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Space Travel: History, Dangers & Benefits

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Instructor: Elizabeth Friedl

Elizabeth, a Licensed Massage Therapist, has a Master's in Zoology from North Carolina State, one in GIS from Florida State University, and a Bachelor's in Biology from Eastern Michigan University. She has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Space is fascinating. Humans have been sending objects into space for decades, trying to learn about Earth and what's beyond. But while space travel can be beneficial, there are also risks that come along with exploring the rest of the universe.

A Brief History of Space Travel

'That's one small step for man...one giant leap for mankind.' These famous words were spoken by astronaut Neil Armstrong as he stepped onto the moon in 1969 - the first person to ever do so. The Apollo 11 mission that took Armstrong and his fellow astronauts to the moon was a landmark event, but space travel actually began many years before.

Almost 30 years earlier, in 1942, the German V2 rocket was the first to reach the official boundary of space. A few years later, in 1947, the first animals were sent into space - these were fruit flies! Scientists tested the effects of space travel on these fruit flies because the effects on their bodies could tell them a lot about the effects that would likely occur with other animals. A few years later, in 1949, the first monkey (named 'Albert II') was sent into space.

Then, in 1957, the first satellite was launched into orbit. This was the Russian satellite Sputnik I. This was a major accomplishment, and we now have over 500 satellites orbiting Earth! This same year saw the first animal orbit of Earth. The Russian satellite Sputnik II carried a dog named Laika, who provided a lot of information about how space travel would affect humans.

In the early 1960s, Russia sent the first humans into space - the first man in 1961 followed by the first woman in 1963. The Americans were hot on their heels though, and sent a robot spaceship up in 1966 to make sure a moon landing would be safe for our own astronauts. A few short years later came that fateful day of the first moon landing, an event that captivated the world.

Obviously, space travel did not stop in 1969. Since then, there have been many more trips to space and the moon, as well as orbits around Earth. Our fascination with the universe beyond our own planet is as limitless as the universe itself. Technology and science have even allowed us to land on and explore Mars - a feat barely imaginable when space travel first began decades ago.

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  • 0:01 A Brief History of…
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Benefits of Space Exploration

You are likely familiar with NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. They are the U.S. government agency that's in charge of the space program and conducts space research. It sounds like a lot of fun to travel to space, but it's also important to collect information about space, Earth, and general aviation during these missions.

Have you heard the phrase 'necessity is the mother of invention'? NASA is far too familiar with this! Astronauts can't just get into a spaceship and fly into space. Many precautions need to be taken - from the foods they eat to the materials their suits are made of. Because of these challenges, many new inventions have come about just from space travel preparations. Teflon, microwave ovens, and freeze-dried foods are just a few examples, but much of our modern technology has roots in inventions for space travel.

We can also learn a lot about human biology in micro-gravity environments through space exploration. By studying astronauts who live on the space station, we can gain an understanding of the effects of space travel on their health and bodies. Astronauts are vulnerable to many types of injuries and illnesses, so it's important to learn more about these issues.

Space travel has also expanded our knowledge base about Earth itself. Through space travel and research, we have learned much about the holes in the ozone layer, how solar power can be more effectively utilized, atmospheric conditions, and more.

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