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Space Exploration, quest to use space travel to discover the nature of the universe beyond Earth.
Since ancient times, people have dreamed of leaving their home planet and exploring other worlds. In
the later half of the 20th century, that dream became reality. The space age began with the launch of
the first artificial satellites in 1957. A human first went into space in 1961. Since then, astronauts and
cosmonauts have ventured into space for ever greater lengths of time, even living aboard orbiting
space stations for months on end. Two dozen people have circled the Moon or walked on its surface.
At the same time, robotic explorers have journeyed where humans could not go, visiting all but one of
the solar systems major worlds. Unpiloted spacecraft have also visited a host of minor bodies such as
moons, comets, and asteroids. These explorations have sparked the advance of new technologies,
from rockets to communications equipment to computers. Spacecraft studies have yielded a bounty of
scientific discoveries about the solar system, the Milky Way Galaxy, and the universe. And they have
given humanity a new perspective on Earth and its neighbors in space.
The first challenge of space exploration was developing rockets powerful enough and reliable enough
to boost a satellite into orbit. These boosters needed more than brute force, however; they also
needed guidance systems to steer them on the proper flight paths to reach their desired orbits. The
next challenge was building the satellites themselves. The satellites needed electronic components
that were lightweight, yet durable enough to withstand the acceleration and vibration of launch.
Creating these components required the worlds aerospace engineering facilities to adopt new
standards of reliability in manufacturing and testing. On Earth, engineers also had to build tracking
stations to maintain radio communications with these artificial "moons as they circled the planet.
Beginning in the early 1960s, humans launched probes to explore other planets. The distances
traveled by these robotic space travelers required travel times measured in months or years. These
spacecraft had to be especially reliable to continue functioning for a decade or more. They also had to
withstand such hazards as the radiation belts surrounding Jupiter, particles orbiting in the rings of
Saturn, and greater extremes in temperature than are faced by spacecraft in the vicinity of Earth.
Despite their great scientific returns, these missions often came with high price tags. Today the
worlds space agencies, such as the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA), strive to conduct robotic missions more cheaply and
It was inevitable that humans would follow their unpiloted creations into space. Piloted spaceflight
introduced a whole new set of difficulties, many of them concerned with keeping people alive in the
hostile environment of space. In addition to the vacuum of space, which requires any piloted
spacecraft to carry its own atmosphere, there are other deadly hazards: solar and cosmic radiation,
micrometeorites (small bits of rock and dust) that might puncture a spacecraft hull or an astronauts
pressure suit, and extremes of temperature ranging from frigid darkness to broiling sunlight. It was
not enough simply to keep people alive in space-astronauts needed to have a means of
accomplishing useful work while they were there. It was necessary to develop tools and techniques for
space navigation, and for conducting scientific observations and experiments. Astronauts would have
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to be protected when they ventured outside the safety of their pressurized spacecraft to work in the
vacuum. Missions and hardware would have to be carefully designed to help ensure the safety of
space crews in any foreseeable emergency, from liftoff to landing.
The challenges of conducting piloted spaceflights were great enough for missions that orbited Earth.
They became even more daunting for the Apollo missions, which sent astronauts to the Moon. The
achievement of sending astronauts to the lunar surface and back represents a summit of human
After the Apollo program, the emphasis in piloted missions shifted to long-duration spaceflight, as
pioneered aboard Soviet and U.S. space stations. The development of reusable spacecraft became
another goal, giving rise to the U.S. space shuttle fleet. Today, efforts focus on keeping people healthy
during space missions lasting a year or more-the duration needed to reach nearby planets-and in
lowering the cost of sending satellites into orbit.
The desire to explore the heavens is probably as old as humankind, but in the strictest sense, the
history of space exploration begins very recently, with the launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik
1, which the Soviets sent into orbit in 1957. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in
space just a few years later, in 1961. The decades from the 1950s to the 1990s have been full of new
"firsts, new records, and advances in technology.
Although artificial satellites and piloted spacecraft are achievements of the later 20th century, the
technology and principles of space travel stretch back hundreds of years, to the invention of rockets in
the 11th century and the formulation of the laws of motion in the 17th century. The power of rockets
to lift objects into space is described by a law of motion that was formulated by English scientist Sir
Isaac Newton in the 1680s. Newtons third law of motion states that every action causes an equal and
opposite reaction. As predicted by Newtons law, the rearward rush of gases expelled by the rockets
engine causes the rocket to be propelled forward. It took nine centuries from the invention of rockets
and almost three centuries from the formulation of Newtons third law for humans to send an object
into space. In space, the motions of satellites and interplanetary spacecraft are described by the laws
of motion formulated by German astronomer Johannes Kepler, also in the 17th century. For example,
one of Keplers laws states that the closer a satellite is to Earth, the faster it orbits.
Rockets made their first recorded appearance as weapons in 12th-century China, but they probably
originated in the 11th century. Fueled by gunpowder, they were launched against enemy troops. In
the centuries that followed, these solid-fuel rockets became part of the arsenals of Europe. In 1814,
during an attack on New Orleans, Louisiana, the British fired rockets-with little effect-at American
A First Forays into Space
A1 Rockets and Rocket Builders
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In Russia, nearly a century later, a lone schoolteacher named Konstantin Tsiolkovsky envisioned how
to use rockets to voyage into space. In a series of detailed treatises, including "The Exploration of
Cosmic Space With Reactive Devices (1903), Tsiolkovsky explained how a multi-stage, liquid-fuel
rocket could propel humans to the Moon.
Tsiolkovsky did not have the means to build real liquid-fuel rockets. Robert Goddard, a physics
professor in Worcester, Massachusetts, took up that effort. In 1926 he succeeded in building and
launching the worlds first liquid-fuel rocket, which soared briefly above a field near his home.
Beginning in 1940, after moving to Roswell, New Mexico, Goddard built a series of larger liquid-fuel
rockets that flew as high as 90 m (300 ft). Meanwhile, beginning in 1936 at the California Institute of
Technology, other experimenters made advances in solid-fuel rockets. During World War II (1939-
1945), engineers developed solid-fuel rockets that could be attached to an airplane to provide a boost
during takeoff.
The greatest strides in rocketry during the first half of the 20th century occurred in Germany. There,
mathematician and physicist Hermann Oberth and architect Walter Hohmann theorized about rocketry
and interplanetary travel in the 1920s. During World War II, Nazi Germany undertook the first large-
scale rocket development program, headed by a young engineer named Wernher Von Braun. Von
Brauns team created the V-2, a rocket that burned an alcohol-water mixture with liquid oxygen to
produce 250,000 newtons (56,000 lb) of thrust. The Germans launched thousands of V-2s carrying
explosives against targets in Britain and The Netherlands. While they did not prove to be an effective
weapon, V-2s did become the first human-made objects to reach altitudes above 80 km (50 mi)-the
height at which outer space is considered to begin-before falling back to Earth. The V-2 inaugurated
the era of modern rocketry.
During the years following World War II, the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
(USSR) engaged in efforts to construct intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of traveling
thousands of miles armed with a nuclear warhead. In August 1957 Soviet engineers, led by rocket
pioneer Sergei Korolyev, were the first to succeed with the launch of their R-7 rocket, which stood
almost 30 m (100 ft) tall and produced 3.8 million newtons (880,000 lb) of thrust at liftoff. Although
its primary purpose was for use as a weapon, Korolyev and his team adapted the R-7 into a satellite
launcher. On October 4, 1957, they launched the worlds first artificial satellite, called Sputnik ("fellow
traveler). Although it was only a simple 58-cm (23-in) aluminum sphere containing a pair of radio
transmitters, Sputniks successful orbits around Earth marked a huge step in technology and ushered
in the space age. On November 3, 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik 2, which weighed 508 kg
(1,121 lb) and contained the first space traveler-a dog named Laika, which survived for several days
aboard Sputnik 2. Due to rising temperatures within the satellite, Laika died from heat exhaustion
before her air supply ran out.
News of the first Sputnik intensified efforts to launch a satellite in the United States. The initial U.S.
satellite launch attempt on December 6, 1957, failed disastrously when the Vanguard launch rocket
A2 Early Artificial Satellites
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exploded moments after liftoff. Success came on January 31, 1958, with the launch of the satellite
Explorer 1. Instruments aboard Explorer 1 made the first detection of the Van Allen belts, which are
bands of trapped radiation surrounding Earth (see Radiation Belts). This launch also represented a
success for Wernher von Braun, who had been brought to the United States with many of his
engineers after World War II. Von Brauns team had created the Jupiter C (an upgraded version of
their Redstone missile), which launched Explorer 1.
The satellites that followed Sputnik and Explorer into Earth orbit provided scientists and engineers
with a variety of new knowledge. For example, scientists who tracked radio signals from the U.S.
satellite Vanguard 1, launched in March 1958, determined that Earth is slightly flattened at the poles.
In August 1959 Explorer 6 sent back the first photo of Earth from orbit. Even as these satellites
revealed new details about our own planet, efforts were underway to reach our nearest neighbor in
space, the Moon.
Early in 1958 the United States and the USSR were both working hard to be the first to send a
satellite to the Moon. Initial attempts by both sides failed. On October 11, 1958, the United States
launched Pioneer 1 on a mission to orbit the Moon. It did not reach a high enough speed to reach the
Moon, but reached a height above Earth of more than 110,000 km (more than 70,000 mi). In early
December 1958 Pioneer 3 also failed to leave high Earth orbit. It did, however, discover a second Van
Allen belt of radiation surrounding Earth.
On January 2, 1959, after two earlier failed missions, the USSR launched Luna 1, which was intended
to hit the Moon. Although it missed its target, Luna 1 did become the first artificial object to escape
Earth orbit. On September 14, 1959, Luna 2 became the first artificial object to strike the Moon,
impacting east of the Mare Serentitatis (Sea of Serenity). In October 1959, Luna 3 flew around the
Moon and radioed the first pictures of the far side of the Moon, which is not visible from Earth.
In the United States, efforts to reach the Moon did not resume until 1962, with a series of probes
called Ranger. The early Rangers were designed to eject an instrument capsule onto the Moons
surface just before the main spacecraft crashed into the Moon. These missions were plagued by
failures-only Ranger 4 struck the Moon, and the spacecraft had already ceased functioning by that
time. Rangers 6 through 9 were similar to the early Rangers, but did not have instrument packages.
They carried television cameras designed to send back pictures of the Moon before the spacecraft
crashed. On July 31, 1964, Ranger 7 succeeded in sending back the first high-resolution images of the
Moon before crashing, as planned, into the surface. Rangers 8 and 9 repeated the feat in 1965.
By then, the United States had embarked on the Apollo program to land humans on the Moon (see the
Piloted Spaceflight section of this article for a discussion of the Apollo program). With an Apollo
landing in mind, the next series of U.S. lunar probes, named Surveyor, was designed to "soft-
land (that is, land without crashing) on the lunar surface and send back pictures and other data to aid
Apollo planners. As it turned out, the Soviets made their own soft landing first, with Luna 9, on
February 3, 1966. Luna 9 radioed the first pictures of a dusty moonscape from the lunar surface.
Surveyor 1 successfully reached the surface on June 2, 1966. Six more Surveyor missions followed; all
B Unpiloted Lunar Missions
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but two were successful. The Surveyors sent back thousands of pictures of the lunar surface. Two of
the probes were equipped with a mechanical claw, remotely operated from Earth, that enabled
scientists to investigate the consistency of the lunar soil.
At the same time, the United States launched the Lunar Orbiter probes, which began circling the Moon
to map its surface in unprecedented detail. Lunar Orbiter 1 began taking pictures on August 18, 1966.
Four more Lunar Orbiters continued the mapping program, which gave scientists thousands of high-
resolution photographs covering nearly all of the Moon.
Beginning in 1968 the USSR sent a series of unpiloted Zond probes-actually a lunar version of their
piloted Soyuz spacecraft-around the Moon. These flights, initially designed as preparation for planned
piloted missions that would orbit the Moon, returned high-quality photographs of the Moon and Earth.
Two of the Zonds carried biological payloads with turtles, plants, and other living things.
