Space technology today is a result of various inventions, experiments and discoveries over the last 20,000 years.
Human beings have always been fascinated by the world above us and space exploration is the outcome of this curiosity. Indian mythology has examples of a divine vehicle called the Pushpak Vimana which can traverse through space. Indian mythology also refers to different realms in space where different types of people lived such as the Gods, the demons, normal people etc.
The earliest prototype of a rocket has been constructed by Archytas, a Greek philosopher, mathematician and astronomer who built a wooden bird which could fly based on the theory that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, which later came to be known as Newton's 3rd Law.
Centuries later, the Chinese created the 1st working prototypes of rockets by attaching bamboo to arrows filled with gunpowder. When lit, it would launch itself due to the power of the escaping gas. Soon, it was used as a battle machine in war against the Mongols in 1232. Taking inspiration from the design, the Mongols used it in other battles spreading the design to Europe.
After this, rockets were not only used for warfare but by the late 19th century this technology had advanced enough for use to enter the orbit around the earth defying gravity. One of the 3 fathers of Rocketry, Konstanin E. Tsiolkovsky published the rocket equation, a mathematical equation which considers the principles of a device which can accelerate itself by expelling components at high speeds in the opposite direction. This was significant as it was years before the first propelled rocket was launched by Robert Goddard the second father of Rocketry.
The 3rd father Hermann Oberth published a book about how rockets could be sent out of earth’s orbit. He also studied multi-stage rocketry and proposed human spaceflight.
By this time, the Space Race had begun and after many failed attempts, some famous achievements were made including Sputnik (USSR), Explorer 1 (NATO) and Apollo 11 (NATO). On the 31st of January 1958, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed as an American space research centre.
In the future, NASA promises to make progress with research on habitation in Mars asking questions like ‘Can you grow it / make it in space? Can you do your own repairs and maintenance? ‘ (as NASA states) They will also try and answer the question ‘Are we alone ?’ NASA says, ‘as before NASA will adapt solutions to these and other challenges into technology that will improve lives at home.’
While space remains a frontier for mankind to overflow into and establish colonies if earth becomes overcrowded the world today is less focused on space exploration and rocket science than in the last few decades. This is possibly because there have been no further advances in space science since the Space Shuttle, the end of the Space Wars or exciting advancements in electronics and communications. However, we need to invest in Space as that is where the future of mankind lies.
By Anagha Sreeram, 8C