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Man has always had a desire to explore. The Earth was the first place to explore. Christopher Columbus explored and discovered North America. Lewis and Clark traveled across America in search of the Northwest Passage. Within the last fifty years, mankind has been setting its sights on a new frontier to explore: space. The government has been providing funding to explore outer space. There is just one problem: it is expensive. The government funds a lot of organizations and some would argue that space is a waste of money, but that is not true. Money is supposed to be used on relevant things and this is one of them. Space exploration is a good use of the government’s money.
Almost every religion has had some connection or fascination with space. Take Christianity and the Tower of Babel. Genesis 11:4 says that the people wanted to reach the heavens. They wanted to build into space essentially. Next, there is the Mayan civilization. The Mayans were one of the first groups to study the stars because they believed that they were gods. They used the stars and moon to help with farming and directions. Finally, there are the Egyptians. They would study the stars to keep track of when the annual floods were going to happen. They also planned special events and festivals according to the stars’ positions. In short, religion has always had an interest in space.
Many people throughout history have had deep thoughts about space. Take the Greek Philosopher Aristotle for example. He was one of the first philosophers to suggest that space was bigger than just the sun, moon, and stars. He also suggested that everything rotated around the Earth. There is also the French philosopher Rene Descartes. He believed that all of space must be filled. There can be no points of nothing. Later, an Italian Philosopher named Giordano Bruno had a thought. He theorized that the universe was indeed full. It was full of aether, a substance which allowed light to travel in a vacuum. All of these men and even more have thought hard and long on just what was out in space.
While philosophers do the thinking, astronomers do the studying. While studying the sky, a Chinese astronomer named Zhang Heng thought of something. He decided that space must be infinite, never ending. Thus, the moon, sun, and planets must be drifting around. A German astronomer named Nicolaus Copernicus thought of Aristotle’s theory, in which the Earth was the center of the universe, and theorized a new idea. He proposed that the sun was the center of everything. Everything, including Earth and all the other planets, revolved around the sun. Another famous astronomer was the German man known as Friedrich Bessel. He was the first person ever to discover the distance between objects in space. He used parallax, which is still used by astronomers today. Astronomers have studied the sky and discovered lots of things about our universe.
Throughout the beginning of space exploration, many rockets and satellites have been sent into space. The first artificial satellite was the Sputnik I. It was launched on October 4, 1957, by the Soviet Union. America feared that this satellite was secretly listening in on them; however, all the satellite could do was make a “beep” sound. The US launched their first satellite, the Explorer I, on January 31, 1958. It was the first satellite to collect data and return with it. This unofficially started “the space race.” None of this mattered if man couldn’t return from space. This is when the Jupiter C was born. It was one of the first rockets to have a nosecone that enabled it to return to earth. These rockets and satellites were the first of many to enter space.
Before man could enter space, animals were tested to see if any living thing could survive space. The first animal sent to space was Laika the dog. Unfortunately, she got into space, but didn’t come back. The oxygen levels became too thin and killed Laika. This was a bit of a setback for the world. Albert II was a monkey who was the first to survive in space. However, he died on impact coming back. The first creature ever to go to space and come back alive was Ham the Chimpanzee. He was also the first creature to do more than just sit there the whole ride. He interacted with levers and knobs to get bananas. Suffice to say, mankind wouldn’t be anywhere without these brave animals.
Though sending rockets and animals is important, man was ready to get up there himself. The first human ever in space was Yuri Gagarin. He was sent on April 12, 1961, for a single loop around the earth. America was a bit jealous and decided it was their turn. Alan Shepard was the first American to head into space, but not for an orbit. The real race, however, was to see who could land on the moon first. That title belongs to Neil Armstrong Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins. Taking the Apollo 11, these three men set off for the first attempt at a lunar landing. Neil Armstrong was the first to make contact and said these famous words, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Through these men, space was now ready to be explored.
Throughout space exploration, many medical advances have been made. One of these was the Ventricular Assist Device (heart pump). It was invented by collaboration between MicroMed Technology and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)(Turner1). Another medical invention was artificial limbs. They were used more for robotics by NASA, but were soon realized to also be useful for people (Turner 1). Finally, there is the water purifier. Astronauts were supposed to turn any liquid, no matter where it came from, into drinkable water. Soon though, people around the world began using these to obtain fresh water in place where there was none (Turner 5). Even though NASA was inventing space technology, many medical breakthroughs came from this program.