Although both the United States and the USSR were achieving successes with their unpiloted lunar
missions, the Americans were pulling steadily ahead in their piloted program. As their piloted lunar
program began to lag, the Soviets made plans for robotic landers that would gather a sample of lunar
soil and carry it to Earth. Although this did not occur in time to upstage the Apollo landings as the
Soviets had hoped, Luna 16 did carry out a sample return in September 1970, returning to Earth with
100 g (4 oz) of rock and soil from the Moons Mare Fecunditatis (Sea of Fertility). In November 1970
Luna 17 landed with a remote-controlled rover called Lunakhod 1. The first wheeled vehicle on the
Moon, Lunakhod 1 traveled 10.5 km (6.4 mi) across the Sinus Iridium (Bay of Rainbows) during ten
months of operations, sending back pictures and other data. Only three more lunar probes followed.
Luna 20 returned samples in February 1972. Lunakhod 2, carried aboard the Luna 21 lander, reached
the Moon in January 1973. Then, in August 1976 Luna 24 ended the first era of lunar exploration.
Exploration of the Moon resumed in February 1994 with the U.S. probe called Clementine, which
circled the Moon for three months. In addition to surveying the Moon with high-resolution cameras,
Clementine gathered the first comprehensive data on lunar topography using a laser altimeter.
Clementines laser altimeter bounced laser beams off of the Moons surface, measuring the time they
took to come back to determine the height of features on the Moon.
In January 1998 NASAs Lunar Prospector probe began circling the Moon in an orbit over the Moons
north and south poles. Its sensors conducted a survey of the Moons composition. In March 1998 the
spacecraft found tentative evidence of water in the form of ice mixed with lunar soil at the Moons
poles. Lunar Prospector also investigated the Moons gravitational and magnetic fields. Controllers
intentionally crashed the probe into the Moon in July 1999, hoping to see signs of water in the plume
of debris raised by the impact. Measurements taken by instruments around Earth, however, did not
find evidence of water after the crash, nor did they rule out the existence of water.
Years before the launch of the first artificial satellites, scientists anticipated the value of putting
telescopes and other scientific instruments in orbit around Earth. Orbiting satellites can view large
areas of Earth or can provide views of space unobstructed by Earths atmosphere.
C Scientific Satellites
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One main advantage of putting scientific instruments into space is the ability to look down at Earth.
Viewing large areas of the planet allows meteorologists, scientists who research Earths weather and
climate, to study large-scale weather patterns (see Meteorology). More detailed views aid
cartographers, or mapmakers, in mapping regions that would otherwise be inaccessible to people.
Researchers who study Earths land masses and oceans also benefit from having an orbital vantage
Beginning in 1960 with the launch of U.S. Tiros I, weather satellites have sent back television images
of parts of the planet. The first satellite that could observe most of Earth, NASAs Earth Resources
Technology Satellite 1 (ERTS 1, later renamed Landsat 1), was launched in 1972. Landsat 1 had a
polar orbit, circling Earth by passing over the north and south poles. Because the planet rotated
beneath Landsats orbit, the satellite could view almost any location on the Earth once every 18 hours.
Landsat 1 was equipped with cameras that recorded images not just of visible light but of other
wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum (see Electromagnetic Radiation). These cameras
provided a wealth of useful data. For example, images made in infrared light let researchers
discriminate between healthy crops and diseased ones. Six additional Landsats were launched
between 1975 and 1999.
The success of the Landsat satellites encouraged other nations to place Earth-monitoring satellites in
orbit. France launched a series of satellites called SPOT beginning in 1986, and Japan launched the
MOS-IA (Marine Observation System) in 1987. The Indian Remote Sensing satellite, IRS-IA, began
operating in 1988. An international team of scientists and engineers launched the Terra satellite in
December 1999. The satellite carries five instruments for observing Earth and monitoring the health of
the planet. NASA, a member organization of the team, released the first images taken by the satellite
in April 2000.
Astronomical objects such as stars emit radiation, or radiating energy, in the form of visible light and
many other types of electromagnetic radiation. Different wavelengths of radiation provide astronomers
with different kinds of information about the universe. Infrared radiation, with longer wavelengths
than visible light, can reveal the presence of interstellar dust clouds or other objects that are not hot
enough to emit visible light. X rays, a high-energy form of radiation with shorter wavelengths than
visible light, can indicate extremely high temperatures caused by violent collisions or other events.
Earth orbit, above the atmosphere, has proved to be an excellent vantage point for astronomers. This
is because Earths atmosphere absorbs high-energy radiation, such as ultraviolet rays, X rays, and
gamma rays. While such absorption shields the surface of Earth and allows life to exist on the planet,
it also hides many celestial objects from ground-based telescopes. In the early 1960s, rockets
equipped with scientific instruments (called sounding rockets) provided brief observations of space
beyond our atmosphere, but orbiting satellites have offered far more extensive coverage.
Britain launched the first astronomical satellite, Ariel 1, in 1962 to study cosmic rays and ultraviolet
C1 Earth-Observing Satellites
C2 Astronomical Satellites
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and X-ray radiation from the Sun. In 1968 NASA launched the first Orbiting Astronomical Observatory,
OAO 1, equipped with an ultraviolet telescope. Uhuru, a U.S. satellite designed for X-ray observations,
was launched in 1970. Copernicus, officially designated OAO 3, was launched in 1972 to detect cosmic
X-ray and ultraviolet radiation. In 1978 NASAs Einstein Observatory, officially designated High-Energy
Astrophysical Observatory 2 (HEAO 2), reached orbit, becoming the first X-ray telescope that could
provide images comparable in detail to those provided by visible-light telescopes. The Infrared
Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), launched in 1983, was a cooperative effort by the United States, The
Netherlands, and Britain. IRAS provided the first map of the universe in infrared wavelengths and was
one of the most successful astronomical satellites. The Cosmic Ray Background Explorer (COBE) was
launched in 1989 by NASA and discovered further evidence for the big bang, the theoretical explosion
at the beginning of the universe.
The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in orbit from the U.S. space shuttle in 1990, equipped with
a 100-in (250-cm) telescope and a variety of high-resolution sensors produced by the United States
and European countries. Flaws in Hubbles mirror were corrected by shuttle astronauts in 1993,
enabling Hubble to provide astronomers with spectacularly detailed images of the heavens. NASA
launched the Chandra X-Ray Observatory in 1999. Chandra is named after American astrophysicist
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar and has eight times the resolution of any previous X-ray telescope.
In addition to observing Earth and the heavens from space, satellites have had a variety of other uses.
A satellite called Corona was the first U.S. spy satellite effort. The program began in 1958. The first
Corona satellite reached orbit in 1960 and provided photographs of Soviet missile bases. In the
decades that followed, spy satellites, such as the U.S. Keyhole series, became more sophisticated.
Details of these systems remain classified, but it is has been reported that they have attained enough
resolution to detect an object the size of a car license plate from an altitude of 160 km (100 mi) or
Other U.S. military satellites have included the Defense Support Program (DSP) for the detection of
ballistic missile launches and nuclear weapons tests. The Defense Meteorological Support Program
(DMSP) satellites have provided weather data. And the Defense Satellite Communications System
(DSCS) has provided secure transmission of voice and data. White Cloud is the name of a U.S. Navy
surveillance satellite designed to intercept enemy communications.
Satellites are becoming increasingly valuable for navigation. The Global Positioning System (GPS) was
originally developed for military use. A constellation of GPS satellites, called Navstar, has been
launched since 1978; each Navstar satellite orbits Earth every 12 hours and continuously emits
navigation signals. Military pilots and navigators use GPS signals to calculate their precise location,
altitude, and velocity, as well as the current time. The GPS signals are remarkably accurate: Time can
be figured to within a millionth of a second, velocity within a fraction of a kilometer per hour, and
location to within a few meters. In addition to their military uses, slightly lower resolution versions of
GPS receivers have been developed for civilian use in aircraft, ships, and land vehicles. Hikers,
campers, and explorers carry handheld GPS receivers, and some private passenger automobiles now
come equipped with a GPS system.
D Other Satellites
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Even as the United States and the USSR raced to explore the Moon, both countries were also readying
missions to travel farther afield. Earths closest neighbors, Venus and Mars, became the first planets
to be visited by spacecraft in the mid-1960s. By the close of the 20th century, spacecraft had visited
every planet in the solar system, except for the outermost planet-tiny, frigid Pluto.
Only one spacecraft has visited the solar systems innermost planet, Mercury. The U.S. probe Mariner
10 flew past Mercury on March 29, 1974, and sent back close-up pictures of a heavily cratered world
resembling Earths Moon. Mariner 10s flyby also helped scientists refine measurements of the planets
size and density. It revealed that Mercury has a weak magnetic field but lacks an atmosphere. After
the first flyby, Mariner 10s orbit brought it past Mercury for two more encounters, in September 1974
and March 1975, which added to the crafts harvest of data. In its three flybys, Mariner 10
photographed 57 percent of the planets surface.
The U.S. Mariner 2 probe became the first successful interplanetary spacecraft when it flew past Venus
on December 14, 1962. Mariner 2 carried no cameras, but it did send back valuable data regarding
conditions beneath Venuss thick, cloudy atmosphere. From measurements by Mariner 2s sensors,
scientists estimated the surface temperature to be 400C (800F-hot enough to melt lead), dispelling
any notions that Venus might be very similar to Earth.
In 1973 NASA launched Mariner 10 toward a double encounter with Venus and Mercury. As it flew past
Venus on February 5, 1974, Mariner 10s cameras took the first close-up images of Venuss clouds,
including views in ultraviolet light that recorded distinct patterns in the circulation of Venuss
The USSR explored Venus with their Venera series of probes. Venera 7 made the first successful
planetary landing on December 15, 1970, and radioed 23 minutes of data from the Venusian surface,
indicating a temperature of nearly 480C (900F) and an atmospheric pressure 90 times that on
Earth. More Venera successes followed, and on October 22, 1975, Venera 9 landed and sent back
black and white images of a rock-strewn plain-the first pictures of a planetary surface beyond Earth.
Venera 10 sent back its own surface pictures three days later.
Beginning in 1978, a series of spacecraft examined Venus from orbit around the planet. These probes
were equipped with radar that pierced the dense, cloudy atmosphere that hides Venuss surface,
giving scientists a comprehensive, detailed look at the terrain beneath. The first of this series, the U.S.
Pioneer Venus Orbiter (see Pioneer (spacecraft)), arrived in December 1978 and operated for almost
14 years. The spacecrafts radar data were compiled into images that showed 93 percent of the
planets large-scale topographic features.
E Planetary Studies
E1 Mercury
E2 Venus
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The Soviet Venera 15 and 16 orbiters reached Venus in October 1983, each equipped with radar
systems that produced high-resolution images. In eight months of mapping operations, two spacecraft
mapped much of Venuss northern hemisphere, sending back images of mountains, plains, craters,
and what appeared to be volcanoes.
After being released from the space shuttle Atlantis, NASAs radar-equipped Magellan orbiter traveled
through space and reached Venus in August 1990. During the next four years Magellan mapped Venus
at very high resolution, providing detailed images of volcanoes and lava flows, craters, fractures,
mountains, and other features. Magellan showed scientists that the surface of Venus is extremely well
preserved and relatively young. It also revealed a history of planetwide volcanic activity that may be
continuing today.
On July 14, 1965, the U.S. Mariner 4 flew past Mars and took pictures of a small portion of its surface,
giving scientists their first close-up look at the red planet. To the disappointment of some who
expected a more Earthlike world, Mariners pictures showed cratered terrain resembling the Moons
surface. In August 1969 Mariner 6 and 7 sent back more detailed views of craters and the planets icy
polar caps. On the whole, these pictures seemed to confirm the impression of a moonlike Mars.
NASAs Mariner 9 went into orbit around Mars in November 1971, providing scientists with the first
close-up views of the entire planet. Mariner 9s pictures revealed giant volcanoes up to five times as
high as Mount Everest, a system of canyons that would stretch the length of the continental United
States, and-most intriguing of all-winding channels that resemble dry river valleys of Earth.
