Space exploration has always been intriguing to me. Ever since I was a kid, I have wanted to go to space. The thought of being weightless and able to float around is mind boggling. I love to watch the videos of astronauts eating. They can eat the food from the air. It just floats there. It is so weird to think about. Space exploration is much more than fun and games though. We do not know nearly anything about our universe, or even our galaxy. What is a black hole? What happens to plants at zero G. What is it like for bees to fly if there is no gravity? These are all questions that could not be answered without the help of astronauts.
Black holes are among the most puzzling phenomenon’s known to man. What are they? Well, we do know that whatever is at the center of these galactic vacuum cleaners has to be incredibly massive. There is a relationship between mass and gravitational force. So, theoretically if you had two pencils in the middle of space that were not affected by another mass, they would attract each other. This is a weird concept to think about.
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Not just anyone can be an astronaut. The men and women who go into space are finely tuned space exploring machines. They go through years of training for missions and have to pass extensive exams to even be considered for a mission. They have to be in top shape to withstand the G loads and strain on the body from being in space. When someone is in space, the lack of gravity gradually causes their bones to disintegrate. This was not a problem on the early space missions where the astronauts were only in space for a limited period of time. Recently however, with the construction of the space station, men and women have to endure the weightlessness for extended periods of time, sometimes for months. This brings up a problem, how are they going to keep from loosing their bone density? Well, they exercise and eat foods that help replenish their bones. Without these, they would die upon re-entering the earth’s atmosphere because their skeletal structure would not be strong enough to support their weight.
The space station is an amazing creation. The fact that so many countries have all chipped in and we share it is astonishing. It seems like nothing ever gets accomplished between two or more countries, and now the space station is almost complete. Not to say that the station was completed in a timely fashion. It has taken much more time to get thus far in working on the station than was initially estimated. But nevertheless, the space station has proved to be a worthy investment. There are constantly experiments being conducted in the space station and people are learning new things about space.
The way the space station is put together is quite remarkable. The whole thing was planned out and each individual piece was pre-manufactured and carried up in a shuttle. Once the shuttle got there, it put the piece where it needed to go. The station is organized in to sections, each one being built by a different country. Each country’s shuttle requires a different docking bay, so there are different bays there. There is also a section of the station that houses the astronauts when they are staying up there. Almost like a hotel. The hotel is connected to the rest of the station with giant tubes that you pull yourself through. The station is powered by a bunch of huge solar panels that derive energy from photons given out by the sun. There are also places where scientists can do their experiments. This is the reason the station was built. Basically, the space station is a giant, floating, lab. They can test different things from biology to electronics and see how they perform in the zero gravity.
Recently there has been speculation that we will soon put a person on mars. The Martian atmosphere is currently not suitable for human life, however with advanced teraforming techniques being explored, it in not ridiculous to say that in the future there will be an atmosphere on mars that will support human life. This is quite a ways off though. In the more foreseeable future, there are theories that NASA is planning to build an air tight building on mars that will house people. These people could be scientists or wealthy tourists. It would be such an experience to go to mars and stay there on vacation. Imagine taking your honeymoon to mars!
Just a few years ago, we sent a Martian rover to mars that took samples of the rocks, air, and gathered other useful information. It also pictures that were all transferred back to earth. The way the rover landed was quite creative and innovative. It used the idea of an air bag in a car to soften its landing. The rover was inserted in the Martian atmosphere and then inflated a bunch of air bags that completely covered it. When it landed, the air bags dampened the impact of the rover on the rocks. This was a huge step towards landing a person on mars. The information gathered from this rover will be used to determine whether or not a building could be built there, how strong the ground is, what the mineral makeup of the rocks are, and what the atmosphere is made up of. So far I don’t think there is evidence of life on mars. There may have been liquid water there at one point, which greatly increases the likely hood that there was at some time life. For there to be water, the temperatures would have to have been between the melting point and boiling point of water, which is very close to out temperature. This also means that there was probably an atmosphere at some time. Because when water is exposed to a vacuum, it vaporizes due to the lack of vapor pressure.
There are so many things that have to be taken into account when exploring space. There are also so many things that can go wrong. With accidents like the challenger and the more recent Columbia, some people doubt the space program and wonder if we should keep investing money in something that kills people. I think this is a ridiculous argument to make. The space program has benefited us in countless ways. Not only that, it is promising things that were never thought possible before now. The risk involved comes with the territory. While it is important to maximize the effectiveness of safety precautions, space exploration as it is this day and age is not safe in the slightest. There is no guarantee that everything is going to be fine and there is no emergency STOP button that you can press half way through a mission that will bring you back to earth in one piece. Hopefully there will someday be "safe" space travel, but that day is not now or any time in the near future.
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