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Past and future
10c Eric Chen
Between 1959 and 1968, the X-15 experimental aircraft flew to the edge of space. In 199 flights, the air-launched rocket plane broke many flight records, including speed (7,274 kph or 4,520 mph) and altitude records (108 kilometers or 67 miles). Test flights established important parameters for attitude control in space and reentry angles. Neil Armstrong, the first American to step on the Moon, was one of twelve X-15 pilots.
Yuri Gagarin Goes Into Orbit
On April 12, 1961, space became the domain of humans with the launch of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. His spaceflight lasted 1 hour and 48 minutes. During that time, Gagarin orbited Earth one time inside his Vostok 1 space capsule, reaching a maximum altitude of 315 kilometers (196 miles). Upon reentry, Gagarin ejected himself from the capsule at an altitude of 6,100 meters (20,000 feet) and parachuted safely to the ground.
Glenn Orbits Earth
On February 20, 1962, riding on a more powerful missile, the Atlas, astronaut John H. Glenn, Jr., became the first American to go into orbit. Glenn’s flight achieved parity with the Soviet program. Glenn orbited Earth three times for a total of 4 hours and 55 minutes in space. A sensor switch led to an early return. The sensor indicated that the Mercury capsule heat shield was loose, but the shield was later determined to be firmly in place during flight. The sensor was faulty. The last of the six Mercury flights took place on May 15, 1963, with astronaut Gordon Cooper remaining in space for nearly a day and a half
“One Small Step...”
At 10:56 p.m. EDT, July 20, 1969, American astronaut Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon. It was the first time in history that humans had touched another world. He was followed to the surface by Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. A third astronaut, Michael Collins, remained in lunar orbit in the Apollo capsule. The Apollo 11 mission was the first of six Moon landings extending to the end of 1972. The astronauts’ spacecraft, the lunar module, consisted of a descent and an ascent stage. The descent stage had four legs and a powerful rocket engine to slow the craft for landing on the Moon. After surface explorations, the upper part of the lander lifted off, using its own rocket engine, and rendezvoused with the Apollo capsule for the return to Earth.
The Saturn V rocket was capable of launching 117,900 kilograms (260,000 pounds) into low Earth orbit and 40,800 kilograms (90,000 pounds) to the Moon. For some Apollo missions, though, a smaller Saturn was called for. The Saturn IB was 68 meters (224 feet) tall and required a scaffold platform nicknamed the “milk stool” to be placed on the pad designed for Saturn V rockets. This enabled the Saturn IB to match up with swing arms from the launch structure. The Saturn IB carried some of the early Apollo test missions, the three crews for Skylab, and the American crew for the 1975 historic Apollo-Soyuz mission, linking astronauts and cosmonauts in orbit.
Although rockets have generally gotten larger and more powerful, there are many reasons for flying smaller rockets. The Canadian– designed Black Brant sounding rocket has been flying since 1961 and has successfully completed over 800 flights carrying small payloads such as cameras, instruments, and microgravity experiments. The Black Brant’s reliability and low cost has made it a favorite of researchers. The biggest multistage Black Brands have payload capacities of about 100 kilograms (220 pounds) and can reach altitudes of up to 900 kilometers (560 miles).
On October 4, 2004, Spaceship One, became the first private space vehicle to climb above an altitude of 100 kilometers (62 miles) twice in a fourteen-day period. Air launched by a mother ship, Spaceship One crossed the acknowledged boundary of Earth’s atmosphere and space. Virgin Galactic is offering suborbital flights to tourists and to researchers. Spaceship Two flights will originate from Spaceport America, located in southern New Mexico. Soon, spaceflight will belong to all.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE?
About the future about the rocket
Some proposed technologies would eliminate propellants entirely. These tend to be far-reaching and have generally been demonstrated only in small-scale ground tests, if at all. They include concepts such as space elevators, laser propulsion, nuclear propulsion, and kinetic rail guns. Aerospace scientists have even proposed the ejection of microminiature spacecraft, instead of chemical exhaust products, to provide thrust; the satellites could even be programmed to return to the host craft, enabling long-term reuse. Though intriguing, these proposals do not appear likely to affect the space industry in the near future.
One exception is the solar sail. Originally proposed almost 50 years ago, solar sails use pressure from the solar wind and solar radiation to propel the spacecraft. Current technology uses ultrathin mirrors, and future crafts could potentially use a sail that acts both as a solar panel and as a propulsion device. Solar sails are generally not practical for Earth orbits, where atmospheric drag would overcome the forces produced, although solar sails that rotate with the craft could possibly make them suitable for some orbital use. The Japanese IKAROS satellite launched in 2010 uses a solar sail as its primary mode of propulsion; it will travel to Venus and then to the far side of the sun. Several other solar sail projects are currently in the works and may soon fly.day and a half
On October 4, 2004, Spaceship One, became the first private space vehicle to climb above an altitude of 100 kilometers (62 miles) twice in a fourteen-day period. Air launched by a mother ship, Spaceship One crossed the acknowledged boundary of Earth’s atmosphere and space. Virgin Galactic is offering suborbital flights to tourists and to researchers. Spaceship Two flights will originate from Spaceport America, located in southern New Mexico. Soon, spaceflight will be