Exploring the Science of Space Travel

Space science is a fascinating field of study that encompasses all scientific disciplines related to the exploration of space and the study of natural phenomena and physical bodies that occur in outer space. This includes areas such as space medicine, astrobiology, and interplanetary medium. In the 1980s, NASA, ESA, and the Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences of Japan launched a cooperative venture to develop a complete series of space missions, called the International Solar-Terrestrial Physics Program. The goal was to detect organisms that could survive the conditions of space travel and maintain the capacity for proliferation.

Early research in space science revealed that luminous atmospheric displays known as auroras are the result of interactions between the Sun and Earth. Scientists also came to understand that the magnetosphere is an extremely complex phenomenon. Most of space science is still being done by robotic spaceships in Earth orbit, in other places from which they observe the universe or on missions to various bodies in the solar system. In the United States, the first studies of the Sun were carried out by a series of satellites of the Solar Observatory in orbit (launched between 1962 and 1967) and the astronaut crews of the Skylab space station between 1973 and 1974. Astroecology is another branch of space science that looks at how life interacts with space environments and resources on planets, asteroids, and comets.

For example, NASA's Kepler mission seeks to discover Earth-sized planets around other stars by measuring minute changes in the star's light curve as the planet passes between the star and the spacecraft. The alternative hypothesis of panspermia suggests that life may have formed on another planet with more favorable conditions or even in interstellar space, asteroids, etc. Bilateral or multilateral cooperation between several countries to carry out scientific space missions has become common practice. For instance, a spacecraft would enter Saturn's orbit and allow multiple flyovers through Enceladus' icy plumes to collect icy and volatile plume particles and return them to Earth in a capsule. In addition to the United States and Soviet Union, several other countries have achieved the capacity to develop and operate scientific spaceships and carry out their own scientific space missions. The concept of space weather was proposed to describe changing conditions in the Sun-Earth region of the solar system.

To get involved in this field, students should look for school clubs, volunteer work, summer jobs, or internships available in math or science. One example is Beagle 2, a failed British lander on Mars that was part of the European Space Agency's 2003 Mars Express mission.

Jeannie Eschenbrenner
Jeannie Eschenbrenner

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