Man's curiosity for knowledge has led him to explore space. Space contains the planets, countless galaxies and milky ways. Man has been able to go to space and collect pictures of the sun, the planets and the moon. The first man made satellite Sputnik-1 was sent into space by Russia in 1957.
Yuri Gagarin of Russia became the first man to go into space. Man has landed on the moon and he is trying to find out the existence of life on other planets. Telecommunication, weather forecasting, radio and television programmes etc. are all monitored by satellites in space. There are also military stations and spy satellites in space which pose a threat of a nuclear war. This should be avoided and scientists should work for the benefit of mankind.
Man is God's best creation. His intelligence and thirst for knowledge has led him to explore even the impossible. The exploration of space by man is an example of his thirst for knowledge and desire for adventure. This is also one of the greatest achievements of man. Space contains the whole universe including all the planets, the sun, the moon and the stars. The limit where the earth's atmosphere ends is called outer space.
Yuri Gagarin of Russia in 1961, became the first man to go into space. He circled the earth in 108 minutes and returned safely. Later, in 1963, Valentina Tereshkova became the first women to go into space. She stayed in orbit for 5 days and returned safely to the earth. In 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin of America became the first men to land on the moon. They reached the moon on board the spaceship Apollo-11 and spent 21 hours on its surface. They collected rock and soil samples and returned safely to the earth. As time went on, many successful attempts were undertaken. Rakesh Sharma was the first Indian to be sent to space.
Satellites and spacecrafts have been launched for various purposes. The atmosphere in space is used for television programmes, radio broadcasts, telecommunication, etc. Satellites provide advanced disaster warning and help to forecast the weather. Distance educational programmes, natural resources management, etc. are controlled by satellites. Space research can help us to find the origin of the universe, the age of our earth and other planets. Information has already been gathered about Mars. It will help us to find out whether life exists on planets of the universe other than the earth.
With the conquest of the moon, fight to other planets began. The Americans launched Pioneer-1 in 1972 on a 21 month long mission into space past Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.
The American Skylab Mission orbited the earth at a distance of about 480km. In its lifetime, astronauts aboard observed the sun and returned with around 1,75,000 solar pictures. Columbia, the first space shuttle was launched by America in 1981. it was a multipurpose reusable spacecraft which took off like a satellite and a glider. It was used to lauch satellites, repair spacecrafts etc. in orbit. Unfortunately, it exploded in 2003 in the earth's atmosphere.
In 2006, NASA replaced Columbia with the space shuttle Discovery. On December 9, 2006, Discovery lifted off its 12-day ISS (International Space Station) repair mission from the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida. It carried a crew of seven including Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams among others. She is the second woman of India origin to go into space after Kalpana Chawala.
In 1986, Russsia launched Mir, a space laboratory, where astronauts stayed on board in space for 366 days. From 1964 to 1976, Mariner IV, V, VII and IX studied Mars and gathered various details about the planet, Later, spacecrafts were sent to Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune, In January 2006, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) launched a spacecraft New Horizon to visit Pluto and its moon Charan. NASA's robotcraft 'Pathfinder' and 'Mars Global Surveyor' collected more data about Mars. Efforts are on to find traces of life which might have existed on it. In December 2006, European space scientists successfully launched COROT satellite telescope. It will help to discover earth-like planets located beyond our solar system. In April 2007, European astronomers declared that they have found the first earth-like planet beyond our solar system. It is named as GL 581c.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was formed in 1969. The first Indian satellite Aryabhatta, was launched from a Soviet cosmodrame in 1975. India launched in INSAT (Indian National Satellite) system for the expansion of television, radio, telecommunications and meteorological services. INSAT system is one of the largest domestic communication satellite systems in the Asia-Pacific region. in 1999, the Indian Remote Sensing Satellite was launched successfully by PSLV (Polar Satellite Lauch Vehicle). Thereafter, there have been many successful launches of both INSAT and PSLV.
On January 10, 2007 India launched PSLV-C7 successfully. India's communication satellite INSAT-4B was launched successfully on March 12, 2007. On April 23, 2007, India's first commercial space launch. PSLV-C8 carried an Italian Space Agencies AGILE Satellite in the space and placed it in orbit 550 Km above the earth. In May 2008, ISRO launched PSLV-C9 successfully. It is the first time in India that PSLV took off from spaceport to place 10 satellites into their orbits. India became the second country to achieve this difficult feat after Russia. In 2008, PSLV-10 was launched successfully, its satellite is known as Israeli Spy Satellite.
On October 22, 2008 India launched PSLV-11 Chandrayan 1 successfully. On November 14, 2008 the Indian tricolor landed on the Moon. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLYV-C12) of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) successfully placed two satellites-Rader Imaging Satellite (RISAT-2) and ANUSAT-in the desired orbit on April 20, 2009.
The third successful test of the Ballistic Missile Defence (MBD) system on 6th March, 2009 has put India into an exclusive club of counties such as US, Russia and Israel which are developing Star War kind of capabilities. The test was carried out from wheeler Island in Orissa.
Space research has many advantages. It may help scientists to find out useful metals and substances like radioactive metals and minerals on the moon and other planets. This will help to make progress in the field of medical science, business and commerce. Inter planetary travel may help in the field of researches related to pressure, lack of oxygen, weightlessness, etc. Navigation and communication may be improved. Space tourism has also become a reality.
Space travel and research also habits negative side. The spy satellites, the nuclear aircraft, the bombers, the orbiting military stations create, grave danger to mankind. The next world war, it is said would be fought in space. The havoc to mankind then can be well imagined.
The negative aspects should be avoided. Advanced space technologies should be sued for benefit of mankind. Co-operation among the counties in this field can further boost the exploration of the unknown.