Travel in Space
Concept: What is Space Travel?
Humans have wanted to travel and explore unknown, uncharted places for centuries. To fulfil this desire, humans invented many vehicles such as horse carts, cars, boats, ships, etc.
- Hot air balloons were humans' first means of transport to leave land for the first time.
- After reaching the extreme ends of planet Earth, humans started exploring the world of space.
- Earlier, only telescopes were the mode of exploration with limited resources to see what was going on in the sky.
- Later with advancements in science and technology, men could reach space for research.
- Yuri Gagarin was the first person to get to space on April 12, 1961.
What are space?
- An envelope of gases surrounds the Earth called the atmosphere. This area extends up to the height of around 10,000 km.
- After the atmosphere ends, starts a region where there is no air which is called space or outer space.
- The sky appears black in space due to the unavailability of air.
- The absence of air provides no medium for sound to travel in the air; hence, nothing is heard there.
- Earth's gravitational force cannot be felt there, so people float in space.
Going against the Earth’s pull:
- Going to space requires going to a great height of more than 10,000 km.
- This travel is against gravity and hence, requires a specific mode of transport.
- It was not possible to use aircraft for such travel, and it led to the development of rockets which became a mode of travel for people travelling to space.
- Dr. Robert Hutchings Goddard was the person to invent the first fuelled rocket in the world.
Initial space travel:
- Space was a completely new odyssey for humans.
- Travelling to space had its challenges.
- Hence, to get an idea about space travel, humans used animals.
- The United States of America tested the effects of launching the Rhesus monkey (Albert II). This rocket reached up to 134 km above the Earth’s surface.
- A two-year-old street dog from Moscow named Laika was the first living thing placed in the rocket and sent to space.
- These animals could not survive in the extremities of space and died.
- So, the scientists tried to send robotic rovers that could land over the unexplored surfaces and try to fetch some samples from there. Such robotic missions did not require life support systems and proved helpful.
- In 1959, Russia tried to land its spacecraft Luna 2 on the moon’s surface. It crash-landed and got damaged.
- After learning from such failures, scientists developed their rockets and spacecraft to start manned missions in space.
First humans in space:
- After much research and development, the Russians successfully launched their rocket to space with a living human on board.
- A pilot and cosmonaut named Yuri Gagarin was the first human to reach outer space.
- They used a rocket called Vostok I, which had a capsule to stay.
- Yuri Gagarin was able to complete one orbit around Earth that lasted for 108 minutes and successfully landed on the Earth using a parachute.
- After this, The United States of America successfully landed its astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, on the moon's surface in 1969.
- It was the first time any living thing touched the surface of another celestial object. The astronauts brought back rock and soil samples from the moon.
- Stay in space requires particular instruments and setup to survive in situations without oxygen and gravity.
- These factors led to the space shuttle's development, which was used as a launch vehicle. The launch vehicle carries the spacecraft to space.
- Spacecrafts are more spacious than small capsules used earlier for space exploration.
- It allowed the scientists to make permanent space stations or small setups in the Earth’s orbit at lower heights to study the facts of outer space.
- The space stations are inhabited by the astronauts and have specific facilities using which they can survive there for a considerable number of days. It gives them an ample amount of time to do research.
Example : The names of some space stations are given below—
|Name of the space station||Country|
|International Space Station||USA, Russia, Japan, Europe, Canada|
- Scientists constantly experiment with things concerning space, such as growing plants, rearing living organisms, etc.
- These experiments provide valuable information for future space travels, including reaching Mars and making colonies over the Martian surface.
Indians in space travel:
- On April 3, 1984, Wing Commander of the Indian Air Force Rakesh Sharma successfully reached space using the Russian Soyuz T-11. He became the only Indian citizen to reach the space.
- In 1997, the Indian-born American astronaut Kalpana Chawla became the first Indian-born female who completed her mission on board the space shuttle Columbia. Kalpana Chawla once again aboard the same space shuttle in 2001.
- Stepping on the feet of the Kalpana Chawla, Sunita Williams became the next astronaut of Indian origin (from her father’s side). She set the former world record of most spacewalks in space by any female astronaut. She completed her longest stay in the space (127 days) and returned successfully.
Space shuttle: A manned launch vehicle that breaks the Earth’s gravity using the rocket, performs its duties in space and reaches the Earth’s surface by landing on a runway similar to an aeroplane.
Gravity: A force exerted by the Earth that keeps all things in their place. It is different on different planets. In space, everything floats because there is no gravity.
Astronaut: A skilled person (male and female) that gets training to travel and work in spacecraft.
Cosmonaut: Literal meaning is ‘sailor of the universe’. A person trained for space travel and working in a spacecraft is called a cosmonaut in Russia.
Did You Know?
Space tourism: Nowadays, some companies are giving joyrides to civilians to reach and experience space and its zero gravity. In 2021, Sirisha Bandla became the third Indian-origin female to fly to space as a space tourist.