Many items that people used every day came from the space program. One of the more famous inventions was freeze dried foods. To freeze dry a food or meal, someone had to cook the meal, freeze the meal, and then slowly heat it. The meal would then be just as healthy and lighter to carry (Turner 4). Another household breakthrough was temper foam or “memory foam.” The material absorbs and reduces impact. This is mostly used in everyday mattresses. Even some racecar drivers use this material in their cars (Turner 3). Last but not least, the space program produced cordless appliances. Because of the low gravity affect inside the capsule, astronauts needed to have mobile appliances (Turner 4). Without the space program, many things around the house wouldn’t be where they are today.
NASA doesn’t take any chances when it comes to safety. Many of these advancements are also used on Earth. One of these is the Demining Device. NASA had so much leftover fuel that it gave some to Thiokol Propulsion. Thiokol produced a flare that when shot would explode a mine if it was hit (Turner 3). Another invention that grew out of the space program was firefighter gear. It was based on NASA’s astronaut suits because they were lightweight and protective (Turner 3). Lastly, chemical detection systems were born. Astronauts had to be careful not to release any toxic gases while in space. The detector would go off if any foreign gas was exposed (Turner 2). Without these safety advancements, life wouldn’t be as safe as it is today. Satellites really have changed the way the world works. There are satellites that are used for communication. Geosynchronous satellites are the highest satellite in space. They normally stay in one place and bounce signals off other satellites (Brown and Harris 8). There are also satellites used for monitoring and observation. These are called low-earth satellites and are the closest to the earth. This makes them ideal for taking pictures of and monitoring the earth (Brown and Harris 8). Finally, some satellites are used for navigation. Medium-earth satellites triangulate a person’s position based on the readings of multiple sources. This feature is most commonly used in Global Position Systems or GPS for short (Brown and Harris 8). Satellites change how people view, interact, and travel the world.
Many technology breakthroughs have led to exploration of foreign planets more accessible. A popular innovation in space has been the Rover program. These rovers can explore planets and moons that the normal human cannot. Rovers can also gather rocks and dirt to bring back for testing (Brain and Kershner 1). Another great exploration tool is the probe. The difference between a probe and a rover is that probes mainly stay in space. The probe will orbit the designated target and take pictures and readings to send home (Simmons 1). Last but certainly not least, there is the aerobots program. This is kind of a mix between rovers and probes. It gets closer to the planet than the probe does, but doesn’t actually make contact with the ground. This is mostly for closer pictures that a probe cannot normally take (Patel 1). These robots and machines have allowed man to explore like never before.
Although exploration is important, it’s useless if NASA can’t get rockets that far. Flight technology advancements are essential for the future. A necessary tool is the heat shield. This shield absorbs the heat from entering different atmospheres. Without it, rockets and other things would burn up before making it to the ground (Dunbar, Heat Shield 1). Next, the launch systems are a key part of space exploration. They give enough push to launch the rocket into space. The flames are so hot that they can reach temperatures of up to 3,300 degrees Celsius (Geuss 1). Lastly, there are the very important booster engines. After the launch system gets the rocket going, it’s up to the booster engines to get it into space completely (Dunbar, Rocket Boosters 1). These flight advancements are crucial to space exploration.
The problem with space exploration is the limitations due to current technology. Traveling long distances will require future advancements. One of these needed upgrades is the deep space atomic clock. This piece of tech will allow NASA to have a much more precise time. This is crucial for navigation and performance (Wall 1). Another much needed advancement is the space sail. NASA has tried this before, but a bigger version is needed. This would allow travel through space without any propulsion (Wall 1). Finally, laser communication is the future. The idea is to send information via lasers to wherever the information was needed. This would be much faster than the current way of transmitting data (Wall 1). These pieces of technology are needed for the advance of space travel.
The field of robotics must advance for the sake of space exploration. A much needed advancement is self-replicating robots. The theory behind this is that when NASA launches a robot to a certain destination, it will make itself. This would save time and money for the engineers at NASA (Burgess 1). Another step in the right direction is holograms. It is still nearly impossible to put people on Mars today. Holograms would allow scientists to study Mars without having to go there (Burgess 1). Finally, there is the space balloon. A planet like Venus just will not be possible to explore for a while. Space balloons will at least allow scientists to start studying the planet up close (Burgess 1). The advances in robotics will help to speed up the space program.
