“Life, for ever dying to be born afresh, for ever young and eager, will presently stand upon this earth as upon a footstool, and stretch out its realm amidst the stars.” – H. G. Wells, 1920 For most of recorded history, man has dreamt of going to the stars; escaping the bounds of earth and exploring the heavens. In the 1960s and ’70s, the U.S. space program was driven as much by the Cold War rivalry with the Soviet Union as by the traditional American ambition to explore new frontiers. Space travel originates from the invention of rockets, which the Chinese used for military and ceremonial purposes over 100 years ago. In the late twentieth century, only humans were able to make rockets that could overcome the force of gravity. The earliest respectable research on space bound rockets were occuring side by side in the early twentieth century by three scientists from three different countries. They were Konstantin Tsiolkovski from Russia, Robert Goddard from the United States of America, and Hermann Orbeth from Germany. The 1940’s is when Nazi Germany saw possibilities in using long distance rockets as a tool of destruction. Late in World War II,. London was bombed by 200-mile range V-2 missiles. These missiles arched sixty miles high across the English channel going more than 3,500 miles per hour. Going back to the space race, Germany was knocked out because World War II was extremely costly which prevented them to participating in the race to the moon. After WWII the USA and the Soviet Union constructed their own missile programs. On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, “Sputnik 1” into space. Four years later, the Soviets sent Yuri Gagarin into orbit on April 12, 1961 in the rocket Vostok 1. Yuri’s flight duration was 108 minutes and he reached 202 miles vertical. The first US satellite “Explorer 1” was sent to orbit January 31, 1958. In 1962, John Glenn was the first American to orbit the planet. On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong was the first man to set foot on the moon.(aerospace.org) One benefit of the space program includes technological advancements. There are many challenges to consider when trying to launch man into space. The mass of the space shuttle and all of its contents is a predominant factor that needs to be considered. During this time, the two contenders had very different ways of advancing. In the 1960s, there were two options, miniaturize or create larger boosters. The U.S. chose to miniaturize wherever possible while the Russians focused on huge boosters. (news.utexas.edu) The miniaturization led to the creation of the technological devices we have in our homes today. “The Apollo guidance computer was the great grandfather of the microcomputer. It weighed 70 pounds, required 55 watts of power, and had less than 40 KB of memory in a day when most computers weighed tons, filled rooms and needed their own air-conditioning systems.” (news.utexas.edu) My cell phone weighs 6.25 ounces and can have up to 128 gigabytes of memory while fitting inside a case that I can carry in my pants pocket.Another technological advancement that came about from the space program falls within the realms of the medical world. In the 1960s, NASA scientists wanted to enhance pictures of the moon so they invented digital image processing. The technology had many different applications where it helped enable body-imaging techniques such as CAT Scans and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).(www.nasa .gov) As of right now, the international space station is commercializing low earth orbit and doing research in low gravity without the government directly funding the research. The Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) is doing a large spectrum of commercial research and payloads. Two thirds of these projects have not required funding and the number is increasing. The technology used for space station water was also used in a small African village where they could not get clean water. This small village now has access to water purification and filtration technology that saved many lives. The microgravity on the space station also allows for the growth and study of protein crystals. An example of one of the crystals made in space is hematopoietic prostaglandin D synthase (H-PGDS). This protein may be a key to many medical issues such as muscular dystrophy. This shows that the research will be significant for a better more efficient medicine. Another advancement in tech, a robotic arm, this arm is in clinical trials that will be used for patients with breast cancer. The IGAR (Image-Guided Autonomous Robot) works inside a MRI machine to accurately identify the location and size of a tumor. Using IGAR, surgeons will be able to make highly dexterous movements as well as more precise movements during biopsies. From space the Hyperspectral Imager for the coastal ocean (HICO) was a sensor that could detect water quality parameters including water clarity, phytoplankton concentrations, light absorption and distribution of cyanobacteria. The HICO was built by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory for the Office of Naval Research to figure out the water quality in the coastal ocean. The researchers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took the data from HICO and created a smartphone application to determine hazardous concentrations of contaminants contained in water. With the International Space Station’s frequent additions of new instruments to observe earth researchers will continue to create environmental protection instruments to benefit life on earth. Setbacks to the space program are that it comes with a high price tag and it is extremely dangerous. On the first Apollo mission three astronauts scheduled to make the Apollo flight died in a flash fire during a simulation countdown. The fire was speculated to have been a electrical short that caused the highly combustible 100% oxygen to ignite. Prior to the fire there was small issues with the environmental control and communication systems, but no major issues. The pad crew using their fire fighting equipment rushed to get to the capsule. Despite having masks to protect them from smoke the would be rescuers one by one had to get out of the smoke. Due to this incident the fire fighting equipment we have today is so effective. The incident is also why automobiles are more flame retardant today. Even though the Apollo 1 mission was considered a failure, we learned a lot from it, including building a better spacecraft. During the Apollo era, the program provided 400,000 government jobs and funded 20,000 private contractors as well as subcontractors employing 350,000 people. Approximately 93 cents of every NASA dollar went to the private industry. The computer software and hardware technology produced went to solving environmental problems and social issues. Into the medical field, lightweight materials used for the rockets were then used for leg braces. Mass spectrometers used to monitor crew respiration were adjusted to be used in surgery. Another use of a tungsten alloy used in the space program was adapted and used of radiology to diagnose and treat cancer.
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