Photograph I took of the Lovell telescope
Unmanned spacecraft are called probes. They carry cameras and other equipment, while sending pictures and other data as radio signals back to earth. The first satellite sent into space was called Sputnik. It was launched on the 4th of October 1958. It orbited the earth for 92 days, before burning up on re-entry. Sputnik was a Russian probe as the Russians and the Americans had a space race to get a satellite into space. With Sputnik, the Russians won. Satellites orbit the earth. They help us make measurements that would be impossible from the ground, others help with weather reports and relay telephone signals from place to place. We do not think of them often but they help us to know the weather and watch television. They are an important part of our lives on top of the fact they help man understand about our own planet. One of the missions that is happening now is the Cassini probe to Saturn. It is currently in orbit around Saturn. In 2004 Cassini released another probe, called Huygens, to investigate Titan, one of Saturn's moons.
Photograph I took of the shuttle launch pad at NASA
Before the shuttle we used capsule spacecraft and even today some are still in use. They are not re-usable as they have stages. This means they eject the lower parts of the craft as the mission goes on to get rid of old engines that have no fuel left or parts of the craft that are no longer needed. In the end a small capsule at the top that carries the crew returns to earth. In 2003 I also went to the Leicester space centre which has the only complete Soyuz spacecraft on display anywhere in the world. This is important because it is an early capsule system craft and is still in use today. It is doubtful whether the shuttle will continue in the future and it looks like future manned exploration will be done with a capsule system craft.
Space Ship One private spacecraft (from scaled.com)
Space is huge and stretches out far beyond our solar system. Man has explored very little of the vast expanse. We have explored planets, moons, the sun, comets and asteroids using probes as well as ground-based telescopes. However the universe remains largely undiscovered.
The first type of telescopes were refractor telescopes. The biggest one in the U.K. is in Greenwich. I visited it in 2004 as they were preparing it for the transit of Venus. The Lovell telescope at Jodrell bank is a radio telescope. This means it detects radio signals from space. It is very good at looking deeper into the universe.
Sputnik (from ssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov)
The space shuttle is the only re-usable spacecraft. It is re-usable because it takes off on a launch pad but lands on a conventional runway like an aeroplane. It can carry people and also has a cargo bay for equipment. In 2003 I visited NASA in Florida. I hoped to see a shuttle being prepared for launch but about a week before we left the Columbia burnt up on re-entry. This proves that manned exploration is very dangerous.
Photograph I took of Leicester's Soyuz spacecraft
We hope to explore more of space and perhaps some of us will even become space tourists some day. The question now is how and when it will happen.