Introduction to Space ExplorationIn 1957 the first object to be put into space was launched. This was Sputnik, a small satellite that orbited Earth. Since then, more and more objects have been put into space to provide us with information about the planets, the stars and the universe. Beforehand, the only way to learn about space was to look at the sky from Earth. Telescopes enabled people to look further into space at more distant objects, but the best way of finding out about them was by visiting them.
In the years that have followed since Sputnik made its journey into space, human beings have sent space crafts to many of the objects in the Solar System. Unmanned space crafts have landed on the Moon, Mars, Venus and even Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. They have flown closely past all of the planets and sent back detailed images and lots of data about them. They have also visited asteroids and comets and made observations of the Sun. As you sit there reading this now, there are currently rovers exploring Mars, a space craft on its way to Pluto and two space crafts at the very edges of the Solar System.
In addition, human beings have also flown into space. Twelve astronauts in the Apollo mission have walked on the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s, and a small number of people are currently living on a space station in orbit of Earth. The space shuttle was a vehicle which could take astronauts into space and back at regular intervals and was used up to 2011.
All of the missions into space have provided human beings with masses of images and information about the objects that you can see in the sky at night, and even about objects which are so small and tiny that they can't be seen from Earth. This is information that would simply be impossible to obtain by just looking at the objects using telescopes from Earth. But this is only the beginning of the age of space exploration! As technology gets better and human beings get even more adventurous, more and more space crafts will be put into space to make even more discoveries, going further away from Earth and deeper into space. Maybe the first human being to visit Mars is living today and will take a trip there in the not too distant future.