Scientists use a powerful tool – the telescope – to study billions of stars and other objects in the solar system. Of course, we can’t see all those stars with a telescope. Even the largest telescope can only make us look at a part of the sky at one time.
The world’s largest telescope is mounted in Mount Palomar in California – the Hale Telescope. The Hale telescope enables scientists to “see” the fainter stars that our eyes cannot see.
To study further other distant objects in space, NASA developed a space telescope that is carried outside the Earth’s atmosphere by the Space Shuttle. It allows astronomers to see dim and distant objects. The space telescope enables astronomers to see stars that cannot be seen through the most powerful telescope on Earth.
In 1957, new advances in space explorations were made with the landing of Sputnik 1 into orbit around the earth. Sputnik 1 was the world’s largest first artificial satellite. This marked the beginning of space age.
Since Sputnik 1, more than 1000 satellites have been put into orbit around the earth. Earth have one natural satellite, the moon. Artificial satellites are built by people. There are several types of artificial satellites orbiting the earth. Each satellite has a specific function.
Communication satellites – bean television programs; radio manages telescope conversation and other information.
Weather satellites – take pictures of weather patterns around the worlds.
Navigation satellites – send precise, continuous signals to ships and planes.
Scientific satellites – orbit the earth and scan the earth for signs of undiscovered natural resources.
The United States placed Skylab into orbit in 1973. Skylab was a space station designed to perform experiments in space. It was the first scientific laboratory in space.
Today the Space Shuttle has taken the place of Skylab. The Space Shuttle is a ship carried into space by rockets. It can return from space and be used again. The Space Shuttle returns to the earth like a glider.
The Space Shuttle has a laboratory that can fit different types of scientific equipments, depending on the kinds of experiments being run. It can also serve as a jump-off point for exploration of new worlds beyond the solar system.
Manned space flights began in April 1961 when Russia put Major Yuri Gagarin into orbit. He orbited the earth in Vostok 1 for 108 minutes; at an altitude of 327 km. many space flights followed Major Gagarin’s flight. Some were Russians; some by Americans.
In May 1961, the United States began space program and in 1969, humans were able to reach the moon. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), was the agency that undertook the space program.
In 1966, Saturn 1, a two-stage rocket, was launched as a test flight for the Apollo spacecraft. Later the system was changed to the Saturn V, a tree-stage rocket that produced a thrust of 54 million Newton.
Apollo 7, launched October 11, 1968, completed 163 earths’ orbits. Apollo 8, launched on December 21, 1968, completed the lunar orbit.
Apollo 9 and Apollo 10 successfully duplicated the complex processes necessary for a lunar landing. Finally the United States was ready for the moon shot.
Apollo 11 was launched on July 16, 1969 and returned to Earth on July 24. Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin landed on the moon and spent two hours exploring its surface. Apollo 11 was followed by five more lunar landings involving twelve astronauts. They returned with over 2000 samples of moon rocks for study. These studies of the lunar samples and of the data from instruments left on the moon continue to give us new clues on moon and Earth’s history.
With all these space explorations, humans have learned more about the solar system and the vast universe.