Space History

Space History

Exploration; to travel in a little-known
region for discovery, as defined by Webster. Since the age of the Greeks,

Anglo-Saxons have been interested in space exploration. From Copernicus
to Gaileo to Newton, space has been looked upon with adoring eyes.

Space has been regarded time after time as the final frontier. That
was until 1957, with the launch of the Sputnik-1, when the Soviet built
satellite became the first man-made satellite successfully launched out
into outer space. In 1958, the United States matched the Soviets
with their own satellite, Explorer III. After that, it became
a free-for-all out into the darkest regions of the final frontier. The
ascension into space for the United States started off with rockets, satellites,
and probes then later moved on to shuttles and larger spacecrafts.

In 1946, the United States started their climb towards the heavens with
the NRL V-2. The rocket gave the first observations of the Sun's

UV spectrum. In 1949, the NRL V-2 gave the first observations of
solar X-rays. In 1958, the Explorer III became the US's first satellite
and it also discovered Earth's radiation belt.

On August 17th, 1958, the US set
its sights upon the moon with the Pioneer 0 but it exploded in its first
stages of ascension. It was followed later in the year by Pioneer

1 and Pioneer 3 both lunar orbiters, but again failure because both separately
failed to reach atmospheric escape velocity. The following years Pioneer

4 and 5 were launched as space probes and are presently still in
solar orbit. In 1962, the Aerobee Rocket was launched and observed
the first x-ray star. In the 1960's, NASA began the Ranger
space probe program. They were NASA's earliest Moon exploration
program probes. These spacecrafts were designed to perform a crash
landing upon the Moon's surface. They were intended to take pictures
and return scientific data up until the impact of the probe with the lunar
surface. On April 23rd, 1962, the Ranger 4 became the first US lunar
impact on the Moon's surface. The Soviets had done it first with Luna 2
on September 14th, 1959. The Ranger's provided scientists with more
than 17,000 close up pictures of the lunar surface and specifically the
areas of Mare Tranquillitatis and Ocean Procellarum. (Johnson)

These pictures gave us more information about the Moon and its surface
in just a few years than all the previous attempts put together, though

Pioneer 3 and 5 missed the Moon and are in solar orbit. The Mariner space
program probes were designed to fly past and/or orbit planets, specifically

Mercury, Venus and Mars. On August 27th, 1962, the US achieved the
world's first successful interplanetary spacecraft when the Mariner 2 was
launched. It arrived at Venus at a distance of 34,800 kilometers
and scanned its surface with infrared and microwave radiometers.

It also captured data that showed Venus' surface to be about 425 C.
(Hamilton) On November 28th, 1964 the Mariner 4 was launched. It
gave the first glimpse of Mars at close range, traveling within 9,920 kilometers
of Mar's surface. It also confirmed Mar's thin atmosphere of carbon
(Cook) On November 3rd, 1973,

Mariner 10 was launched. It was the first dual planet mission.

It recorded Venus' temperature to be -23 C and produced 10,000 pictures
of Mercury covering 57% of the planet's surface. It also recorded
the surface temperatures ranging from 187 C on the day side and -183 C
on the night side. (Hamilton) Furthermore, it was also the first
probe to use one planet's gravity to propel itself towards another planet.

On April 30th, 1966, the Surveyor 1 achieved the US's first soft landing
on the lunar surface. The Soviets beat the US with the Luna 9 soft
landing on January 31st. The Surveyor series were unmanned spacecrafts
designed to land on the Moon's surface. Their objective was to provide
information about the lunar surface to see if the terrain was safe, in
preparation for manned landings. Their legs were "instrumented to
return data on the surface hardness of the Moon." Additionally, "Surveyor
dispelled the fear that Apollo spacecraft might sink several feet or more
into the lunar dust." (Johnson) Between August 10th, 1966 and August

2nd, 1967, the US launched 5 spacecrafts from the Lunar Orbiter series.

The series was designed to orbit the Moon and take pictures and collect
data of the Moon's surface in support of the ensuing manned Apollo landings.

On May 5th, 1961, Alan B. Shepard,

Jr. Became the first American in space aboard the Freedom 7. In April
the Soviets had the first man, Yuri A. Gagarin. On June 3rd,

1965 Edward H. White performed the first American 'space walk' from the

GT IV, a tester of the Gemini spacecraft. With Alexei A. Leonov in

March, the Soviets had the