Fifteen years ago to the day, man began arguably the most challenging construction project in the history of the species: the International Space Station. Sure, you have CERN’s Large Hadron Collider which got constructed to look for several theorized particles including the Higgs particle and test theories around particle and high-energy physics. But for all that is marvelous about this enormous undertaking, that project was still on Earth – more precisely deep under the ground on Swiss and French territory – while the I.S.S. was assembled in space. Coincidently, both projects’ construction started in 1998 but the LHC took three years less to reach completion, in 2008. We covered the build of the station a while back in case you misssed it.
Today 25 years ago, a major milestone in the space race happened when the Soviets launched their first space shuttle, the Buran on a 200 minute flight into space. The program to develop this orbital vehicle was in response to the U.S. Space Shuttle which obviously was a concern for the Soviet military due to the Shuttle’s ability to take with it enormous payloads. Funnily enough it was actually the calculations by the Soviets that the American Space Shuttle program could never be profitable unless there would be a launch a week, that led them to conclude it must have been military in nature. An assumption that moved the development of the Buran to the top of the military priority list.
noun [U] /ɡlenn/
› Man. Legend. America’s first orbiting astronaut.
You can read more about him in this piece about the Space Shuttle program, but today 15 years ago, John Glenn made history again by returning to space at the age of 77 which established his place in history not only as a pioneer but a man who never knew how to quit, having flown in both Mercury and Shuttle programmes.
Today to the date 24 years ago (in 1989), Space shuttle Atlantis launched Galileo, named after the astronomer Galileo Galilei. Its mission, to study Jupiter and its moons. It took the spacecraft a little over six years to reach Jupiter where it proved invaluable in understanding the largest planet in our solar system. Upon arrival, the craft – which consisted of an orbiter and entry probe – completed 35 orbits around Jupiter throughout a nearly eight-year mission and in September 2003 its mission ended with a controlled impact, disintegrating the spacecraft.
Some of the achievements of the mission include confirmation that the moon IO had extensive volcanic activity a hundred times greater than found on Earth, finding evidence that liquid oceans exist under Europa’s (the moon, not the continent!) icy surface, and establishing that Jupiter’s ring system is formed by dust kicked up as interplanetary meteoroids smash into the planet’s four small inner moons.
Talking about some impressive numbers, Jupiter – which is classed as a gas giant – its mass is nearly 318 times that of Earth’s and around 2.5 times that of the rest of the Solar System combined! The planet’s diameter is 11.2 times larger and its volume is 1321 times larger than Earth’s.
The 4th of October saw two notable events happening in close succession. On that Friday in 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first Earth-orbiting artificial satellite, and by many considered to be the start of the space race between the two super powers at the time, the Soviet Union and the United States. Sputnik 1’s radio signals stayed active for 22 days until the transmitter batteries ran out, and it finally burned up upon re-entry in Earth’s atmosphere exactly 3 months after it’s launch, early 1958.
Two years to the day after that lunch, another significant event occured:
This is the first ever picture of the far side of the moon, taken by the Luna 3 satellite and transmitted by radio to Earth. These early photographs were only released to the public three weeks later, when they were shown briefly on the Russian television service’s midnight news bulletin, but the programs success would be seen as a major propaganda coup by the Soviet Union which established itself as the clear race leader in the new space age. Not only that, but it was Luna 3 which inspired Gagarin to fly outside of Earth’s atmosphere one day. And we all know what that led to…
Today 55 years ago, NASA formally opened for business on Oct. 1, 1958. You can read more about it here. Congratulations!