Scientists realized that Marss evolution had been more complex and fascinating than they had
suspected and that the planet was moonlike in some ways, but surprisingly Earthlike in others.
The USSRs Mars probes were stymied by technical malfunctions. In November 1971 the Mars 2
spacecraft (see Mars (space program)) went into orbit around the planet and released a landing
capsule that crashed without returning any data. Mars 2 became the first artificial object to reach the
Martian surface. In December 1971 a lander released by the Mars 3 orbiter reached the surface
successfully. However, it sent back only 20 seconds of video signals that included no data. In 1973
two more landing missions also failed. In 1988 the USSR made two unsuccessful attempts to explore
the Martian moon Phobos. Contact with the spacecraft Phobos 1 (see Phobos (space program)) was
lost due to an error by mission controllers when the spacecraft was on its way to Mars. Phobos 2
reached Martian orbit in January 1989 and sent back images of the planet, but failed before its
planned rendezvous with Phobos.
The U.S. Viking probes made the first successful Mars landings in 1976. Two Viking spacecraft, each
consisting of an orbiter and lander, left Earth in August and September 1975. Viking 1 went into orbit
around Mars in June 1976, and after a lengthy search for a relatively smooth landing site, the Viking 1
lander touched down safely on Marss Chryse Planitia (Plain of Gold) on July 20, 1976. The Viking 2
lander reached Marss Utopia Planitia (Utopia Plain) on September 3, 1976. Each lander sent back
close-up pictures of a dusty surface littered with rocks, under a surprisingly bright sky (due to sunlight
reflecting off of airborne dust). The landers also recorded changes in atmospheric conditions at the
E3 Mars
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surface. They searched, without success, for conclusive evidence of microbial life. The landers
continued to send back data for several years, while the orbiters took thousands of high-resolution
photographs of the planet.
On July 4, 1996, 20 years after Viking 1 arrived, NASAs Mars Pathfinder spacecraft landed in Mars's
Ares Vallis (Mars Valley). Pathfinder used a new landing system featuring pressurized airbags to
cushion its impact. The next day, Pathfinder released a 10-kg (22-lb) rover called Sojourner, which
became the first wheeled vehicle to operate on another planetary surface. While Pathfinder sent back
images, atmospheric measurements, and other data, Sojourner examined rocks and soil with a
camera and an Alpha Proton X-ray Spectrometer, which provided data on chemical compositions by
measuring how radiation bounced back from rocks and dust. The mission ended when the spacecraft
ceased responding to commands from Earth in October 1997.
NASAs Mars Global Surveyor went into orbit around Mars in September 1997. Designed as a
replacement for NASAs Mars Observer probe, which failed before reaching Mars in 1993, Mars Global
Surveyor is equipped with a high-resolution camera and instruments to study the planets
atmosphere, topography and gravity, surface composition, and magnetic field. Global Surveyor
reached orbit around Mars in the fall of 1997, but a problem with an unstable solar panel delayed the
start of its mission-mapping the entire planet-for about a year. (In the meantime, Mars Global
Surveyor began relaying high-resolution images of select areas in early 1998.) Its mapping operation,
slated to last for one Martian year (about two Earth years), began in March 1999. Unlike previous
Mars probes, Mars Global Surveyor adjusted its orbit using a technique called aerobraking, which
relies on friction with the planets upper atmosphere-rather than rocket engines-to slow the
spacecraft to bring it into a proper mapping orbit.
Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor were part of a series of spacecraft that NASA plans to send
to Mars about every 18 months. The next two spacecraft in the series, Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars
Polar Lander, began their journeys to Mars in December 1998 and January 1999, respectively. Both
probes reached Mars in late 1999, but Mars Climate Orbiter crashed into the planet due to a
navigational error, and software defects led to the crash landing of Mars Polar Lander. Japan launched
the spacecraft Nozomi (Japanese for "hope), destined for Mars, on July 4, 1998. Nozomi contains
equipment developed by scientists from around the world, including Canadian space scientists. This is
the first time Canada has participated in a mission to another planet. Nozomi is scheduled to reach
Mars in 2003.
The giant gaseous world Jupiter, the solar systems largest planet, had its first visit from a
spacecraft-Pioneer 10-on December 1, 1973. Pioneer 10 flew past Jupiter 21 months after launch
and sent back images of the planets turbulent, multicolored atmosphere. Pioneer 10 also investigated
Jupiters intense magnetic field, and the associated belts of trapped radiation. Acting like a slingshot,
Jupiters powerful gravitational pull accelerated the spacecraft onto a new path that sent it out of the
solar system. Pioneer 10 traveled beyond the orbit of Pluto in 1983.
Pioneer 11 made its own inspection of Jupiter, passing the planet on December 1, 1974. Like its
E4 The Outer Planets
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predecessor, Pioneer 11 got a gravitational assist from Jupiter. In this case, the spacecraft was sent
toward Saturn. Pioneer 11 reached this ringed giant on September 1, 1979, before heading out of the
solar system. NASA maintained periodic contact with Pioneer 11 until November 1995, when the
probes power supply was almost exhausted.
In 1977 the twin Voyager 1 and 2 probes (see Voyager) were launched on the most ambitious space
exploration missions yet attempted: a grand tour of the outer solar system. Voyager 1 reached Jupiter
in March 1979 and sent back thousands of detailed images of the planets cloud-swirled atmosphere
and its family of moons. Other sensors probed the planets atmosphere and its magnetic field. Voyager
discovered that Jupiter is encircled by a tenuous ring of dust, and found three previously unknown
moons. The most surprising discovery of the Voyager probes was that the Jovian moon Io is covered
with active volcanoes spewing ice and sulfur compounds into space. Io was the first world other than
Earth found to be geologically active.
Voyager 1 continued on to a rendezvous with Saturn in November 1980. Its images detailed a variety
of complex and sometimes bizarre phenomena within the planets rings. It also photographed the
Saturnian moons, including planet-sized Titan. Voyager 1 found Titans surface obscured by a thick,
opaque atmosphere of hydrocarbon smog.
Voyager 2 made its own flybys of Jupiter in July 1979 and of Saturn in August 1981. It continued
outward to make the first spacecraft visits to Uranus in January 1986 and Neptune in August 1989.
Like Pioneer 10 and 11, the Voyagers are now headed for interstellar space. On February 17, 1998,
Voyager 1 became the most distant human-made object, reaching a distance of 10.5 billion km (6.5
billion mi) from Earth. Scientists hope it will continue sending back data well into the 21st century.
NASAs Galileo orbiter reached Jupiter in December 1995. The spacecraft deployed a probe that
entered Jupiters atmosphere on December 7, 1995, radioing data for 57 minutes before succumbing
to intense pressures. The probe sent back the first measurements of the composition and structure of
Jupiters atmosphere from within the atmosphere. The Galileo spacecraft then began a long-term
mission to study Jupiters atmosphere, magnetosphere, and moons from an orbit around the planet.
NASA extended the spacecrafts mission through the year 2003. The extended mission included
measurements taken simultaneously by the Galileo orbiter and by a new spacecraft, Cassini, which
visited Jupiter on its way to Saturn.
NASAs Cassini spacecraft set out toward Saturn and Saturns moon Titan in October 1997. Cassini
reached Jupiter at the end of the year 2000 and is scheduled to reach Saturn in 2004. After reaching
Saturn, it should release a probe into Titans atmosphere.
Aside from the planets and their moons, space missions have focused on a variety of other solar
system objects. The Sun, whose energy affects all other bodies in the solar system, has been the
focus of many missions. Between and beyond the orbits of the planets, innumerable smaller bodies-
asteroids and comets-also orbit the Sun. All of these celestial objects hold mysteries, and spacecraft
have been launched to unlock their secrets.
E5 Other Solar System Missions
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A number of the earliest satellites were launched to study the Sun. Most of these were Earth-orbiting
satellites. The Soviet satellite Sputnik 2, launched in 1957 to become the second satellite in space,
carried instruments to detect ultraviolet and X-ray radiation from the Sun. Several of the satellites in
the U.S. Pioneer series of the late 1950s through the 1970s gathered data on the Sun and its effects
on the interplanetary environment. A series of Earth-orbiting U.S. satellites, known as the Orbiting
Solar Observatories (OSO), studied the Suns ultraviolet, X-ray, and gamma-ray radiation through an
entire cycle of rising and falling solar activity from 1962 to 1978. Helios 2, a solar probe created by
the United States and West Germany, was launched into a solar orbit in 1976 and ventured within 43
million km (27 million mi) of the Sun. The U.S. Solar Maximum Mission spacecraft was designed to
monitor solar flares and other solar activity during the period when sunspots were especially frequent.
After suffering mechanical problems, in 1984 it became the first satellite to be repaired by astronauts
aboard the space shuttle. The satellite Yohkoh, a joint effort of Japan, the United States, and Britain,
was launched in 1991 to study high-energy radiation from solar flares. The Ulysses mission was
created by NASA and the European Space Agency. Launched in 1990, the spacecraft used a
gravitational assist from the planet Jupiter to fly over the poles of the Sun. The European Space
Agency launched the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) in 1995 to study the Suns internal
structure, as well as its outer atmosphere (the corona), and the solar wind, the stream of subatomic
particles emitted by the Sun.
Asteroids are chunks of rock that vary in size from dust grains to tiny worlds, the largest of which is
more than a third the size of Earths Moon. These rocky bodies, composed of debris left over from the
formation of the solar system, are among the latest solar system objects to be visited by spacecraft.
The first such encounter was made by the Galileo spacecraft, which passed through the solar systems
main asteroid belt on its way to Jupiter. Galileo flew within 1,600 km (1,000 mi) of the asteroid
Gaspra on October 29, 1991. Galileos images clearly showed Gaspra's irregular shape and a surface
covered with impact craters. On August 28, 1993, Galileo passed close by the asteroid 243 Ida and
discovered that it is orbited by another, smaller asteroid, subsequently named Dactyl. Ida is the first
asteroid known to possess its own moon. On June 27, 1997, the Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous
(NEAR) spacecraft flew past asteroid 253 Mathilde. NEAR reached the asteroid 433 Eros and became
the first spacecraft to orbit an asteroid in February 2000. The United States launched the spacecraft
Deep Space 1 (DS1) in 1998 to prepare for 21st-century missions within the solar system and beyond.
In July 1999 DS1 flew by the small asteroid 9969 Braille and discovered that it is composed of the
same type of material as the much larger asteroid 4 Vesta. Braille may be a broken piece of Vesta, or
it may have simply formed at the same time and place as Vesta in the early solar system.
Comets are icy wanderers that populate the solar systems outermost reaches. These "dirty snowballs
are chunks of frozen gases and dust. When a comet ventures into the inner solar system, some of its
ices evaporate. The comet forms tails of dust and ionized gas, and many have been spectacular
sights. Because they may contain the raw materials that formed the solar system, comets hold special
fascination for astronomers. Although several comets have been observed by a variety of space-born
instruments, only one has been visited by spacecraft. The most famous comet of all, Halleys Comet,
made its most recent passage through the inner solar system in 1986. In March 1986 five separate
spacecraft flew past Halley, including the USSRs Vega 1 and Vega 2 probes, the Giotto spacecraft of
the European Space Agency, and Japans Sakigake and Suisei probes. These encounters produced
valuable data on the composition of the comets gas and dust tails and its solid nucleus. Vega 1 and 2
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returned the first close-up views ever taken of a comets nucleus, followed by more detailed images
from Giotto. Giotto went on to make a close passage to Comet P/Grigg-Skjellerup on July 10, 1992.
Piloted spaceflight presents even greater challenges than unpiloted missions. Nonetheless, the United
States and the USSR made piloted flights the focus of their Cold War space race, knowing that
astronauts and cosmonauts put a face on space exploration, enhancing its impact on the general
public. The history of piloted spaceflight started with relatively simple missions, based in part on the
technology developed for early unpiloted spacecraft. Longer and more complicated missions followed,
crowned by the ambitious and successful U.S. Apollo missions to the Moon. Since the Apollo program,
piloted spaceflight has focused on extended missions aboard spacecraft in Earth orbit. These missions
have placed an emphasis on scientific experimentation and work in space.
