The History of Space Exploration . . . In my mind I thought, I don’t have to read a history of space exploration for the reality is that I’ve actually lived it.
To this day, I can clearly see, in my mind’s eye, the space events of the past fifty-some odd years; the years of earth satellites, moon shots, and beyond. I can remember that, at the time, I knew the names of each and every one of the seven original Mercury Program astronauts.
As a youngster, for a project in my cub scout den, I recall saving the newspaper clippings of the first rocket launches . . . the Atlas’ and Vanguards . . . and the numerous and spectacular photos of them failing and blowing up on their launch pads.
In those early days nearly all of the launches were conducted by the military, for there existed then a cold war and a space race was very much in progress. The same rockets that could place a communications satellite in orbit could also rain down atomic weapons upon us. . . drop and cover!
I followed closely the launches of both the Gemini and Apollo programs and well remember that live broadcast of President Kennedy, when he forthrightly directed that America would go forth with all due haste and land a man on the face of the moon.
And still I can see in my mind the large Echo balloon satellite as the great sphere swiftly floated across the evening sky at sunset, even as today we can view the space station so doing.
Through the years there have been so many thrilling moments of high drama, and unfortunately of death . . . even in this our modern era; the twin space shuttle disasters, the Apollo 13 explosion and survival, the fatal capsule fire on the launch pad, the Mercury capsule that was temporarily lost at sea, the capsule that unexpectedly sank, the live moon site blast off, and so many more.
In those days, of course, we were all so concerned at the highly competitive hostility between the Soviet Union and the US. Yet now, both countries provide astronauts to serve in peaceful exploration aboard the International Space Station.
We can now even view our own home from space and instantly communicate with others no matter where on earth they are. We have sent probes to the farthest planets, and beyond, and seen their amazing and astounding photographs. Times have sure changed.
Where do we go from here? Back to the moon? On to Mars? More probes to the planets? More space stations? It seems that we are now at a crossroads and we are left wondering where we will be off to. Perhaps new technologies and propulsion systems will clarify our route and our schedule for us. All in due time.
One thing I know that we all can be absolutely certain of, the exploration of space will continue to be an interesting and exciting voyage for everyone of us to share in.