The actual idea of the exploration of space started in the twentieth century during the World War II simultaneously in three countries by three scientists: in Russia, by Konstantin Tsiolkovski; in the United States, by Robert Goddard; and in Germany, by Hermann Oberth. United States and Soviet Union set their own space programmes after the war.
It was the Soviet Union that launched the first artificial satellite o 4th October 1957, named sputnik 1. Later on 12 April 1961 Lt. Yuri Gagarin became the first person to orbit the earth, which lasted for 108 minutes and reached an altitude of 327km. In the year 1958 January 31 the United States sent its first satellite, Explorer 1 to the space. Alan Shepard became the first American to fly into space in 1961 and on February 20, 1962, John Glenn’s flight made him the first American to orbit Earth.
In the year 1969, a US Astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. From then on six Apollo missions were made to explore the moon between 1969 and 1972. In the 1960s many unmanned satellites orbited the earth and too pictures of the earth and by the early 1970s satellites were used for communication and navigation and the mariner spacecraft was orbiting and mapping the mars. Skylab (America’s first space station), Apollo soyuz test project were the highlights of this decade.
The farthest the humans have gone is the moon during the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972. In the year 1977 voyager 1 mission was launched to study the outer planets. It is now almost 130billion kilometres away from the earth and is the only satellite that has crossed the solar system travelling at a rate of several hundred million kilometres per year. In 1980 the communication satellites expanded to carry out television programs.
In April 1981 space shuttle Columbia was launched. After 24 successful launches, in the year 1986 shuttle challenger exploded killing its crew. This made the Americans develop a better launch method and design satellite system to be compatible with more than one launch system.
Some of the other remarkable missions so far includes the following. Mars Orbiter mission by India in 2017, Mars Science Laboratory of NASA rover in 2011 and Mars express of European countries were the three major successful unmanned missions to mars. Smart 1 was the first programme by European nations which was done in year 2003 to Mars.
Chandrayaan programme of India was started on 2008, which is continuing. Among many missions to comets and asteroids Rosetta mission of Europe stands out. It was the first time a spacecraft landed on a comet. Deep Impact (2005), Dawn (2007) and Stardust (2011) were other remarkable missions carried out by USA to explore comets.
An International Space Station has been set up in low Earth orbit with many different partners contributing to its design and construction. The space technology has become more and more integral and important.
Article by Darshan.