At the beginning of the 1960s, the United States and the USSR were competing to put the first human
in space. The Soviets achieved that milestone on April 12, 1961, when a 27-year-old pilot named Yuri
Gagarin made a single orbit of Earth in a spacecraft called Vostok (East). Gagarins Vostok was
launched by an R-7 booster, the same kind of rocket they had used to launch Sputnik. Although the
Soviets portrayed Gagarins 108-minute flight as flawless, historians have since learned that Vostok
experienced a malfunction that caused it to tumble during the minutes before its reentry into the
atmosphere. However, Gagarin parachuted to the ground unharmed after ejecting from the
descending Vostok.
On May 5, 1961, the United States entered the era of piloted spaceflight with the mission of Alan
Shepard. Shepard was launched by a Redstone booster on a 15-minute "hop in a Mercury spacecraft
named Freedom 7. Shepards flight purposely did not attain the necessary velocity to go into orbit. In
February 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth, logging five hours in space. His
Mercury spacecraft, called Friendship 7, had been borne aloft by a powerful Atlas booster rocket. After
his historic mission, the charismatic Glenn was celebrated as a national hero.
The Soviets followed Gagarins flight with five more Vostok missions, including a flight of almost five
days by Valery Bykovsky and the first spaceflight by a woman, Valentina Tereshkova, both in June
1963. By contrast, the longest of the six piloted Mercury flights was the 34-hour mission flown by
Gordon Cooper in May 1963.
By todays standards, Vostok and Mercury were simple spacecraft, though they were considered
advanced at the time. Both were designed for the basic mission of keeping a single pilot alive in the
vacuum of space and providing a safe means of return to Earth. Both were equipped with small
thrusters that allowed the pilot to change the crafts orientation in space. There was no provision,
however, for altering the craft's orbit-that capability would have to wait for the next generation of
spacecraft. Compared to Mercury, Vostok was both roomier and more massive, weighing 2,500 kg
(5,500 lb)-a reflection of the greater lifting power of the R-7 compared with the U.S. Redstone and
F Piloted Spaceflight
F1 Vostok and Mercury
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Atlas rockets.
In early 1961-just weeks after Shepard had become the first American in space-President John F.
Kennedy challenged the nation with this ambitious goal: to land a man on the Moon and return him
safely to Earth by the end of the decade. With a total cost estimated at $25 billion in 1960s dollars,
the Apollo program became a massive effort utilizing the combined energies of 400,000 people at
NASA, other government and academic facilities, and aerospace contractors.
NASA realized, however, that it would not be possible to jump directly from the simple Mercury flights
in Earth orbit to a lunar voyage. The agency needed an interim program to solve the unknowns of
lunar flights. This became the Gemini program, a series of two-astronaut missions that took place in
1965 and 1966.
The Gemini missions were intended to develop and test the building blocks of a lunar flight. For
instance, Gemini astronauts had to maneuver and dock two orbiting spacecraft, since astronauts
would need to execute such a maneuver before and after landing on the Moon. Gemini included long-
duration spaceflights of a week or more-the amount of time necessary for a lunar landing flight-as
well as spacewalks that demonstrated the ability of an astronaut to perform useful work in the vacuum
of space, and controlled reentry into Earths atmosphere. The Gemini spacecraft had less than twice
the crew space of Mercury, but it was far more capable. Gemini crews could change their orbits, and
even use a rudimentary onboard computer to help control their craft. Gemini was also the first
spacecraft to utilize fuel cells, devices that generated electrical power by combining hydrogen and
At the same time, the USSR was preparing a new generation of spacecraft for its own Moon program.
The Soviets staged a series of intermediate flights in a craft designated Voskhod (Sunrise). Described
as a new spacecraft, Voskhod was actually a converted Vostok. In October 1964 Voskhod 1 carried
three cosmonauts-the first multiperson space crew-into orbit for a day-long mission. By replacing
the Vostok ejection seat with a set of crew couches, designers had made room for three cosmonauts
to fly, without space suits, in a craft originally designed for one.
In March 1965, just weeks before Geminis first piloted mission, Voskhod 2 carried two space-suited
cosmonauts aloft. One of them, Alexei Leonov, became the first human to walk in space, remaining
outside the craft for about ten minutes. In the vacuum of space Leonovs suit ballooned dangerously,
making it difficult for him to reenter the spacecraft. Voskhod 2 proved to be the last of the series.
Further Voskhod flights had been planned, but they were canceled so that Soviet planners and
engineers could concentrate on getting to the Moon.
Ten piloted Gemini missions took place in 1965 and 1966, accomplishing all of the programs
objectives. In March 1965 Gus Grissom and John Young made Gemini's piloted debut and became the
first astronauts to alter their spacecraft's orbit. In June, Gemini 4s Ed White became the first
American to walk in space. Gemini 5s Gordon Cooper and Pete Conrad captured the space endurance
record with an eight-day mission. Gemini 7s Frank Borman and Jim Lovell stretched the record to 14
F2 Voskhod and Gemini
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days in December 1965. During their flight they were visited by Gemini 6s Wally Schirra and Tom
Stafford in the worlds first space rendezvous. Neil Armstrong and Dave Scott succeeded in making the
first space docking by mating Gemini 8 to an unpiloted Agena rocket in March 1966, but their flight
was cut short by a nearly disastrous episode with a malfunctioning thruster. On Gemini 11 in
September 1966, Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon reached a record altitude of 1,370 km (850 mi). The
final mission of the series, Gemini 12 in November 1966, saw Buzz Aldrin make a record five hours of
spacewalks. At the conclusion of the Gemini program, the United States held a clear lead in the race
to the Moon.
By 1967 the United States and the USSR were each preparing to test the spacecraft they planned to
use for lunar missions. The Soviets had created Soyuz (Union), an Earth-orbiting version of the craft
they hoped would fly cosmonauts to and from the Moon. They were also at work on a Soyuz derivative
for flights into lunar orbit, and a lunar lander that would ferry a single cosmonaut from lunar orbit to
the Moons surface and back. Two parallel Soviet Moon programs were proceeding-one to send
cosmonauts around the Moon in a loop that would form a figure-8, the other to make the lunar
Meanwhile, the United States continued work on its Apollo spacecraft. Apollo featured a cone-shaped
command module designed to transport a three-man crew to the Moon and back. The command
module was attached to a cylindrical service module that provided propulsion, electrical power, and
other essentials. Attached to the other end of the service module was a spidery lunar module. The
lunar module contained its own rocket engines to allow two astronauts to descend from lunar orbit to
the Moons surface and then lift off back into lunar orbit. The lunar module consisted of two separate
sections: a descent stage and an ascent stage. The descent stage housed a rocket engine for the trip
down to the Moon. The descent stage fit underneath the ascent stage, which included the crew cabin
and a rocket for returning to lunar orbit. The astronauts rode to the surface of the Moon in the ascent
stage with the descent stage attached. The descent stage remained on the lunar surface when the
astronauts fired the ascent rocket to return to orbit around the Moon.
The year 1967 brought tragedy to both U.S. and Soviet Moon programs. In January, the crew of the
first piloted Apollo mission, Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee, were killed when a flash fire
swept through the cabin of their sealed Apollo command module during a pre-flight practice
countdown. Subsequent investigation determined that frayed wiring probably provided a spark, and
the high-pressure, all-oxygen atmosphere and flammable materials in the spacecraft created the
devastating inferno. In April, the Soviets launched their new generation spacecraft, Soyuz 1, with
Vladimir Komarov aboard. Consisting of three modules, only one of which was designed to return to
Earth, Soyuz could carry a maximum of three cosmonauts. After a day in space Komarov was forced
to end the flight because of problems orienting the craft. After reentering the atmosphere the Soyuzs
parachute failed to deploy properly, and Komarov was killed when the spacecraft struck the ground.
By the end of 1967 NASA achieved a welcome success for Apollo with the first test launch of the giant
Saturn V Moon rocket, designed by a team headed by von Braun. Measuring 111 m (363 ft) in length
(including the Apollo spacecraft), the three-stage Saturn V was the most powerful rocket ever
F3 Soyuz and Early Apollo
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successfully flown. Its five first-stage engines produced a combined thrust of 33 million newtons (7.5
million lb). The first Saturn V test flight, designated Apollo 4, took place in November 1967, and
propelled an unpiloted Apollo command and service module to an altitude of 18,000 km (11,000 mi)
before the spacecraft returned to Earth.
In October 1968 a redesigned, fireproof command module made its piloted debut as Wally Schirra,
Donn Eisele, and Walt Cunningham reached Earth orbit in Apollo 7. During the 11-day test flight, the
command and service modules checked out perfectly. Apollo 7s success paved the way for NASA to
send the crew of Apollo 8, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders, on the first voyage to the Moon.
Bormans crew became the first men to ride the Saturn V booster on December 21, 1968. About two
hours after launch, the Saturns third stage engine reignited to send Apollo 8 speeding moonward at
40,000 km/h (25,000 mph). Some 66 hours later, on December 24, 1968, they reached the Moon and
fired Apollo 8s main rocket engine to go into lunar orbit. They spent the next 20 hours circling the
Moon ten times, taking photographs, making navigation sightings on lunar landmarks, and beaming
live television pictures back to Earth. Just after midnight on December 25, the astronauts fired the
service modules main rocket engine to blast out of lunar orbit and onto a course for Earth. After a
fiery reentry, the heat-shielded command module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on December
The Soviets, meanwhile, flew a successful piloted Soyuz mission in October 1968. Soyuz 3 carried
cosmonaut Georgi Bergovoi in orbit around Earth for four days. The USSR also sent two Zond craft,
specially designed for missions around the Moon, on unpiloted flights around the Moon and back to
Earth. Zond spacecraft were modified Soyuz craft. A pair of cosmonauts prepared for their own
mission around the Moon in early December 1968, just ahead of Apollo 8. But concern over problems
on the unpiloted Zond flights caused Soviet mission planners to postpone the attempt, and the flight
never took place. Apollo 8 was not only a triumph for NASA-it also proved to be the decisive event in
the Moon race.
Having sent astronauts into lunar orbit and back to Earth, NASA faced even more daunting hurdles to
achieve Kennedys challenge for a Moon landing before the end of the 1960s. Apollo 9 in March 1969
tested the entire Apollo spacecraft, including the lunar module, in Earth orbit. In May 1969, Apollo 10
carried out a dress rehearsal of the landing mission, with the command and service modules and lunar
module in lunar orbit. With these crucial milestones accomplished, the way was clear to attempt the
lunar landing itself. On July 16, 1969, the crew of Apollo 11-Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins, and Buzz
Aldrin-headed for the Moon to attempt the lunar landing.
On July 20, while in lunar orbit, Armstrong and Aldrin passed through a connecting tunnel from the
command module, Columbia, to the attached lunar module, named Eagle. They then undocked,
leaving Collins in orbit, alone in Columbia, 111 km (69 mi) above the Moon. After shifting the low
point of their orbit to 15,000 m (50,000 ft), Armstrong and Aldrin fired Eagles descent rocket to slow
the craft into its final descent to the Moons Mare Tranquilatis (Sea of Tranquillity). An overloaded
onboard computer threatened to abort the landing, but swift action by experts in mission control
allowed the men to continue. Armstrong was forced to take over manual control when he realized that
F4 Humans on the Moon
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Eagle was heading for a football-field-size crater ringed with boulders. He brought Eagle to a safe
touchdown with less than a minutes worth of fuel remaining before a mandatory abort. "Houston,
Armstrong radioed, "Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed.
Hours later, Armstrong and Aldrin were sealed inside their space suits, ready to begin historys first
moonwalk. At 10:56 PM Eastern Daylight Time, Armstrong stood on Eagles footpad and placed his left
boot on the powdery lunar surface-the first human footstep on another world. Armstrongs famous
first words on the Moon were, "Thats one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. (He had
intended to say "Thats one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind, and that is how the
quote is worded in many accounts of the event.) Aldrin followed Armstrong to the surface 40 minutes
later. During the moonwalk, which lasted about two and a half hours, the men collected rocks, took
photographs, planted the American flag, and deployed a pair of scientific experiments. Their landing
site, a cratered plain strewn with rocks, proved to have "a stark beauty all its own, in Armstrongs
words. Aldrin called the appearance of the lunar surface "magnificent desolation.
