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Space travel

Will space become available for everyone?

The 21st century has already made many remarkable achievements in the space industry. 2022 will end with the news of the first para-astronaut, an astronaut with physical impairment. ESA recruited John McFall, who lost his leg during a motorcycle accident at the age of 19 years, as their first para astronaut and rewrote the criteria for space travel. The private sector is aiming to make space travel available to the public. The past standards are changing, and the space industry is sending a solid message to humanity that space will be available for everyone.

John McFall

History of space travel

Humankind has always wondered about the world above Earth, and space travel has always been a dream of humankind. It first became possible when essential rocketry and space-based technologies developed in the early nineteenth century. Most important, however, was the human desire to explore space and make history by conquering new frontiers. In the 19th century, humanity was in the race to make space travel a reality, to travel beyond the blanket of air surrounding us. Often music and fiction were influenced by the space race, and it is visible in the century. Moon was considered a magical land in music, and aliens were featured regularly. Two nations dominated one of the peak and most successful periods of space exploration – America and the Soviet Union. They both raced each other to become the firsts – to be the first to send a satellite to space, to be the first to send humans to go to space, and then to the Moon, to make the first to perform a space walk, first to send a  woman to go to space and more. The Soviet Union pioneered it by putting the first artificial satellite, Sputnik -1, in Earth’s orbit on October 4, 1957. It helped us to learn more about the Earth’s uppermost atmosphere layer.

Sputnik 1 instruments

On January 31 1958, America launched its first artificial satellite, Explorer I. It discovered Van Allen Belt radiation surrounding the Earth. In 1959, the soviet union launched the first rocket of the luna series. Luna 1 became the first spacecraft to leave Earth’s gravity, and Luna 9 became the first to land on Moon successfully; they even sent their Venera series to Venus by 1961.

 How many people have visited the space?

There are almost 10 people in space right now. More than 600 people visited space, and in the first 8 months of 2022, 32 people visited space. When in 1957, the space age started with sputnik-I, and the next step was manned missions. As a first step, only a month after the launch of Sputnik-I, the  Soviet Union sent the first living creature, a dog named Laika, which survived for a few days.

Laika

On 12 April 1961, Soviet Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin became the first human in space; strapped in his Vostok Capsule, he orbited the earth once, and after 108 minutes in space, he ejected himself from the capsule and parachuted to earth. He became an international hero and started a new chapter of human space exploration.

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin

On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard made a suborbital journey lasting 15 minutes and blasted off to the Atlantic and became the first American and the second human to space.

Alan Shepard

The first space walk was done by Soviet Aleksei Leonov in March 1965. In June 1963, Soviet Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to travel to space.

Valentina Tereshkova

On the other hand, America was continuously beaten by the Soviet Union. Even the Sputnik 2 mission, which took the first living creature to space, was much heavier than anything America was planning and the space race became a political issue. Their first goal was to place a man in space, but they were beaten by the Soviet Union. In 1961, John F Kennedy set a new goal of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth before the end of the decade. The success of ten Gemini two-manned missions was the first step towards the three-manned Apollo program. Saturn V rocket was developed to launch Apollo 11 craft, as tall as 32 – a storey building; it was the most powerful rocket until SLS was launched recently.

In July 1969, Saturn V took off from Cape Kennedy carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin Buzz Aldrin.

Apollo 11 astronauts

At 10.56 pm EDT, Neil Armstrong set the first human foot on another world, followed by Aldrin while Miachel Collins waited in the command module orbiting the moon. Almost half a million people watched the telecast and heard his words, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Between 1961-1972 there were 14 Apollo missions, 24 astronauts went to the moon, and 12 astronauts walked on the moon during these missions. Apart from humans, numerous other animals visited space. After Laika in 1957, the Soviet Union sent two dogs, Strelka and Belka, and returned to earth safely by parachute in August 1961. The dogs were chosen because their circulation and respiration are similar to ours. Chimpanzees, because of their similarity in genetics to humans, were also chosen for space travel. Ham was the first of a kind to travel to space, and on return, he was found to be in excellent health conditions. In 1982 in the space shuttle Columbia, a  honey bee, along with moths, was sent to space. The moth born in space moved easily, but the adult had issues adapting while the honeybee clung to the wall and floated hopelessly. Later in 1984, a 3200 honeybee comb was sent. At first, they were confused but later made the honeycomb identical to earth. Cats, monkeys, and insects all went to space related to different studies.

How is the private space sector reshaping space exploration?

From the start of the 21st, the world witnessed the rise and more involvement of the private sector in the space industry. Even Though it started with some failures, SpaceX, founded in 2022 by the entrepreneur Elon Musk became the talk of the town by becoming the first ever privately funded group to put a payload in Earth’s orbit and the one to recover it back to earth return back. They impressed the world by sending the unmanned mission and docking with ISS, and winning the NASA contract to send astronauts in early 2017. The technology opened a new approach by recovering the first stage of Falcon 9.

Falcon 9 landing

On May 30 2020, SpaceX crossed another milestone by sending its first crewed mission sending two NASA astronauts to ISS.

On 11 July 2021 space tourism company launched its founder Richard Branson and three other crew members to suborbital space, opening a new era of space travel.

Richard Branson flew to the edge of space.

On 20 July 2021, another space tourism company Blue Origin also sent four crew members to space. The past decade of only the involvement of govt and government-founded space organisations in space exploration has broadened to commercial space flight and the involvement of private companies, which broadened the access to space to the public.

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