Space, The New Frontier

Don Wyeth

Space, The New Frontier

3 min.
April 13, 2021

The successful launching of the Soviet satellite, Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, was a surprise and shock to the American public. Then, on January 31, 1958, the Explorer 1 satellite became the first successfully launch satellite by the United States. On April 12, 1961, Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, became the first human to orbit earth in the Vostok 1 space capsule. Then, on February 20, 1962, American astronaut John Glenn matched Gagarin’s feat, circling the earth three times in four hours and 55 minutes. The space race had begun!

Dark Origins

I think it would be fair to say that modern space exploration has some rather dark origins. At the end of World War II both the United States and Russia were coveting Nazi Germany's advanced rocket technology. “The V-2 (German: Vergeltungswaffe 2, "Retribution Weapon 2"), with the technical name Aggregat 4 (A4), was the world's first long-range guided ballistic missile." en.wikipedia.org. The V-2 was the first rocket to cross the Karman line (an altitude of 100 km (62 mi) above sea level); the edge of outer space. The United States and Russia simultaneously initiated programs to secure Nazi scientists and their data to exploit this technology, which, besides rocket science, included chemical and biological weapons as well as nuclear research. In the case of the US, the program was called Operation Paperclip. The rocket scientist Wernher von Braun “… led the Army's rocket development team at Redstone Arsenal, resulting in the Redstone rocket, which was used for the first live nuclear ballistic missile tests conducted by the United States.”

The Jupiter C missile, developed by von Braun, was the next generation version of the Redstone and was the delivery system for the Explorer 1 satellite. Shortly after this success, von Braun was appointed as the director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. One of the first projects he spearheaded during his tenure was the development of “…the behemoth Saturn V rocket, which carried Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon’s surface, while Michael Collins waited in lunar orbit." time.com

Beneficial Technologies Developed

There are also beneficial technologies and products that have come from the American and Russian, as well as other space exploration programs. Among these improvements is the development in healthcare of telemetry; biometric measuring devices such as long distance digital heart monitors. Weather satellites give us crucial data that helps us to protect the Earth and the environment. Another benefit is the creation of technical and scientific jobs. Velcro ® and Tang ® came from these programs. But the most important benefit is in the area of international cooperation. If we can learn to work with each other, the countries of the world can make great strides in the exploration of space. The international space station is a good start.

This article was orginally reported by
Don Wyeth

Passionate and intelligent columnist from Madison, WI.