Inside Eagle once more, Armstrong and Aldrin tried unsuccessfully to get a good nights sleep. On July
21, after a total of 21 hours on the Moon, they fired Eagles ascent engine and rejoined Collins in
lunar orbit. On July 24, after a flawless mission, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins returned to Earth,
carrying 22 kg (48 lb) of lunar rock and soil. Kennedys challenge had been met with months to spare,
and NASA had shown that humans were capable of leaving their home world and traveling to another.
Six more lunar landing attempts followed Apollo 11. All but one of these missions were successful. In
November 1969 Pete Conrad and Alan Bean made historys first pinpoint landing on the Moon,
touching down less than 200 m (less than 600 ft) from the robotic Surveyor 3 probe, which had been
on the Moon since April 1967. In their 31 hours on the Moon, Conrad and Bean made two
moonwalks and collected 34 kg (76 lb) of samples.
In April 1970 Apollo 13 almost ended tragically when an oxygen tank inside the service module
exploded. The spacecraft was 300,000 km (200,000 mi) from Earth. The accident left the command
and service modules without propulsion or electrical power. Astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and
Fred Haise struggled to return to Earth using their attached lunar module as a lifeboat, while experts
in mission control worked out emergency procedures to bring the men home. Although the mission
failed in its objective to land in the Moons Fra Mauro highlands, Apollo 13 was an extraordinary
demonstration of the Apollo teams ability to solve problems during a spaceflight. The missions goals
were achieved in February 1971 by Apollo 14 astronauts Alan Shepard, Stu Roosa, and Ed Mitchell.
Lunar exploration entered a more ambitious phase with Apollo 15 in July 1971, when Dave Scott and
Jim Irwin landed at the base of the Moons Apennine mountains. Their lunar module had been
upgraded to allow a stay of nearly three days on the lunar surface. Improved space suits allowed the
men to take three moonwalks, the longest of which lasted more than seven hours. They also brought
along a battery-powered car called the Lunar Rover. With the rover, the astronauts ranged for miles
across the landscape, even driving partway up the side of a lunar mountain. They picked up some of
the oldest rocks ever found on the Moon, including one fragment that proved to be 4.5 billion years
old, almost the calculated age of the Moon itself.
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Two more lunar landings followed before budget cuts ended the Apollo program. The final team of
lunar explorers were Apollo 17s Gene Cernan, a former Navy fighter pilot, and Harrison "Jack
Schmitt, a geologist-astronaut who became the first scientist to reach the Moon. They explored the
Moons Taurus-Littrow valley while crewmate Ron Evans orbited overhead. During three days on the
Moon, Cernan and Schmitt collected 110 kg (243 lb) of samples, including an orange soil that gave
new clues to the Moons ancient volcanic activity.
While the Apollo program racked up successes, the Soviet lunar program was plagued by setbacks.
The Soviets built a Moon rocket of their own, the giant N-1 booster, which was designed to produce 44
million newtons (10 million lb) of thrust at liftoff. In four separate test launches between 1969 and
1972, the N-1 exploded within seconds or minutes after liftoff. Combined with the U.S. Apollo
successes, the N-1 failures ended hopes of a Soviet piloted lunar landing.
Even before the first human spaceflights, planners in the United States and the USSR envisioned
space stations in orbit around Earth. The Soviets stepped up their efforts toward this goal when it
became clear they would not win the Moon race. In April 1971 they succeeded in launching the first
space station, Salyut 1 (see Salyut). The name Salyut, which means "salute, was meant as a tribute
to cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first person in space. Gagarin had been killed in the crash of a jet
fighter during a routine training flight in 1968. Salyut consisted of a single module weighing 19 metric
tons that offered 100 cu m (3,500 cu ft) of living space. Cosmonauts traveled between Earth and the
Salyut stations in Soyuz spacecraft. In June 1971 cosmonauts Georgi Dobrovolski, Vladislav Volkov,
and Viktor Patsayev occupied Salyut for 23 days, setting a new record for the longest human
spaceflight. Tragically, the three men died when their Soyuz ferry craft developed a leak before they
reentered the atmosphere. The leak allowed the oxygen in the cabin to escape, suffocating the
cosmonauts. The Soyuz returned to Earth under automatic control.
Six more Salyut stations reached orbit between 1974 and 1982. Two of these, Salyuts 3 and 5, were
military stations equipped with high-resolution cameras to gather military information from orbit.
Salyuts 6 and 7 served as orbital homes to cosmonauts during record-breaking space marathons. In
1980 Salyut 6 cosmonauts Leonid Popov and Valerie Ryumin logged a record 185 days in space.
(Remarkably, Ryumin had spent 175 days aboard Salyut 6 during the previous year.) The longest
mission to Salyut 7 was also a record-breaker, lasting 237 days-nearly eight months-in space. In
1985 Salyut 7s electrical system failed, forcing a team of cosmonauts to stage a repair mission to
bring the stricken station back to life. In mid-1986, after two more crews had visited the station,
Salyut 7 was abandoned for good.
The Salyut cosmonauts pushed frontiers of long-duration spaceflight, often with considerable difficulty.
In addition to the medical effects of long-term exposure to weightlessness-including muscle atrophy,
loss of bone minerals, and cardiovascular weakness-long-duration spaceflight can cause the
psychological stresses of boredom and isolation, occasionally relieved by visits by new teams of
cosmonauts. Supplies and gifts brought up by unpiloted versions of Soyuz spacecraft called Progress
freighters also provided novelty and relief. The Salyut marathons paved the way for even longer stays
aboard the space station Mir.
F5 Salyut Space Stations
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Skylab, the first U.S. space station, utilized hardware originally created for the Apollo program. The
main component, called the orbital workshop, was constructed inside the third stage of a Saturn V
booster. It contained living and working space for three astronauts. Attached to the orbital workshop
were the Apollo telescope mount (ATM), a collection of instruments to study the Sun from space; an
airlock module to enable two of the astronauts to make spacewalks while the third remained inside;
and a multiple docking adaptor (MDA) for use by the Apollo spacecraft that would ferry the crew to
and from orbit. Altogether, Skylab weighed 91 metric tons and offered 210 cu m (7,400 cu ft) of
habitable space.
Skylabs mission almost ended with its launch in May 1973. A design flaw caused the stations
meteoroid shield to be torn off during launch, severing one of two winglike solar panels that were to
convert sunlight to electricity for the space station. Mission controllers quickly went to work on a
rescue plan that could be carried out by the first team of Skylab astronauts-Pete Conrad, Joe Kerwin,
and Paul Weitz. After reaching the station in late May aboard an Apollo spacecraft, Conrads crew
installed a sunshield to cool the soaring temperatures inside the station. In a spacewalk repair effort,
Conrad and Kerwin restored the necessary electric power by freeing the remaining solar wing, which
had failed to deploy properly. The astronauts also conducted medical tests, made observations of the
Sun and Earth, and performed a variety of experiments. Their 28-day mission broke the endurance
record set by the Salyut 1 crew two years before. Two more teams of astronauts reached Skylab in
1973, logging 56 and 84 days in space, respectively. The three Skylab missions gave U.S. researchers
valuable information on human response to long-duration spaceflight.
Skylab was not designed to be resupplied, and by the late 1970s its orbit had decayed badly. Friction
with gas molecules in the outer atmosphere had caused the spacecraft to lose altitude and speed, and
controllers calculated that it would fall out of orbit by the end of the decade. Tentative plans to use the
space shuttle to boost the station into a stable orbit did not come to pass-the shuttle was still in
development when Skylab met its fiery end, breaking up during reentry in July 1979. Debris from
Skylab landed in the Indian Ocean and in remote areas of Australia.
In 1986 the USSR launched the core of the first space station to be composed of distinct units, or
modules. This modular space station was named Mir (Peace). Over the next ten years additional
modules were launched and added to the station. The first of these, called Kvant, contained telescopes
for astronomical observations and reached the station in April 1987. Another module, called Krystal,
was devoted to experiments in processing materials in zero gravity. In 1996 Prioda, the last module,
was added, bringing Mirs total habitable volume to about 380 cubic meters (about 13,600 cubic feet).
Cosmonauts lived aboard Mir even longer than their Salyut predecessors lived in space. In 1987 and
1988 Mir cosmonauts Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov achieved the first yearlong mission. In 1995
physician-cosmonaut Valeriy Polyakov completed a record 14 months aboard the station. Such long-
duration missions helped researchers understand the problems posed by lengthy stays in space-
F6 Skylab Space Station
F7 Mir Space Station
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information vital to planning for piloted interplanetary voyages.
Beginning in 1995 Mir was the scene of joint U.S.-Russian missions. (Russia took over the Soviet
space program after the collapse of the USSR in 1991.) The joint missions paved the way for the
International Space Station (ISS; discussed below). U.S. space shuttles docked with Mir nine times,
and seven U.S. astronauts lived aboard Mir for extended periods. One of them, Shannon Lucid, set the
U.S. spaceflight endurance record of 188 days in 1996.
By 1997 the 11-year-old Mir was experiencing a series of calamities that included computer failures,
an onboard fire, and a collision with an unpiloted Progress spacecraft during a rendezvous exercise.
Subsequent repair missions returned the station to a relatively normal level of functioning. The
Russian Space Agency planned to abandon Mir and cause it to reenter Earths atmosphere in the
summer of 2000, but the station was temporarily rescued by a private company called Mircorp.
Mircorp planned to turn the station into a commercial venture. The company funded a mission in April
2000 that sent two cosmonauts to Mir to make repairs and conduct experiments, but it could not
attract enough investors to keep Mir in orbit. Russian ground controllers sent the station plunging into
a remote area of the South Pacific Ocean in March 2001.
One of NASAs most cherished goals was to build a permanent, Earth-orbiting space station. Although
it received approval from President Ronald Reagan in 1984, the space station project (designated
Space Station Freedom) faced huge political and budgetary hurdles. In 1993, after several redesign
efforts by NASA, the station was reshaped into an international venture and redesignated the
International Space Station (ISS). In addition to the United States, many other nations have joined
the project. Russia, Japan, Canada, and the European Space Agency have produced hardware for the
Launch of the first ISS element, a Russian-built module called Zarya, occurred in November 1998.
Zarya provides the power and propulsion needed during the ISSs assembly. Once the ISS is
complete, Zarya will be used mostly for storage. The Unity module, built by the United States, was
launched in December 1998. Unity acts as a passage from Zarya to other parts of the station. The first
habitable part of the ISS-the Russian-made Zvezda service module-was launched in July 2000, and
the first long-term crew arrived in November 2000. Planned for completion in 2006, the ISS is
designed to be continuously occupied by up to seven crew members. It is envisioned as a world-class
research facility, where scientists can study Earth and the heavens, as well as explore the medical
effects of long-duration spaceflight, the behavior of materials in a weightless environment, and the
practicality of space manufacturing techniques.
Even before the Apollo Moon landings, NASAs long-term plans included a reusable space shuttle to
ferry astronauts and cargo to and from an Earth-orbiting space station. Agency planners had hoped to
pursue both the station and the shuttle during the 1970s, but in 1972 Congress approved funding only
F8 International Space Station
F9 Space Shuttles
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for the shuttle. With the orbiting space station on hold, NASA had to reevaluate the role of the shuttle.
The agency came to envision the shuttle both as a "space truck that could deploy and retrieve
satellites and as a platform for scientific observations and experiments in space.
The space shuttle consists of three main components: an orbiter, an external fuel tank, and two solid
rocket boosters. The winged orbiter contains the crew cabin, three liquid-fuel rocket engines for use
during launch, and a cargo bay 20 m (60 ft) long. Overall, the orbiter is the size of a medium-sized
passenger jet airplane. It is controlled by five onboard computers and is covered with thousands of
heat-resistant silica tiles to protect it during the fiery reentry into Earths atmosphere. Following
reentry the orbiter becomes an unpowered glider, and the shuttles commander steers it to a landing
on a runway. A total of six shuttle orbiters were built. The first one, named Enterprise, never flew in
space, but was used for a series of approach and landing tests in 1977.
