Almost fifty years ago, Russian scientists were able to create Sputnik, an artificial satellite that could orbit around the earth in less than two hours! It sent out a beeping noise that could be heard by radios all over the world. It wasn't long until they started wondering how could they possibly top this. Less than two years later, they put an unmanned space ship on the moon. Before long, Russian satellites were orbitingthe moon and the world was able to see what the far side of the moon looked like! The race was on to see whether the USA or Russia would be the first to put a man on the moon. Numerousunmanned space missions prepared the way for the 1961 launching of a Russian astronaut named Yuri Gagarin into orbit around Earth. Alan Shepherd, an astronaut from the United States of America, made a suborbital space mission the same year. Within a year, John Glenn had also orbited the earth. Spaceships named Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo carried the astronauts closer and closer to the target. Most people know Neil Armstrong was the first man to step onto the moon in 1969, but did you know that “Buzz” Aldrin was the second?
Hundreds of years ago, men developed rockets that work a lot like the fireworks that are used every Fourth of July. Extremely large versionsof these rockets are used to lift modern spaceshipsinto orbit.
Explorers who travel out into space are known as astronauts. Some astronauts have become famous for taking the first steps in space or being the first woman or man to leave Earth's atmosphere.
To the Moon
Just imagine what it must have been like landing the lunar module, jumping on the moon's surface, or riding along in the moon rover. How would you have decided which moon rocks to bring back to Earth? Being an astronaut is a hard job, but most astronauts will tell you it is the most awesome job in and out of this world. It's not too late to find out if being an astronautis the job for you. Space flight is just beginning and it doesn't matter whether you are a boy or a girl, which is what Sally Ride proved when she was the first woman from the USA to orbit the earth! Learning all you can about the universe and the space programs is a great place to start. You might also want to watch a rocket launching and visit the NASA Web site for a list of what is required to become an astronaut.
How Many Moons?
Our moon is much smaller than the Earth. How much smaller? Complete the following equation to find out how many moons you would have to add together to equal one planet Earth.
Although there were no people on the first missions into space, Russian satellites called Sputniks carried dogs, rodents, and even plants. Before small animals were sent into space, insects were being sent by rockets. Maybe you've had some insects you wouldn't mind sending flying into outer space! These scientists weren't bothered by these bugs, but instead they were checking to see how well the insects would survive in the weightlessness and radiation found in space. Only certain types of monkeys were chosen to travel in these space vehicles, because they could react a lot like a human. These monkeys were trained to perform some of the same tasks that the astronauts needed to do. Can you imagine what it must be like training these astronaut monkeys? People who work with monkeys will tell you that they have seen some pretty amazing things. Everyday monkeys are being trained to do the same things people do, like open a water bottle or get something out of the cupboard. Some of these monkeys end up helping people who can't do these things for themselves. Humans and animals have worked together for years, so it isn't surprising to think they would be a part of our space program. Many types of animals continue to be carried in modern space vehicles. Numerous animals are famous for their space flights. Do you think it's possible to take a fish into space?
One Foot in Front of the Other
No human had ever set foot on any other place in space until 1969 when two astronauts by the names of Neil Armstrong and Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin stepped on the surface of Earth's moon.
How would they keep it in the water? And would a blowfish still blow up, or would it do just the opposite? Having a chicken that lays eggs in space could prove to be a little interesting, too, especially if you were on the moon! Now that we know animals and plants can live in outer space, what plants and animals do you think they will choose to have at the future space stations? Would you take any weeds or broccoli if you were in charge? How about elephants or snakes? It would take a pretty tall rocket to carry a giraffe into space, and a really long one to get a killer whale out there. Do you think there will ever be a space zoo or circus? Space exploration offers so many cool possibilities!