The Space Exploration Program

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Humans have always been explorers for as long as we have inhabited this planet. When ancient humans first stumbled across foreign lands and seas, they were driven and compelled to explore them. They were determined by a desire to conquer new boundaries and by a longing for knowledge, prosperity, and prestige. These are the same incentives that drove people of the twentieth century to venture into the cosmos. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has become the world’s primary representative for exploration, thus expanding the physical and mental limitations of humankind.

The motivation towards the birth of NASA, on July 29, 1958, was the launch of the satellite Sputnik on October 4, 1957 during the height of the Cold War. Sputnik was the very first artificial satellite launched into Earth’s orbit by the Soviet Union. The small craft was an embarrassment to the United States, which prided itself on its expertise in technology. This extraordinary accomplishment is extensively credited with the starting of the “space race” amongst Russia and the United States to be the initial country to land astronauts on the Moon thus conquering the space race as well as becoming the lead element in space exploration. In December of 1957 the United States decided to launch its own satellite, Vanguard. Unfortunately, the spacecraft only got a few feet off of the ground before blowing-up.

America tried again just over a month later, with a new satellite, Explorer 1, and had far better luck that time, remarkably making a complete orbit around the Earth. It was obvious to many U.S officials, that a more organized and focused effort was needed. Subsequently, in July of 1958, Congress approved legislation, instituting NASA as the coordinating body of the United States space program. Throughout the next decade, NASA became devoted to the space race. On May 25, 1961, just twenty days after astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American to reach space, President John F. Kennedy made an announcement to all American citizens that the country should make it their prime mission of putting a man on the moon and returning him safely back to the confines of the Earth.

President Kennedy wanted this monumental task achieved by the end of the decade. Eight years and billions of dollars later, on July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped from the lunar module, Eagle, onto the moon’s surface and into history. The great space race had been victoriously won by America. After five more successful lunar landings, NASA switched gears and began to focus solely on building the International Space Station thus learning about what the long-term effects of space would have on man. Nasa has yet to venture out of the confines of earth’s atmosphere, choosing instead to circle the earth conducting numerous experiments on what the long terms effects will be on man, animals, as well as numerous other living forms inhabiting the earth.

Science and Space have come full circle together and now the engineers, at NASA, are fairly confident that we can send astronauts to Mars and return them safely to the earth. It is a monumental task but one NASA believes in and embraces. If all goes well NASA believes by the end of the next decade our dream will become a reality. There also have been numerous discussions about building a moon base as a bridge to Mars. The supplies needed to make it to Mars would be far too heavy to make it out of earth’s atmosphere thus creating a serious need for other forms of help along the way by either the space station or a moon base?

Man’s dream of venturing out into the Cosmos has taken on a life of its own. There is no doubt we will be heading to Mars one day, the only issue left to determine is when? Venturing out into space has always captured the imagination of not only the people of the United States but all other countries in general. NASA will always be the cornerstone of space flight. Unfortunately, space travel is not cheap proven by all the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice to move the NASA program ahead. There is still a lot left to learn if we are ever going to make it to Mars and beyond, but one we readily accept. The space program should be a funding priority because one day humans will have to abandon Earth, it is vital that scientists continue to gather data about Earth’s respective galaxy, and it inspires science education.

It is abundantly clear that one day, humans will indeed have no choice but to abandon Earth. As the famous and brilliant Stephen Hawking once said, “We are running out of space and the only places to go to are other worlds. It is time to explore other solar systems. Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth” (Hawking). Humans face a number of self-inflicted complications here on Earth, like global warming, nuclear weapons, and bio-engineered chemical warfare. Takin in account that Mother Nature hasn’t been so kind to us either, taking out a number of mass extinction cycles. To our advantage, the dinosaurs didn’t have a space program, we do, and we can overcome these obstacles in the near future.

Global warming is the term that is used to define an upsurge of temperature in the Earth’s atmosphere, along with its oceans. It is understood to be permanently altering the Earth’s climate. With the amplified volumes of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released by the burning of fossil fuels, agriculture, and other human activities, are thought to be the prime sources of the global warming that has taken place over the last several decades. These changes, resulting from global warming may increase the rising sea levels due to the melting of the polar ice caps, as well as an upsurge of severe weather events. In other words, one day, every road, city, and town we know could be inundated and lost under water forever. Or just the opposite, the Earth could heat up to a point that would be unbearable for humans to tolerate. Many climatologists contend it may already be too late to reverse climate change, and is just a matter of time before the Earth becomes squalid.

The threat imposed on humanity by the existence of nuclear weapons is troubling to say the least. There are many risks when it comes to the handling of nuclear proliferation. Currently, there are eight nations that possess inventories of nuclear weapons, but what if that technology disperses into additional nations? The fear that these weapons could be detonated on accident or intentionally. Perhaps, the greatest fear of all, the horror of these weaponries getting into the hands of terrorist individuals or groups. By definition, a nuclear weapon is in essence a device intended to release energy derived from a mix of chemicals in an explosive manner in a result of nuclear fusion, nuclear fission, or a grouping of both. Nuclear fallout, or “radioactive dust” is an additional and very real concern to humanity. At high doses, radiation kills cells at an alarming rate, harms organs, and causes rapid death.

“It is as inescapable as the laws of physics that humanity will one day confront some type of extinction-level event” (Kaku). We have already taken into consideration that in two billion years, give or take, an intensifying sun will evaporate our oceans completely, leaving our home in the cosmos dilapidated—unless, of course, we haven’t already been wiped out by the Andromeda galaxy, which is on a multibillion-year collision course with our Milky Way. So, where will we go and how will we get there? In this day and age, we have many options, remarkably.

The National Space Society whose members are dedicated to inaugurating settlements in space, propose that we undoubtedly will first need to go to a planet that has the ability and resources to sustain life. NASA once stated that a settlement could, in fact, be excavated numerous feet below our own Moon’s surface or enclosed within a present crater to defend citizens from the endless bombardment of cosmic radiation, which damages our human make-up and leads to cancer. The study that NASA conducted foresees an onsite nuclear power plant and various methods for extracting aluminum, carbon, silicon and other beneficial materials from the lunar surface.

The Moon would be the logical first stop we should and most likely will make. Even though our Moon is closer to Earth than any other planet or moon in the cosmos, and we have already landed men there numerous times already, many sponsors advocate skipping the Moon completely and shooting straight for the moons of Neptune, Uranus, Jupiter, and Saturn. The moons of other planets are thought to comprise variously larger magnitudes of carbon, nitrogen, or water. But why go to a Moon when you can go to a planet instead? That is the exact idea that has been fluctuating around in the heads of countless scientific astronomers for decades upon decades.

Only now, it has finally become a reality. The “Red Planet,” or more commonly known as Mars, we’ve discovered to be the most Earth-like planet that could possibly be habitable to mankind. Unlike the Moon, Mars appears to have a bit of an atmosphere, which would be a big help in warding off some of the cosmic rays being thrown in that direction, along with about forty percent of Earth’s gravity.

Cite this paper

The Space Exploration Program. (2021, Dec 20). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-space-exploration-program/

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