The shuttles other two components help the shuttle reach orbit. The external tank, which is the size
of a grain silo, is attached to the orbiter during launch and provides fuel for its engines. The tank is
discarded once the shuttle reaches orbit. The paired giant solid rocket boosters, attached to the
external tank, provide additional thrust during the first two minutes of launch. After that, they fall
away and are recovered in the ocean to be refurbished and reused.
On April 12, 1981-exactly 20 years after Gagarins pioneering flight as the first human in space-the
orbiter Columbia flew a near-perfect maiden voyage. Veteran astronaut John Young and first-time
astronaut Robert Crippen piloted Columbia on the two-day mission, ending with a flawless landing on
a dry-lakebed runway at Californias Edwards Air Force Base. Three more qualifying flights followed,
and in July 1984 the shuttle was declared operational. Over the next 17 months, 20 more shuttle
missions, with crews of up to eight astronauts, racked up a string of accomplishments. Shuttle
astronauts deployed and retrieved satellites using the orbiters remote manipulator arm. In
spacewalks, astronauts repaired ailing satellites; they also tested the Manned Maneuvering Unit, a
self-contained flying machine with thrusters that use compressed nitrogen. They conducted a variety
of scientific and medical research missions in a module called Spacelab, which was stored in the
orbiters cargo bay.
NASA had hoped that the reusability of the shuttle would make getting into space less expensive. The
space agency expected that private companies would pay to have their satellites launched from the
shuttle, which would provide a cost-effective alternative to launching by a conventional, "throwaway
rocket. However, the costs of developing and operating the shuttle proved enormous, and NASA found
it was still a long way from reducing the cost of reaching Earth orbit. To offset these costs, the agency
pushed for more frequent launches-in 1986 they hoped to launch 24 missions per year.
Then, on January 28, 1986, disaster struck. The shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff,
killing its seven-member crew, which included schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe (see Challenger
Disaster). The tragedy shocked the nation and brought the shuttle program to a halt while a
presidential commission tried to determine what had gone wrong. The Challenger disaster was traced
to a faulty seal in one of the solid rocket boosters, and to faulty decision making by NASA and some of
the contractors who manufacture shuttle components. After making several safety modifications,
shuttle flights resumed in 1988.
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Soviet officials viewed the U.S. program with some trepidation, fearing that the shuttle would be used
for military offensives against the USSR. Partly in response, they built a heavy-lift booster called
Energia, and a space shuttle called Buran (snowstorm). The Buran/Energia combination made only a
single unpiloted, orbital test flight in November 1988. Unlike its U.S. counterpart, ground controllers
could operate the Soviet shuttle remotely. Buran was far from ready to support piloted flight, and
economic problems caused by the collapse of the USSR in 1991 ended the Buran program
Beginning in 1995, the shuttle flew a series of missions to the Russian space station Mir. In 1998 the
shuttle began taking crews into orbit to assemble the International Space Station. The shuttle
programs 100th mission is slated to take place early in 2001, and shuttle orbiters are expected to
keep flying during the first decades of the 21st century.
Space is a harsh environment for humans and human-made machines. Radiation from the Sun and
other cosmic sources can weaken material and harm the human body. In the vacuum of space,
objects become boiling hot when exposed to the Sun and freezing cold when in the shadow of Earth or
some other body. Scientists, engineers, and designers must make spacecraft that can withstand these
extreme conditions and more.
The challenges that spacecraft designers face are daunting. Each component of a spacecraft must be
durable enough to withstand the vibrations of launch, and reliable enough to function in space on time
spans ranging from days to years. At the same time, the spacecraft must also be as lightweight as
possible to reduce the amount of fuel required to boost it into space. Materials such as Mylar (a metal-
coated plastic) and graphite epoxy (a construction material that is strong but lightweight) have helped
designers and manufactures meet the requirements of durability, reliability, and lightness. Spacecraft
designers also conserve space and weight by using miniaturized electronic components; in fact, the
space program has fueled many advances in the field of miniaturization.
Since the early 1990s, budgetary restrictions have motivated NASA to plan projects that are better,
faster, and cheaper. In this approach, space missions requiring single large, complex, and expensive
spacecraft are replaced with more limited missions using smaller, less expensive craft. Although this
new approach was successful with spacecraft such as the Mars Pathfinder lander and Mars Global
Surveyor 96, budgetary constraints may have contributed to the loss of two other Mars spacecraft,
Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander, in 1999. The approach is also difficult to apply to piloted
spacecraft, in which the overriding concern is crew safety. However, engineers are always looking for
new technologies to make spacecraft lighter and less expensive.
A General Principles of Spacecraft Design
B Getting into Space
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One of the most difficult parts of any space voyage is the launch. During launch, the craft must attain
sufficient speed and altitude to reach Earth orbit or to leave Earths gravity entirely and embark on a
path between planets. Scientists sometimes find it helpful to think of Earths gravitational field as a
deep well, with sides that are steepest near the planets surface. The task of the launch vehicle or
booster rocket is to climb out of this well.
Although some launch vehicles consist of just a single rocket, many are composed of a series of
individual rockets, or stages, stacked atop one another. Such multistage launch vehicles are used
especially for heavier payloads. With a multistage rocket, each stage fires for a period of time and
then falls away when its fuel supply is used up. This lightens the load carried by the remaining stages.
In some liquid-fuel boosters, strap-on solid-fuel rockets are used to provide extra thrust during the
initial portion of ascent. For example, the Titan III booster has two liquid-fuel core stages and two
strap-on solid-fuel motors. The largest example of a successful multistage booster was the Saturn V
Moon rocket, which had three liquid-fuel stages and measured 111 m (363 ft), including the Apollo
spacecraft, in length.
Despite their utility, most multistage boosters are not reusable, which makes them expensive. Cost-
conscious engineers have focused on creating a single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) vehicle. In an SSTO, the
entire spacecraft and booster would be integrated into one fully reusable unit. If successful, this
approach would reduce the costs of reaching Earth orbit. However, the technical challenge is
enormous: A full 89 percent of an SSTOs total weight must be reserved for fuel, a much higher
proportion than any previous launch vehicle. The payload, the crew, and the weight of the vehicle
itself must make up only 11 percent of the SSTOs total weight.
Spaceflight requires very detailed planning and measurement to get a spacecraft into place or to send
it on its proper path. Some of the Apollo spacecraft were able to travel from Earth to the Moon (a
distance of almost 390,000 km, or almost 240,000 mi) and land on the lunar surface within a few
dozen meters (several dozen feet) of their target. Careful planning allowed the Mars Pathfinder
spacecraft to fly from Earth to Mars, traveling more than 500 million km (300 million mi), and land
just 19 km (12 mi) from the center of its target area.
To launch a spacecraft into orbit around Earth, a booster rocket must do two things. First it must raise
the spacecraft above the atmosphere-roughly 160 km (100 mi) or more. Second it must accelerate
the spacecraft until its forward speed-that is, its speed parallel to Earths surface-is at least 28,200
km/h (17,500 mph). This is the speed, called orbital velocity, at which the momentum of the
spacecraft is strong enough to counteract the force of gravity. Gravity and the spacecrafts momentum
balance so that the spacecraft does not fall straight down or move straight ahead-instead it follows a
curved path that mimics the curve of the planet itself. The spacecraft is still falling, as any object does
when it is released in a gravitational field. But instead of falling toward Earth, it falls around it. See
C Navigation in Space
C1 Flight Paths
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Using its own thrusters, a spacecraft can raise or lower its orbit by adding or removing energy,
respectively. To add energy, the spacecraft orients itself and fires its thrusters so that it accelerates in
its direction of flight. To subtract energy, the craft fires its engines against the direction of flight. Any
change in the height of a spacecrafts orbit also produces a change in its speed and vice versa. The
craft moves more slowly in a higher orbit than it does in a lower one. By firing its rockets
perpendicular to the plane of its orbit, the craft can change the orientation of its orbit in space.
To travel from one planet to another, a spacecraft must follow a precise path, or trajectory, through
space. The amount of energy that a spacecrafts launch rocket and onboard thrusters must provide
varies with the type of trajectory. The trajectory that requires the least amount of energy is called a
Hohmann transfer. A Hohmann transfer follows the shape of an ellipse, or a flattened circle, whose
sides just touch the orbits of the two planets.
The trajectory must also take into account the motion of the planets around the Sun. For example, a
probe traveling from Earth to Mars must aim for where Mars will be at the time of the spacecrafts
arrival, not where Mars is at the time of launch.
In many interplanetary missions, a spacecraft flies past a third planet and uses the planets
gravitational field to bend the crafts trajectory and accelerate it toward its target planet. This is
known as a gravitational slingshot maneuver. The first spacecraft to use this technique was the
Mariner 10 probe (see Mariner), which flew past Venus on its way to Mercury in 1974.
Most spacecraft depend on a combination of internal automatic systems and commands from ground
controllers to keep on the correct path. Normally, ground controllers can communicate with a
spacecraft only when it is within sight of an Earth-based receiving station. This poses problems for
spacecraft in low Earth orbit-that is, within 2,000 km (1,200 mi) of the planets surface-as such
craft are only within sight of a relatively small portion of the globe at any given moment. One way
around this restriction is to place special satellites in orbit to act as relays between the orbiting
spacecraft and ground stations, allowing continuous communications. NASA has done this for the U.S.
space shuttle with the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS).
At an altitude of about 35,800 km (about 22,200 mi), a satellites motion exactly matches the speed
of Earths rotation. As a result, the satellite appears to hover over a specific spot on Earths surface.
This so-called stationary, or geosynchronous, orbit is ideal for communications satellites, whose job is
to relay information between widely separated points on the globe.
Spacecraft on interplanetary trajectories may travel millions or even billions of kilometers from Earth.
In these cases their radio signals are so weak that giant receiving stations are necessary to detect
them. The largest stations have antenna dishes in excess of 70 m (230 ft) across. NASA and the Jet
Propulsion Laboratory operate the Deep Space Network, a system of three tracking stations with
several antennas each. The stations are in California, Spain, and Australia, providing continuous
contact with distant spacecraft as Earth spins on its axis.
C2 Navigation and Guidance
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Much of the work of ground controllers involves monitoring a spacecrafts health and flight path. Using
a process called telemetry, a spacecraft can transmit data about the functioning of its internal
components. In addition, engineers can use a spacecrafts radio signals to assess its flight path. This is
possible because of the Doppler effect. Because of the Doppler effect, a spacecrafts motion causes
tiny shifts in the frequency of its radio signals-just as the motion of a passing car causes the
apparent pitch of its horn to go up as the car approaches an observer and down as the car moves
away. By analyzing Doppler shifts in a spacecrafts radio signals, controllers can determine the crafts
speed and direction. Over time, controllers can combine the Doppler shift data with data on the
spacecrafts position in the sky to produce an accurate picture of the crafts path through space.
The guidance system helps control the crafts orientation in space and its flight path. In the early days
of spaceflight, guidance was accomplished by means of radio signals from Earth. The Mercury
spacecraft and its Atlas booster utilized such radio guidance signals broadcast from ground stations.
During launch, for example, the Atlas received steering commands that it used to adjust the direction
of its engines. However, Mercury flight controllers found that radio guidance was limited in accuracy
because interference with the atmosphere tends to make the signals weaker.
Beginning with Gemini, engineers used a system called inertial guidance to stabilize rockets and
spacecraft. This system takes advantage of the tendency of a spinning gyroscope to remain in the
same orientation. A gyroscope mounted on a set of gimbals, or a mechanism that allows it to move
freely, can maintain its orientation even if the spacecrafts orientation changes. An inertial guidance
system contains several gyroscopes, each oriented along a different axis. When the spacecraft rotates
along one or more of its axes, measuring devices tell how far it has turned from the gyroscopes own
orientations. In this way, the gyroscopes provide a constant reference by which to judge the crafts
orientation in space. Signals from the guidance system are fed into the spacecrafts onboard
computer, which uses this information to control the crafts maneuvers.
