Milestones in Space Exploration

In the year 1608, Dutch lens maker Hans Lipperhay invented the world’s first telescope1 and a year later, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei perfected the telescope and revolutionized the way we look at space. Galileo’s observations2 included the observations of the Moon, phases of Venus, moons around Jupiter, and sunspots. Apart from concluding that the Moon does not have a smooth surface, Jupiter has more than one moon and that the Sun has sunspots, Galileo also made a controversial conclusion that Earth was not the center of the universe.

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With his observations of Venus, Galileo was able to figure out that the planet orbits the Sun, not the Earth and thus concluding the Sun as the center of our solar system. Galileo’s observations were foundation to the future accomplishments made in the field of astronomy. Although his work was brilliant, Galileo’s telescopic observations made him powerful enemies3. The Catholic Church at that time believed that Galileo’s observations challenged the writings of the Bible. After years of Galileo defending his work, he was eventually hauled before the Inquisition and was sentenced to a house arrest for an indefinite term.

After Galileo’s remarkable work, the research in the field of cosmology and astronomy continued for centuries. After years of research, observations and technological advancement, everything lead to what I believe to be one of the most significant achievement in space exploration, the launch of the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1. Sputnik 1 was launched on 4 October 19574 by the Soviet Union. Although, the satellite’s biggest accomplishment was just getting into the space, but it did inspire incredible space exploration achievements. It inspired Soviet Union to continue their work in space exploration which lead them to ensuing the achievement of sending first man in space and inspired America to land a man on the moon by 1960s.

As mentioned before the Soviet Union was the first organization to send human to space. They accomplished it when Yuri Gagarin was the first person to fly in space. His flight5, on April 12, 1961, lasted 108 minutes circled the Earth for one orbit. Gagarin’s journey brought us knowledge about feeling weightlessness in space and how Earth looks from space. The details from his flight became the base for spacecraft designers and scientist to make future space journeys more efficient and safer. This accomplishment has also had societal impacts as after Yuri’s description of how Earth looks from the space, it helped humans realize how fragile and small our planet is compared to the vastness of the universe is. This inspired people to focus on protecting what we have through environmental conservation efforts.

As the Soviet Union continued with their remarkable achievements in space exploration, the USA also made sure they were not left behind. On July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong brought glory to his nation as he stepped onto the moon as a part of the Apollo Program6. The Apollo program was intended to arrive people on the Moon and take them securely back to Earth. Six of the missions (Apollos 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17) accomplished this objective. The six missions that arrived on the Moon help gather an abundance of scientific information. The societal impact of this program was similar to Yuri Gagarin’s spaceflight, it helped create a new consciousness of the Earth and its place in the universe in particular. As a result, a lot people realized that our world is one to be cherished and protected. The Appolo missions also proved that there is no limit to what humans can achieve if they work together.

The Appolo program was just the beginning of the space age and brilliant minds all over the world have continued to make leaps in space exploration ever since. This is evident by accomplishments such as the International Space Station, the discovery of exo-planets, the first mars landing, the Voyager Missions and many more accomplishments. Although these space accomplishments have been expensive, they have been very beneficial to mankind. Imaging Earth from space has played a key role in creating awareness about global climate change and helped us realize the uniqueness of our planet. Space exploration has also led to the development of modern-day satellites which are key to a lot of daily life events these days such as communication and navigation.

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