All of these advancements will be useless if people can’t go out and colonize. Colonization technology is a crucial step. First, people have to be able to transport other people to and from Earth. Advances in molecular nanotechnology might have the answer. If NASA could create a ship out of diamond, it would be strong yet light. This type of rocket would be perfect for long distance flights (Johnson and Holbrow 1). Next, people have to have a place to stay. It would have to be airtight and be able to rotate in a way that people would always be right side up (Johnson and Holbrow 1). Finally, man would need a constant source of oxygen. Space stations can currently make their own oxygen. The problem would be making it enough for more than a thousand people (Freudinrich 1). These steps are truly the keystones of human colonization on other planets.
There are many off-Earth advantages of space exploration. Although, there are also many on-Earth application as well. Many jobs come from the space program. NASA had many types of engineers. Biology engineers are one of these types. Sometimes called biomedical engineers, these people study places, conditions, and people’s health (Evans 1). This allows them to create better medical systems that are safer and keep people safe. Another type of engineer is an aerospace engineer. These engineers design and launch the vessels which are sent into space. Without them, rockets would not fly as smoothly (Evans 1). Lastly, there are meteorology engineers. These select few study the Earth’s atmosphere. This allows NASA to figure out what the best way to send a rocket into space is. Many engineering jobs have come from exploring space.
Even though they are not seen much, there are groups of people who work behind the scenes at NASA. Accountants are one of them. The space budget for 2016 is $18.5 billion. The accountants make sure that the engineers do not start a project that cannot be funded (Amadeo 1). There are also controllers who are behind the scenes. This group is constantly in motion during a launch. They check to make sure that everything is correct (Siceloff 1). Finally, there is the launch director. This is the spokesperson of the control room. This individual usually gives the final goodbye before the launch (Siceloff 1). These behind-the- scene people are an important part of space exploration.
The engineers build and the behind-the- scene people plan, but the explorers are the true patriots. There have been many famous explorers in space. One of the most famous of all time is Neil Armstrong. This man was the first man to walk on the moon. He said these famous words, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Next, there is Sally Ride. Sally was the first woman to enter space. This opened up the gates for many other great female astronauts (Williams 1). Last but not least, there is Alyssa Carson. Even though she has not technically been in space yet, she is definitely ready to. Many believe that she will be the first human being on Mars (Eleftheriou-Smith 1). Explorers are the beginning of a new generation.
Space exploration has also benefited the way people communicate. One of the biggest innovations was the internet. At first, people had to go to the library to find information. Now, nearly everyone and everything is connected via the internet. It all started during the Cold War. The U.S. government was worried that one missile would take down the whole telephone network. A man named J.C.R. Licklider suggested that they make a “galactic network of computers.” The idea took off and slowly the internet spread through the world (Staff 1). The internet was limited to local connections at first. Soon though, the internet became worldwide thanks to the help of satellites. The computers would bounce the signals off a satellite and redirect it to a different computer (Strickland 3). Thanks to the space program and satellites, people can now connect to the internet wherever they want. Closely related to the internet, the phone was also a very popular means of communication that came out of the space program. Originally invented by Alexander Bell, the phone was connected by phone wires at the beginning. The next step was to make phones wireless. Soon, radio towers began to come around. These allowed phones to work wirelessly. However, the real innovation was when phones became worldwide. Satellite phones, sat phones for short, can directly connect to a low-earth satellite. This allows the phone to almost never lose connection, no matter the location (Chandler 2). The world today is shaped the way it is because of phones and the internet. They are an important part of society today.
Space exploration has had a significant impact on people. Many different genres of writings have been created by inspiration of space. One book inspired by space exploration is The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. This story tells the tale of a man who travels through time. He travels to different times and places in his machine (Shmoop, The Time Machine 1). Another space-related tale is A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke. In this book, Heywood Floyd heads off on an “odyssey” through space. Through many turns and twists, the crew of the Discovery travel to Saturn. Finally, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is very inspired by space exploration. This tells of the adventures of a crew of slightly weird people. By using their impossible ship, they travel through the galaxy and explore the cosmos (Shmoop, Hitchhiker’s Guide 1). These books were heavily inspired by the idea of space exploration.