The Global Positioning System satellites, which enable ships, airplanes, and even hikers to know their
positions with extreme accuracy, should play a similar role in spacecraft. The space shuttle Atlantis
was equipped with GPS receivers during an upgrade in late 1998.
Once in orbit, a spacecraft relies on its own rocket engines to change its orientation (or attitude) in
space, the shape or orientation of its orbit, and its altitude. Of these three tasks, changes in
orientation require the least energy. Relatively small rockets called thrusters control a spacecrafts
attitude. In a massive spacecraft, the attitude control thrusters may be full-fledged liquid-fuel rockets.
Smaller spacecraft often use jets of compressed gas. Depending on which combination of thrusters is
fired, the spacecraft turns on one or more of its three principal axes: roll, pitch, and yaw. Roll is a
spacecrafts rotation around its longitudinal axis, the horizontal axis that runs from front to rear. (In
the case of the space shuttle orbiter, a roll maneuver resembles the motion of an airplane dipping its
wing.) Pitch is rotation around the crafts lateral axis, the horizontal axis that runs from side to side.
(On the shuttle, a pitch maneuver resembles an airplane raising or lowering its nose.) Yaw is a
spacecrafts rotation around a vertical axis. (A space shuttle executing a yaw maneuver would appear
to be sitting on a plane that is turning to the left or right.) A change in attitude might be required to
C3 Propulsion
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point a scientific instrument at a particular target, to prepare a spacecraft for an upcoming maneuver
in space, or to line the craft up for docking with another spacecraft.
When an orbiting spacecraft needs to drop out of orbit and descend to the surface, it must slow down
to a speed less than orbital velocity. The craft slows down by using retrorockets in a process called a
deorbit maneuver. On early piloted spacecraft, retrorockets used solid fuel because solid-fuel rockets
were generally more reliable than liquid-fuel rockets. Vehicles such as the Apollo spacecraft and the
space shuttle have used liquid-fuel retrorockets. In the deorbit maneuver, the retrorocket acts as a
brake by firing into the line of flight. The duration of the firing is carefully controlled, because it will
affect the path that the spacecraft takes into the atmosphere. The same technique has been used by
Apollo lunar modules and by unpiloted planetary landers to leave orbit and head for a planets surface.
Spacecraft have used a variety of technologies to provide electrical power for running onboard
systems. Engineers have used batteries and solar panels since the early days of space exploration.
Often, spacecraft use a combination of the two: Solar panels provide power while the spacecraft is in
sunlight, and batteries take over during orbital night. The solar panels also recharge the batteries, so
the craft has an ongoing source of power. However, solar panels are impractical for many
interplanetary spacecraft, which may travel vast distances from the Sun. Many of these craft have
relied on thermonuclear electric generators, which create power from the decay of radioactive isotopes
and have lifetimes measured in years or even decades. The twin Voyager spacecraft, which explored
the outer solar system, used generators such as these. Thermonuclear electric generators are
controversial because they carry radioactive substances. The radioactivity poses no danger once the
spacecraft reaches space, but some people worry that an accident during launch or during an
unplanned reentry into Earths atmosphere could release harmful radiation into the atmosphere.
Concerned groups protested the 1997 launch of the Cassini spacecraft, which carried its radioactive
material in explosion-proof graphite containers.
Space is a hostile environment for humans. Piloted spacecraft must supply oxygen, food, and water
for their occupants. For longer flights, a spacecraft must provide a way to dispose of or recycle
wastes. For very long flights, spacecraft will eventually have to become almost totally self-sufficient.
For healthy spaceflight, the spacecraft must provide far more than just the core physical needs of
astronauts. Exercise equipment, comfortable sleeping and recreation areas, and well-designed work
areas are some of the amenities that soften spaceflights effects on humans.
The effort to save weight is so inherent to spacecraft design that it even affects the food supply. Much
of the food eaten by astronauts is dehydrated to save both weight and space. In space, astronauts use
a device like a water gun to rehydrate these items. Many food items are also carried in conventional
C4 Power Supply
D Effects of Space Travel on Humans
D1 Crew Support
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form, ranging from bread to candy to fruit.
On many spacecraft, including the U.S. space shuttle, drinkable water is produced by fuel cells that
also provide electrical power. The reaction between hydrogen and oxygen that creates electricity
produces water as a byproduct. A small supply of water for emergency use is also carried in onboard
storage tanks.
For very long-duration missions aboard space stations, water is recycled. Drinkable water can be
extracted from a combination of waste water, urine, and moisture from the cabin atmosphere. This
kind of system was used on the Mir space station and is used on the International Space Station. See
also Space Station.
Perhaps the question most frequently asked of astronauts is, "How do you go to the bathroom in
space? The answer has changed over the years. On early missions such as Mercury, Gemini, and
Apollo, the bathroom facilities were relatively crude. For urine collection, the astronauts, all of whom
were men, used a hose with a condom-like fitting at one end. Urine was then dumped overboard.
Feces were collected in plastic bags and brought back to Earth for medical analyses. The Skylab space
station featured a toilet that used forced air for suction. Mir used similar toilets, with special fittings for
men and women, as does the space shuttle.
Skylab was also the first spacecraft to offer astronauts the chance to bathe in space, by means of a
collapsible shower. To prevent globs of water from escaping and floating around inside the cabin, the
astronaut sealed the shower once inside. The astronaut used a handheld nozzle to dispense water and
a small vacuum to remove it. On the space shuttle astronauts and cosmonauts have had to make do
with sponge baths. The International Space Station has a shower in its habitation module.
Most piloted spacecraft have carried oxygen in onboard tanks in liquid form at cryogenic (super-cold)
temperatures to save space. Liquid oxygen is about 800 times smaller in volume than gaseous oxygen
at everyday temperatures. The Russian Mir space station used an additional source of oxygen: Special
generators aboard Mir separated water into oxygen and hydrogen, and the hydrogen was vented
On Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, the cabin atmosphere was pure oxygen at about 0.3 kg/sq cm (about
5 lb/sq in). On the space shuttle a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen provides a pressure of 1.01 kg/sq
cm (14.5 lb/sq in), slightly less than atmospheric pressure on Earth at sea level. Shuttle astronauts
who go on spacewalks must pre-breathe pure oxygen to purge nitrogen from their bloodstream. This
eliminates the risk of decompression sickness, called the bends, because the shuttle space suit
operates at a lower pressure (0.30 kg/sq cm, or 4.3 lb/sq in) than inside the cabin. Sudden
decompression can cause nitrogen bubbles to form in blood and tissues, a painful and potentially
lethal condition. The International Space Station has an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere at a pressure
similar to that in the shuttle.
In the past, astronauts on missions of a few days or less have often worked long hours. Some found
that their need for sleep was reduced because of the minimal exertion required to move around in
microgravity. However, the intense concentration required to complete busy flight plans can be tiring.
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On longer missions, proper rest is essential to the crews performance. Even on the Moon, astronauts
on extended exploration missions-with surface stay times of three days-knew that they could not
afford to go without a good nights sleep. Redesigned space suits, which were easier to take off and
put on, and hammocks that were strung across the lunar module cabin helped the Moon explorers get
their rest.
On the Skylab space station, each astronaut had a small sleeping compartment with a sleeping
restraint attached to the wall. On Mir, cosmonauts and astronauts sometimes took their sleeping bags
and moved them to favorite locations inside one module or another. The International Space Station,
like Skylab, has private sleeping quarters, and these will be expanded in the future to accommodate a
greater number of people.
Recreation is also essential on long missions, and it takes many forms. Weightlessness provides an
ongoing source of fascination and enjoyment, offering the opportunity for acrobatics, experimentation,
and games. Looking out the window is perhaps the most popular pastime for astronauts orbiting
Earth, providing ever-changing vistas of their home planet. On some flights, astronauts and
cosmonauts read books, play musical instruments, watch videos, and engage in two-way
conversations with family members on the ground.
Humans face many challenges when working in space. These challenges include communicating with
Earth and other spacecraft, creating suitable environments for scientific experiments and other tasks,
moving around in the microgravity of space, and working within cumbersome spacesuits.
Spacecraft in orbit around Earth cannot communicate continuously with the ground unless special
relay satellites provide a link between the spacecraft and ground receiving stations. This problem
disappears when astronauts leave Earth orbit. As Apollo astronauts traveled to the Moon, they were in
constant touch with mission control. However, when they entered lunar orbit, communications were
interrupted whenever the spacecraft flew over the far side of the Moon, because the Moon stood
between the spacecraft and Earth. Lunar landing sites were on the near side of the Moon, so Earth
was always overhead and the astronauts could maintain continuous contact with mission control. For
astronauts who venture to other planets, the primary difficulty in communications will be one of
distance. For example, radio signals from Mars will take as long as 20 minutes to reach Earth, making
ordinary conversations impossible. For this reason, planetary explorers will have to be able to solve
many problems on their own, without help from mission control.
The design of spacecraft interiors has changed as more powerful booster rockets have become
available. Powerful boosters allow bigger spacecraft with roomier cabins. In Mercury and Gemini, for
example, astronauts could not even stretch their legs completely. Their cockpits resembled those of
jet fighters. The Apollo command module offered a bit of room in which to move around, and included
a lower equipment bay with navigation equipment, a food pantry, and storage areas. The Soviet
Vostoks had enough room for their sole occupant to float around, and Soyuz includes both a fairly
cramped reentry module and a roomier orbital module. The orbital module is jettisoned prior to the
cosmonauts return to Earth. The space shuttle has two floors-a flight deck with seats, controls, and
D2 Work in Space
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windows and a middeck with storage lockers and space to perform experiments.
For the Skylab space station, designers had the luxury of creating several different kinds of
environments for different purposes. For example, Skylab had its own wardroom, bathroom, and
sleeping quarters. Designers have tried several different approaches to work spaces on spacecraft.
Most rooms on Skylab were designed like rooms on Earth with a definite floor and ceiling. However,
Skylabs multiple docking adaptor had instrument panels on each wall, and each had its own frame of
reference. Thanks to weightlessness, this was not a problem: Astronauts reported that they were able
to shift their own sense of up and down to match their surroundings. When necessary, ceiling became
floor and vice versa. On Salyut and Mir, the ceilings and floors were painted different colors to aid
cosmonauts in orienting themselves. Because simulators on Earth were given the same color scheme,
the cosmonauts were accustomed to it when they lifted off.
To help astronauts anchor themselves while they work in weightlessness, designers have equipped
spacecraft with a variety of devices, including handholds, harnesses, and foot restraints. Foot
restraints have taken a number of forms. Skylab crews used special shoes that could lock into a grid-
like floor. Apollo astronauts used shoes equipped with strips of Velcro that stuck to Velcro strips on the
capsule floor. Space shuttle astronauts have even used strips of tape on the floor as temporary foot
Astronauts and cosmonauts who perform spacewalks use a variety of devices to aid in mobility and in
anchoring the body in weightlessness. Any surface along which astronauts move is fitted with
handholds, which the astronauts use to pull themselves along. Foot restraints allow astronauts to
remain anchored in one spot, something that is often essential for tasks requiring the use of both
hands. During many spacewalks, astronauts use tethers to keep themselves from drifting away from
the spacecraft. Sometimes, however, astronauts fly freely as they work by wearing backpacks with
thrusters to control their direction and movement.
Astronauts who have conducted spacewalks report that the most difficult tasks are those that involve
using their gloved hands to grip or manipulate tools and other gear. Because the suit-including its
gloves-is pressurized, closing the hand around an object requires constant effort, like squeezing a
tennis ball. After a few hours of this work, forearms and hands become fatigued. The astronauts must
also keep careful track of tools and parts to prevent them from floating away. In general, designers of
space hardware strive to make any kind of assembly or repair work in space as simple as possible.
