Fascination with Space
Space is that part of the Universe which lies beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and in which density of matter is very low. Astronomers admit they do not know how far space extends. According to Einstein, space is curved.
The Russians are the pioneers in space research. On October 4, 1957 Russia sent its Sputnik into space but it did not return to the Earth. The dog Laika enclosed in it died in space. In 1959 an unmanned rocket sent by Russia, transmitted to the Earth the photographs of the far side of the moon, which can never be seen from the Earth. This is a great achievement. On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the Earth. He made a single orbit in 108 minutes. He wanted to visit Venus and Mars. Unfortunately, he was killed in 1968 in an air-crash.
The first American to go into orbit was Herschel Glenn, Jr. (February 1962). He circled the Earth three times.
In June 1963, Valentina Tereshkova, a Russian woman orbited the Earth. She is the first woman to move in orbit
In March 1965, Alexei Leonov, a Russian left the spaceship and spent ten minutes in open space, encased in a spacesuit and attached to the ship by a tether. It was the first -space walk.
In March 1966, Armstrong and R. Scott succeeded in docking or joining with an unmanned vessel. This is the first docking in space.
On July 16, 1969 NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) of the United States launched Apollo (eleven) to land men, on the Moon. On the 21′ of that month, Armstrong landed on the Moon. He is the first to touch the lunar soil. The words uttered by him before he stepped on to the surface of the Moon have become famous: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The Moon has no atmosphere. Nor does it contain water. Its surface gets heated up fast during daytime and may reach 135°C. Because of the absence of an atmosphere, the sky seen from the Moon appears dark during day, and a Moon-based observer can see the stars even at high noon.
Now let us examine the targets in the solar system.
Mercury: This is the smallest planet in our galaxy. Radar observations indicate that this planet turns on its axis every 59 days. It has sunrise and sunset. Because of its proximity to the Sun, it is extremely hot. No one will, therefore, be able to approach it. It does not seem to have any atmosphere.
Venus: Of all the nine planets, Venus is the brightest -and the most beautiful. It is called the Morning Star and the Evening Star since it can be seen in the sky just before sunrise and sunset. Because of its furnace-like hot atmosphere, no man can land on it. Its surface temperature is about 800° F.
Mars: Russia and the United States have already sent a few space probes to this planet. There are craters on Mars. To reach it, a round trip over a year is necessary. If may have. an .atmosphere containing oxygen. Mars is known as the ‘Red Planet’
The journey to the other planets namely Jupiter (the largest), Saturn, Neptune, Uranus and Pluto (the farthest, discovered in 1930) require several years since they are millions of miles away from our planet. The possibility of man’s reaching these planets is, therefore, remote. The scientists’ curiosity as well as pertinacity to solve the mysteries of the universe is becoming greater. Their spirit of adventure is remarkable. We, therefore, think that one day scientists may succeed in landing men on these planets. Human civilization cannot exist without new frontiers. The statement made by Tsiolkovsky, father of space science, is prophetic: “The Earth is the cradle of the mind — but you cannot live in the cradle for ever.”