Even though many books were inspired by space travel, many shows were as well. One of these shows was the always famous Star Trek. Truly starting in 1966, this show was an instant hit. Star Trek is about a crew of both humans and aliens exploring the universe (Tate 1). Another popular space show is Doctor Who. This show is about an alien named the Doctor who travels the universe in search of those needing help. Most of the time, the Doctor causes more trouble than he fixes (Frevele 1). Lastly, there is The Twilight Zone. This strange show is about different times, places and dimensions. Each episode is a new phase of weird, exciting fun (Zicree 1). Space exploration had brought about many shows that people watch today.
Just like books and shows, many movies have been inspired by the idea of space exploration. A very popular space themed movie is Star Wars. Many people have seen this high energy movie. It takes place in the future and tells a tale of what other creatures and people are out in the universe. Another deeply loved movie is Alien. This tells the darker side of space exploration and the dangers of other aliens. Alien is about a crew being attacked by an alien nest while traveling through space. Finally, The Martian is a recently released space movie. In this movie, Mark Watney is left stranded on Mars and must survive until help comes. This movie is more scientific than the average space movie. Space exploration has influenced many books, shows, and movies. The trick now is to make those shows a reality.
Through the exploration of space, many new pieces of information were brought to light. At the beginning of NASA, people really did not know much about different planets. Through time, scientists know that earth is part of a solar system. There are other planets orbiting the sun (Britt 1). Another thing man has learned is what an exoplanet is. Exoplanets are planets that are outside of the solar system. These planets are orbiting a different star than the solar system sun (Howell, Exoplanets 1). Last but not least, there are planets much like Earth. This is what astronomers dream of. Another Earth is the key to survival (Howell, Earth-Like 1). This information would not be available today if not for space exploration. Besides planets, much more is known about galaxies and universes since space travel. The galaxy earth is in is called the Milky Way Galaxy. This galaxy rotates at a rate of 515,000 miles per hour. This spinning motion is what creates new stars and planets (Redd, Milky Way 1). Also, there are many galaxies inside the universe. The universe is almost like a bigger galaxy. An exciting fact is when someone looks at planets or galaxies outside the universe mankind is in, it is from the past. By the time that the light from the planet, which is far away, reaches Earth, time has already passed. (Morris 1). Finally, there is dark matter. Although it cannot be proven, many scientists believe that dark matter dominates the universe (Redd, Dark Matter 1). With the exploration of space and the universe, much information about galaxies and universes would not be known today.
The universe has many of these in it: stars. Through the help of space travel, more knowledge on stars has been found. The most prominent star in the solar system is the sun. The sun is a big ball of luminous plasma. The sun’s average temperature is 9940.73 degrees Fahrenheit. When stars start to get together, these are called star clusters. The stars become gravitationally bound to each other. Hundreds of stars can be in a cluster. Finally, there is the black hole. This is a star that has collapsed on itself. The pull from a black hole is so powerful, not even light or time can escape (Choi 1). Stars are very important and without space exploration, people would not have this information.
Despite all the benefits of the space program, many still doubt its usefulness. Many say that it is too expensive. They say that the money should be used to improve humanity. The problem there is that the space program is helping mankind. Resources on earth are dwindling at an alarming rate. The need for a new source of materials or even a whole new planet is imminent. Others would say that explorers should explore all of Earth first. The thing is: there is not a lot left to explore. Sure, not every ocean floor and every mountain top have been explored, but the chances of there being something world changing is slim. There is nothing new to discover on Earth, but there is only discovery in space. Finally, people are saying the commute time is too much. “How can man travel such a great distance in such a short time?” they say. This view point is from a present view point. People have to look towards the future. NASA does not have all the resources and innovations it needs to travel long distances. That does not mean it will never happen. It definitely will not happen if funding is taken away. People who are against the space program really do not have sound arguments.
Space exploration is a good use of the government’s money. It is the next step that humanity has to take. The government funds many things, but not all are as important as this. Man has explored most of the earth. Nothing else is really going to surprise people. Space; on the other hand, is still unknown. There are so many things out there that man doesn’t know. Other planets, galaxies, and universes are just the beginning. Trying to prevent exploration is a bad idea. Man has the urge to explore in his blood. Space is the final frontier to travel.
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