That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.
– Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon
Given the successful launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 this weekend, I think it’s appropriate to reminisce on the initial times we went beyond the border of Earth.
Following the Second World War, tensions were high between the United States Of America and the Soviet Union. Their conflict led to The Cold War, pinning the Russians and Americans against each other. Their war was not limited to the front-line, but went on to be a battle of information systems-including their race to Space (spoiler alert – America won).Their race to Space symbolised the power that was desperately sought by both countries.
In 1957, the Soviet Union’s missile launched the world’s first artificial satellite, “Sputnik” (fun fact: Sputnik is Russian for “traveler”) (HISTORY, 2019). The U.S did not waste any time, in 1958 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was created. They launched a satellite, Explorer 1, giving the American people hope. Explorer 1 gave America an advantage in the race, leading to the discovery of the radiation belts (HISTORY, 2019). James A. Van Allen, an American physicist, used the data transmitted by the Explorer 1 to discover the radiation belts. Hence, they are more famously known as Van Allen belts (vain much?). The Van Allen radiation belts are doughnut-shape zones of energetic charged particles that are trapped in the magnetic field of Earth (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2019). This discovery was of great importance as radiation poses a great risk to an astronaut’s health and spacecraft.
The 100 km race continues (Universe Today, 2019):
In 1961, Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut, orbited the Earth in Vostok 1, a capsule-like spacecraft (HISTORY, 2019). The U.S were too busy testing with chimpanzees to get ahead at this stage. A year later they caught up, with John Glenn becoming the first American to orbit the Earth (HISTORY, 2019).
Next stop – The moon, only 384,400 km to go! (Sharp, 2019):
Being the closest rock formation to us, it makes sense that the moon was the next border to cross. The race to the moon is an interesting one, which brought a lot of speculation to the Space system. NASA’s budget had increased by approximately 500%, fueling “Project Apollo” (HISTORY, 2019). With the passing of Sergey Korolyov, chief engineer of the Soviet space program (HISTORY, 2019), their side of the race suffered a setback.
Fast forward to the most interesting part of the story: On July 20, 1969, U.S astronauts Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Michael Collins, and of course, the famous Neil Armstrong, successfully landed on the moon (Nasa.gov, 2019). I find it interesting that the majority of people will only know Neil Armstrong. He was technically the first man to walk on the moon, but Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin stepped on immediately after. Maybe they thought it was a good idea to go in reverse alphabetical order? Who knows. The majority of Irish people will think of Michael Collins as an Irish Republican who took part in the 1916 Rising. Maybe there is a conspiracy theory that he was not assassinated, but deported to the U.S where he later became an astronaut. Who knows for sure?
By successfully landing on the moon, its safe to say the U.S won the space race that the Soviet Union started in 1957. I can’t help but wonder if the chief engineer of the Soviet space program had been alive, would the result be the same? Also, I wonder if the American flag the U.S astronauts planted on the Moon is still there? Given the lack of external forces imposed on the flag, it should not move. I think it’s fair to assume that the flag remains stationary, rest assured.
Cecil, G. (2019). Our SpaceFlight Heritage: Explorer 1 and the start of the Space Age. [online] SpaceFlight Insider. Available at: https://www.spaceflightinsider.com/space-flight-history/spaceflight-heritage-57th-anniversary-explorer/ [Accessed 3 Mar. 2019].
Encyclopedia Britannica. (2019). Geomagnetic field | geophysics. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/science/geomagnetic-field [Accessed 3 Mar. 2019].
HISTORY. (2019). The Space Race. [online] Available at: https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/space-race [Accessed 3 Mar. 2019].
Huffingtonpost.co.uk. (2019). 11 Proofs That The Apollo Moon Landings Were NOT Fake. [online] Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/11-proofs-that-the-apollo-moon-landings-were-not-fake_uk_5971d821e4b00e4363decb38?gzs [Accessed 3 Mar. 2019].
Nasa.gov. (2019). NASA – The First Person on the Moon. [online] Available at: https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/stories/first-person-on-moon.html [Accessed 3 Mar. 2019].
Sharp, T. (2019). How Far is the Moon?. [online] Space.com. Available at: https://www.space.com/18145-how-far-is-the-moon.html [Accessed 3 Mar. 2019].
TT3 thetrappedelectron. (2019). Sputnik: The Soviet satellite that changed the World. [online] Available at: https://thetrappedelectron.com/2015/09/21/sputnik-the-soviet-satellite-that-changed-the-world/ [Accessed 3 Mar. 2019].
Universe Today. (2019). How High is Space? – Universe Today. [online] Available at: https://www.universetoday.com/25410/how-far-is-space/ [Accessed 3 Mar. 2019].