Is humanity reviving exploration?
Dream jobs always catch the curious eye of children. Everybody is fascinated with a career as a police officer, firefighter, or pro athlete. Or an astronaut.
The present and future job of astronaut holds something a bit different these days.
Complex exploration, residence on other planets and even commercial space tours have replaced the old scenarios of moon landings.
A new age of a revived interest in space is embodied in many different revolutions and companies in the world, still led worldwide by NASA—the National Aeronautics and Space Administration— the most well known organization that has to do with space. Virgin Air, SpaceX, and the country of China itself have all contributed to advancements in space exploration.
SpaceX, a private company founded in 2002, has already impacted space exploration, manufacturing main components of what is needed to create a space expedition, including their spacecraft. They were originally founded by Elon Musk “to revolutionize space technology,” enabling people to live on other planets, according to the SpaceX website.
Some projects that SpaceX has completed thus far are Dragon, the first privately developed spacecraft in history to re-enter from low-earth orbit, and the Grasshopper, a reusable rocket , with the most notable being the Falcon 9, a two-stage rocket that has delivered multiple satellites into space. They will also be fulfilling a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to fly 12 cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station.
Virgin America has also been making its own strides into a more educational and available space future. More accurately Virgin Galactic, the company aims for commercial space flight much like it’s original airline company. It says it wants a realistic opportunity for the average person to travel into the unknown of space, launching the SpaceShipTwo and LauncherOne projects, a ship and satellite respectively. They’re hoping these two spacecraft to create that realistic environment and gather information that would allow a greater amount of people to venture off of Earth.
Virgin takes an educational position on space, claiming their projects can create educational opportunities in which students back on Earth could learn by flying “suborbital experiments while still in school [giving them] an enormous head start on their careers.”
Other countries join the U.S. push. Gone are the days of Russia, the Space Race, and the Sputnik; China is diving into the gigantic expanse of space: they’ve launched satellites, probes, moon missions, humans, and almost anything into space. They are currently in the middle of planning their own space station, planned to launch in 2020.
Space isn’t all about the discovery approach; analytical and practical aspects of observing space make it mysterious and interesting. This week scientists announced they had found eight new planets compatible with liquid water.
Black holes have puzzled scientists since they were first theorized in the 1790s by John Mitchell and Pierre-Simon Laplace, and perpetuated again after Einstein’s theory of relativity predicted and gave a basis for black holes. The actual term was coined in 1967 by physicist John Wheeler. Black holes occur when a massive or super massive star collapses, causing a gravitational pull so intense not even light can escape its grip. Although we cannot physically see them, measurements of gas cloud speeds–and disappearances of their data–support the existence.
Dark matter, thought to be what’s occupying the vacuum of space, is getting much attention. Physics teach that something must occupy the areas between cosmic bodies such as suns and planets and moons rather than a vague emptiness. Hard evidence that dark matter exists will best be aided from spacecraft data.
Overall, it’s an exciting time to be interested in space. With over 10 innovations being made between SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, the continued push for exploration by NASA and China among other countries, and the ongoing discovery of evidence of black holes and possibly dark matter, there’s a wealth of constant information being made available. Now that it’s known what the plans are for space, it’ll just be a wait too see how companies and countries deliver, and who has the smartest physicists and engineers.