Space exploration requires more than just science-it requires an enormous amount of money. The
amount of money that a country is willing to invest in space exploration depends on the political
climate of the time. During the Cold War, a period of tense relations between the United States and
the USSR, both countries poured huge amounts of money into their space programs, because many of
the political and public opinion battles were being fought over superiority in space. After the Cold War,
space exploration budgets in both countries shrank dramatically.
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Space exploration became possible at the height of the Cold War, and superpower competition
between the United States and the USSR gave a boost to space programs in both nations. Indeed, the
primary impact of Sputnik was political-in the United States Sputnik triggered nationwide concern
about Soviet technological prowess. When the USSR succeeded in putting the first human into space,
it only added to the disappointment and shame felt by many Americans, and especially by President
Kennedy. Against this background, Alan Shepards Mercury flight on May 5, 1961, was a welcome
cause for celebration. Twenty days later Kennedy told Congress, "I believe that this nation should
commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and
returning him safely to the Earth. This was the genesis of the Apollo program. Although there were
other motivations for going to the Moon-scientific exploration among them-Cold War geopolitics was
the main push behind the Moon race. Cold War competition also affected the unpiloted space
programs of the United States and USSR.
During the piloted programs of the Moon race, the pressure of competition caused Soviet leaders to
order a number of "space spectaculars, as much for their propaganda value as for their contributions.
Each Voskhod flight entailed significant risks to the cosmonauts-the Voskhod 1 crew flew without
space suits, while Voskhod 2s Alexei Leonov was almost unable to reenter his craft following his
historic spacewalk. But the space spectacular the Soviets wanted most of all-a piloted mission around
the Moon in time for the 50th anniversary of the Russian revolution-never came to pass. By
December 1968, when the Apollo 8 astronauts flew around the Moon, it was clear that victory in the
Moon race had gone to the United States.
The achievement of Kennedys goal, with the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, signaled a new era in
space exploration in the United States-but not as NASA had hoped. Instead of accepting NASAs
proposals for a suite of ambitious post-Apollo space programs, Congress backed off on space funding,
with the space shuttle as the only major space program to gain approval. In time it became clear that
the lavish space budgets of the 1960s had been a product of a unique time in history, in which space
was the most visible arena for superpower competition.
Tensions between the superpowers eased somewhat in the early 1970s, and the United States and
USSR joined forces for the Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975. Nevertheless, Cold War suspicions continued
to influence space planners in both nations in the 1970s and 1980s. Both sides continued to spend
enormous sums on missiles and nuclear warheads. Missiles of the Cold War arms race were designed
to fly between continents on a path that took them briefly into space during their journeys. In the
United States, a great deal of research went into a space-based antimissile system called the Strategic
Defense Initiative (known to the public as Star Wars), which was never built. The stockpiling of
missiles was eventually slowed by the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) treaties.
A The Space Race and the Cold War
A1 The Moon Race
A2 After the Moon
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In the USSR, concerns over possible offensive uses of the U.S. space shuttle helped prompt the
development of the heavy-lift launcher Energia and the space shuttle Buran. Economic hardships,
however, forced the suspension of both programs. The economy worsened after the collapse of the
USSR in 1991, threatening the now-Russian space program with extinction.
In 1993 the U.S. government redefined NASAs plans for an international space station to include
Russia as a partner, a development that would not have been possible before the end of the Cold War.
An era of renewed cooperation in space between Russia and the United States followed, highlighted by
flights of cosmonauts on the space shuttle and astronauts on the Mir space station.
Meanwhile, other nations have staged their own programs of unpiloted and piloted space missions.
Many have been conducted by the European Space Agency (ESA), formed in 1975, whose 13 member
nations include France, Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom. European astronauts visited Mir and
have flown on shuttle missions. Since the late 1970s, a series of European rockets called Ariane have
launched a significant percentage of commercial satellites. ESAs activities in planetary exploration
have included probes such as Huygens, which is scheduled to land on Saturns moon Titan in 2004 as
part of NASAs Cassini mission.
China, Japan, and India have each developed satellite launchers. None have created rockets powerful
enough to put piloted spacecraft into orbit. However, Japan has joined Canada, Russia, and the ESA in
contributing hardware and experiments to the International Space Station.
One aspect of space exploration that has changed little over time is its cost. To some extent the ability
to carry out a vigorous space program is a measure of a nations economic vitality. For example,
Russia has had difficulties staying on schedule with its contributions to the International Space
Station-a reflection of the unstable Russian economy.
Cost has always been a central factor in the political standing of space programs. The enormous
expense of the Apollo Moon program (roughly $100 billion in 1990s dollars) prompted critics to say
that the program could have been carried out far more cheaply by robotic missions. While that claim is
oversimplified-no robot has yet equaled the performance of a skilled observer-it reveals how
vulnerable space programs are to budget cuts. The reusable space shuttle failed to significantly lower
the cost of placing satellites in low Earth orbit, as compared with throwaway launchers like the Saturn
V and the Titan III. Cost, not scientific potential, is usually the most significant factor for a nation in
deciding whether to adopt a major space program. In the United States budgetary process, space
funding must compete in a very visible way with expenditures for social programs and other concerns.
Taking inflation into account, Congress has steadily trimmed NASAs allotments, forcing the agency to
reduce its number of employees to pre-Apollo levels by the year 2000.
In response to the high cost of space access, the late 1990s saw renewed efforts to develop a single-
B After the Cold War
C The High Cost of Space Exploration
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stage, reusable space vehicle. The situation also strengthened arguments that in the future, the most
expensive space programs should be carried out by a consortium of nations. Most scientists envision a
program for sending humans to Mars as an international one, primarily as a cost-sharing measure.
Still, the mix of scientific, political, and other motivations has yet to bring about such a venture, and it
may be years or even decades before international piloted interplanetary voyages become reality.
The future of space exploration depends on many things. It depends on how technology evolves, how
political forces shape rivalries and partnerships between nations, and how important the public feels
space exploration is. The near future will see the continuation of human spaceflight in Earth orbit and
unpiloted spaceflight within the solar system. Piloted spaceflight to other planets, or even back to the
Moon, still seems far away. Any flight to other solar systems is even more distant, but a huge advance
in space technology could propel space exploration into realms currently explored only by science
The 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey depicted commercial shuttles flying to and from a giant wheel-
shaped space station in orbit around Earth, bases on the Moon, and a piloted mission to Jupiter. The
real space activities of 2001 will not match this cinematic vision, but the 21st century will see a
continuation of efforts to transform humanity into a spacefaring species.
The International Space Station was scheduled to become operational in the first years of the new
century. NASA plans to operate the space shuttle fleet at least through the year 2012 before phasing
in a replacement-possibly a single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) vehicle. However, some experts predict that
the SSTO is too difficult a goal to be achieved that soon, and that a different kind of second-
generation shuttle would be necessary-perhaps a two-stage, reusable vehicle much like the current
shuttle. In a two-stage launcher, neither stage is required to do all the work of getting into orbit. This
results in less stringent specifications on weight and performance than are necessary for an SSTO.
Perhaps the most difficult problem space planners face is how to finance a vigorous program of piloted
space exploration, in Earth orbit and beyond. In 2001 no single government or international
consortium had plans to send people back to the Moon, much less to Mars. Such missions are unlikely
to happen until the perceived value exceeds their cost.
Some observers, such as Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, believe the solution may lie in space
tourism. By conducting a lottery for tickets on Earth-orbit "vacations, a nonprofit corporation could
generate revenue to finance space tourism activities. In addition, the vehicles developed to carry
passengers might find later use as transports to the Moon and Mars. Several organizations are pushing
for the development of commercial piloted spaceflight. In 1996 the U.S. X-Prize Foundation announced
that it would award $10 million to the first private team to build and fly a reusable spacecraft capable
of carrying three individuals to a height of at least 100 km (62 mi). By 2000, 16 teams had registered
for the competition, with estimates of first flights in 2001.
A Piloted Spaceflight
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One belief shared by Aldrin and a number of other space exploration experts is that future lunar and
Martian expeditions should not be Apollo-style visits, but rather should be aimed at creating
permanent settlements. The residents of such outposts would have to "live off the land, obtaining
necessities such as oxygen and water from the harsh environment. On the Moon, pioneers could
obtain oxygen by heating lunar soil. In 1998 the Lunar Prospector discovered evidence of significant
deposits of ice-a valuable resource for settlers-mixed with soil at the lunar poles. On Mars, oxygen
could be extracted from the atmosphere and water could come from buried deposits of ice.
The future of piloted lunar and planetary exploration remains largely unknown. Most space exploration
scientists believe that people will be on the Moon and Mars by the middle of the 21st century, but how
they get there-and the nature of their visits-is a subject of continuing debate. Clearly, key advances
will need to be made in lowering the cost of getting people off Earth, the first step in any human
voyage to other worlds.
The space agencies of the world planned a wide array of robotic missions for the final years of the
20th century and the opening decade of the 21st century. NASAs Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE)
Enterprise is designed to study Earth as a global system, and to document the effects of natural
changes and human activity on the environment. The Earth Observing System (EOS) spacecraft form
the cornerstone of the MTPE effort. Terra, the first EOS spacecraft, was launched in December 1999. It
began providing scientists with data and images in April 2000.
Mars will be visited by a succession of landers and orbiters as part of NASAs Discovery Program, of
which the Mars Pathfinder lander was a part. The program suffered setbacks in 1999 that jeopardized
NASAs goal of retrieving a sample of Martian rocks and soil in 2003 and bringing it to Earth. Although
NASA planned future missions to Mars, the missions may face delays as engineers work to ensure they
do not lose more spacecraft to human error or inadequate testing.
The Discovery program also includes the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission (NEAR). This
spacecraft entered orbit around the asteroid Eros in 2000. In 2004 a spacecraft called Stardust,
launched on February 7, 1999, is scheduled to fly past Comet Wild 2 (pronounced Vilt 2) and gather
samples of the comets dust to bring back to Earth (see Comet).
Jupiters moon Europa is also likely to receive increased scrutiny, because of strong evidence for a
liquid-water ocean beneath its icy crust. Among the missions being studied is a lander to drill through
the ice and explore this suspected ocean. As with Mars, scientists are especially eager to find any
evidence of past or present life on Europa. Such investigations will be difficult, but the discovery of
any form of life beyond Earth would undoubtedly spur further explorations.
Saturn will be visited by the Cassini orbiter in the summer of 2004. The spacecraft is to deploy a probe
called Huygens that will enter the atmosphere of Saturns largest moon, Titan, in December 2004.
During its trip to the surface, Huygens will analyze the cloudy atmosphere, which is rich in organic
B Unpiloted Spaceflight
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NASA is also considering orbiters to survey Mercury, Uranus, and Neptune. Pluto, the only planet that
has never been visited by a spacecraft, is the target for a proposed Pluto Express mission. A pair of
lightweight probes would be launched at high speed, reaching Pluto and its moon Charon as early as
NASAs New Millennium program is aimed at creating new technologies for space exploration and
swiftly incorporating them into spacecraft. In its first mission, the Deep Space 1 spacecraft used solar-
electric propulsion to fly by an asteroid in July 1999 and was scheduled to visit comet Borelly in 2001.
NASA also plans a number of orbiting telescopes, such as the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, an X-ray
astronomy telescope launched from the space shuttle in 1999. Another program, called Origins, is
designed to use ground-based and space-borne telescopes to search for Earthlike planets orbiting
other stars.
Space exploration experts have long hoped that as international tensions have eased, an increasing
number of space activities could be undertaken on an international, cooperative basis. One example is
the International Space Station. In 1998, however, countries and agencies such as Japan and the
European Space Agency (ESA) began to reassess their commitments to space exploration because of
economic uncertainty. The transportation system for this mission may involve Russian space
hardware, such as the Soyuz spacecraft.
In addition to the economic savings that could result from nations pooling their resources to explore
space, the new perspective gained by space voyages could be an important benefit to international
relations. The Apollo astronauts have said the greatest discovery from our voyages to the Moon was
the view of their own world as a precious island of life in the void. Ultimately that awareness could
help to improve our lives on Earth.

Contributed By:
Andrew Chaikin
Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 2003. 1993-2002 Microsoft Corporation. All rights
C International Cooperation
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1993-2002 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.