Space Exploration

Ever since the beginning of time, mankind has been fascinated with wonders of space. Before the mid-1900s, all mankind could do was gaze at the stars from Earth and wonder what it would be like to go into space. Man would look through telescopes and make theories on how the universe worked. During the mid-1900s, mankind finally was able to send a man into space and explore the wonders of space first hand. So why do humans explore space? Well, it is our fascination with the unknown.
At first, all mankind did was look up and wonder how things became what they are now. We started to think that all celestial bodies revolved around the Earth, and the Earth was the center of the entire universe. Galileo Galelie later disproved this theory. Even with growing knowledge in the field, it was not until 1957 when the first Earth orbiter, the Soviet’s Sputnik 1, was sent into space and placed in orbit at an altitude of 1,370 miles and weighed 184 pounds. Later in that year, the Soviets sent Sputnik 2 into space with a dog named Laika. Laika was the first animal to venture into space. Then in 1985, the United States successfully sent their very own satellite into space. In 1960, the Soviets launched to dogs into space and successfully returned them to Earth.
From this point started the space race. The space race was a challenge between the USSR and the United States to see who could land a man on the moon first. In 1961, the first man in space was cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin who was in space for 60 minutes before returning to Earth in Vostok 1 and was sent by the USSR. Astronaut Shepard flew the first manned sub-orbital space-flight by the Americans. The first true American orbital flight was by John Glen and he stayed in space for five hours in Mercury 6 in 1962. Then in 1963, the USSR sent the first woman into space; her name was Valentina Tereshkova-Nikaleva. They also had the first person to take a space-walk in 1965. In 1968, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA tested the first Saturn 5 rocket, which would be used for the Apollo missions. The first manned Apollo missions and the first flight around the moon took place in 1968. Finally, on July 21, 1969, the United States placed the first man on the moon winning the space race.
The challenge for mankind at present is placing a human on Mars. We have already sent probes on to Mars and roamed some of its terrain with the rover known as Sojourner. Sojourner was taken to Mars on NASA‘s Mars Pathfinder and was the first wheeled vehicle to operate on another planetary surface. The Mars pathfinder sent photographs, atmospheric measurements, and a few other important data that will contribute to taking a man to Mars. While pathfinder sent data, Sojourner examined rocks and soil samples with a camera and Alpha Proton X-ray Spectrometer, providing useful data on chemical compositions and radiation bounced back from rocks and dust. The mission finally ended when the Pathfinder stopped responding to commands from NASA. NASA has sent two other probes to Mars, but both malfunctioned and were destroyed on impact on the Martian surface.
The US and a few other countries have joined together and are constructing the International Space Station or the ISS. The ISS is scheduled to be completed in 2004 and will be continuously occupied by up to seven crewmembers. The space station is envisioned to be a world-class research facility in which scientist can study Earth and space, as well as explore the medical effects of long durations of weightlessness in space and the behavior of materials in a weightlessness environment, and the practicality of space manufacturing techniques.
Now, the future of space exploration depends on many factors. Some of these factors are as followed: how much technology advances, how political forces change rivalries as well as partnerships with other nations, and how important space exploration is to the general public. NASA is working on a single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) vehicle, but until it is until then, NASA plans to us the space shuttle fleet to the year 2012. It is clear that mankind