alan B. Shepard, Jr. Became the first American in space aboard the Freedom 7. In April the Soviets had the first man, Yuri A. Gagarin. On June 3rd, 1965 Edward H. White performed the first American ’space walk’ from the GT IV, a tester of the Gemini spacecraft. With Alexei A. Leonov in March, the Soviets had the first ’space walk’ beating the US. In a large degree, the success of the Apollo landing missions was due to the lessons, information and data collected from all of these missions. The Ranger and Lunar Orbiter series ‘robot’ spacecrafts provided close-up, map-like images of the lunar surface. The Surveyor determined “the chemical, mechanical and bearing properties of the surface layers” and provided ground level pictures of the terrain. (Hamilton) The Gemini tester and Gemini flights were used to develop most of the basic operational knowledge needed for the manned Apollo flights.
On December 21st, 1968, Apollo 8 was launched and became the first spacecraft to go in “circumlunar orbit.” (Johnson) Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, Jr., and William A. Anders, the Astronauts aboard Apollo 8, were the first men to view the ‘Earth whole’. The Apollo series was designed to land a man on the Moon and return him safely home to Earth. It was accomplished on July 20th, 1969, when Apollo 11 landed on Mare Tranquillitatis. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men to set first on the
Moon’s surface. The Apollo series ended in December of 1972, and the docking of an Apollo spacecraft with a Soviet Soyuz on July 18th, 1975 which closed out the program altogether.
On December 3rd, 1972, Pioneer 10 passed by Jupiter, giving the first close-up of the great planet. Later in 1986 in became the first man-made object to leave our solar system. On May 26th, 1973, Skylab SL-2 became the US’s first space station. It orbited the Earth at a distance of approximately 300 miles. It was designed and proved that man can survive in space for periods of
During 1975, Viking 1 and 2 were launched heading for Mars. They were designed to conduct detailed scientific research on Mars. Viking 1 landed on Mars on July 20th, 1976 and Viking 2 landed on September 3rd, 1976. The two Viking crafts learned more about Mars in a couple of months, than all previous missions did combined. During the summer of 1977 NASA launched Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 towards Jupiter and the outer regions of the solar system. In 1979 they passed Jupiter and sent back color TV images of Jupiter and its moons. Voyager 1 passed Saturn in November of 1980 and Voyager 2 passed Saturn in August of 1981 then passed Uranus in January of 1986. Voyager 2 came onto Neptune in August of 1989 and made the following discoveries: it found four rings around it, found six new moons, a Giant Spot on Neptune itself, and evidence of volcanic type activity on the moon Triton. They are both now heading for the end of the solar system.
In April of 1981 the US launched the Space Shuttle Columbia. This was the first spacecraft designed specifically for re-use of up to 100 times. During the next ten years, four more space shuttles were built; Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. On
January 28th, 1986, the shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after takeoff, killing the
7 person crew. It was the worst space flight disaster to date and was viewed by millions of people. The Endeavor missions set a record with three members of the crew remaining free of the shuttle for a total of 8 hours and 20 minutes. The Columbia mission in July of 1994, studied the effects of limited gravity of orbital flight on materials and living things like; goldfish, killifish, sea urchins, frogs, and Japanese red-bellied newts.(Johnson) In the summer of 1996 the mission studied the effects of weightlessness on people, plants and animals. It also studied the effects of manufacturing materials in zero gravity. The Atlantis mission in the summer 1996 marked the 100th United States human mission into space. Dr. Bonnie Dunbar set the US space record of 112 days in
space aboard the shuttle and Russian space station Mir. This was later broken by Dr. Shannon W. Lucid. On September 25th, 1992, NASA launched the Mars Observer. It lost communication once outside the Earth and is presumed to have exploded. In December of 1996, the Mars Pathfinder was launched. It landed on the surface of Mars on July 4th, 1997. It contains a revolutionary light weight robot explorer named Sojourner. It weighs 23 pounds and is designed to photo interesting rocks, patches of soil and asses the chemical composition of anything it finds. Scientists believe that they have found evidence that their is or was once life on Mars.
Overall, in my opinion, space exploration has not produced much in useful, everyday information in relation to its tremendous budget and bills. It has produced lots of scientific information, but for all the money being spent on these explorations, I believe something more useful for all of society should be found or done. Though I do find it interesting to know the temperatures of Venus and Mercury, and that Neptune
has more moons than once thought, I do not see how it is going to help us here on Earth. The most interesting fact that I found in my research was that frogs can throw up, though they rarely do it on Earth. First they throw up the stomach, so it dangles from the its mouth. Then it cleans out the stomach with its forearms and finally sucks it back down. Billions of dollars were spent to learn this, although not directly. But is this type of knowledge worth more than trying to find a cure for AIDS here at home?
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