One of the first records of a device that employed the principle of rocket flight occurred around 400 B.C. Archytas (of Greece) flew a wooden pigeon, suspended on wires and propelled by escaping steam. Hero, 300 years later flew a similar device. (NASA, 1993)
The first true rockets were developed around the first century A.D. China, using a primitive form of gunpowder, invented fireworks. These were first used for religious purposes, and later on in war. (NASA, 1993) Launching a satellite into orbit was a 17th century idea. (Hartmann, Impey, 1994)
In 1898, a Russian schoolteacher, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky proposed the idea of space exploration by rockets. In 1903, he suggested the use of liquid propellents to achieve greater range. Tsiolokovsky is known as the father of modern astronautics. (NASA, 1993)
Robert H. Goddard, early in the twentieth century, further improved rocket science by coming up with the following discoveries:
rockets work better in a vacuum.
successful liquid-propellant rockets. (NASA, 1993)
Since Goddard’s time, we have sent dozens of ships to more than seventy worlds and four spacecrafts to the stars. (Sagan, 1994) When we first started sending astronauts into outer space, a new era of science was ushered in. Yet there were those who thought that landing on the Moon was just a Hollywood stunt. (Sagan, 1994)
Why do we, why should we explore outer space? First, America is a frontier society and space, the new frontier offers the spirit of adventure. This also helps to stimulate student interest in careers in science and math. Furthermore, many nations, for example: Russia, China, Japan, France, Canada and the United States are working together to advance knowledge for the betterment of the whole world. The International Space Station, which will be discussed later on is an example of this.
Furthermore, through the development of satellite technology, weather forecasting has been greatly improved and many lives have been saved. Communications satellites have brought the people of the world closer. Maps developed from satellite images have made travel easier. (Sagan, 1994)
In addition, satellites orbiting the Earth have enabled us to study the interactions of the atmosphere, oceans, land, energy and organisms. By studying Venus, scientists have learned more about global warming and the danger of releasing ozone-depleting chemicals into the air. By studying Mars, they have learned about the dangers of a nuclear winter. All in all, spacecrafts have sent back more than four trillion bits of information or the equivalent of 100,000 volumes of encyclopedias. (Sagan, 1994)
Due to space travel, our technology is rapidly increasing. There have been numerous inventions and improvements to already existing machines and materials. Examples include: virtual reality, athletic shoes, smoke detectors, heart rate monitors, fire resistant materials, radiation insulation and studless winter tires. (NASA, 1994)
How much does space travel cost, is a question that students frequently ask. In 1969, the year of the first Moon landing, NASA received about four cents out of each dollar in the national budget. In 1991, this had been reduced to just a little over one cent. This means that the average taxpayer pays out approximately sixty-nine dollars per year, or about $5.78 per month. (NASA, 1991)