The year was 1957 – the Soviets launched the Sputnik Program. Their first attempt managed to orbit earth 1400 times and lasted 3 weeks. The second carried a passenger, a dog, and it orbited the earth for 5 months. By this time NASA was set to go. In Feb. 1958 the first American satellite, Explorer 1 was launched. It managed 58 000 orbits before it burned up while entering the earth’s atmosphere. For the next 10 years, both Russia and the U.S. were sending various spacecrafts into space. Finally in 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the Moon and the commander Neil Armstrong exited the craft. As he was about to take his first step on the moon, he transmitted back to earth "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind"
Since then, space exploration has continued, not just with the U.S. and Russia but with many more countries such as China, India, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom. Canada has also played an intricate roll: 1) we were the third country to design and construct its own satellite, 2) we developed the CanadaArm which has been used on shuttle missions, 3) we have an astronaut program, 4) Canadian astronauts have flown on missions and 5) right now, we are contributing a robotic system to ISS, the International Space Station. A new telescope called the James Webb Telescope will be ready in 2011.Canada is building the FGS (Fine Guidance Sensor) which will enable the telescope to align the mirrors when it unfolds in space and it also will provide accurate tracking. (James Webb Space Telescope)
However, space was really being explored long before the Americans and the Russians started to send up satellites and shuttles. People have been exploring space for hundreds of years. Astronomers gazed up into the stars, saw movements of light and called them planets. Then, along came the telescope and more planets were soon found. Over time they were able to keep track of the stars and their movements.
The Solar System
The solar system is our Sun and everything that spins around it, such as meteors, asteroids,comets, satellites and planets. The sun, the largest star, is at the centre and all objects orbit or revolve around it. (All stars give off light, everthing else [planets and moons] reflect that light.) Everything revolving around the sun travels counter-clockwise. Our solar system is egg shaped, called elliptical and is part of the galaxy called The Milky Way. It is thought that our system was developed over 4 billion years ago. What is not known for sure is exactly how it was formed.
-sun is a star and it is so much closer to us that it looks bigger and brighter than other stars
-some of the same elements we have on Earth such as carbon, hydrogen, helium iron
-is huge – remember it is 150 million km away (93 million mile )
-if the sun was the size of a basketball then Earth would be the size of a pinhead
-at 80 km/hr it would take 176 years of driving 24/7 to get there
-we feel the heat from it
-made up of gases
-not solid like earth , - is a big ball of exploding gases
-outer layers rotate differently
-near equator, sun rotates about 1every 25 days
-near poles, can be once every 35/36 days
-it takes light only 8 minutes to get to us
-gives us light, heat, and energy – plants can grow (photosynthesis), animals can eat
There are eight planets in our solar system. All eight, with their moons, revolve (orbit) the sun. They all travel in the same direction which is counter clockwise. The four planets closest to the sun are called Inner Planets. The inner planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. These are separated from the other 4 planets by the Asteroid Belt. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune make up the Outer Planets.
Inner Planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars): These planets are quite solid and are made up of rock and metals. They are considered to be heavy and therefore move slowly. They are also small planets with a diameter of no more than 13 000 km. Outer Planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune): The outer planets tend to be made of gases and are therefore not really solid. The two main gases are helium and hydrogen. Sometimes people think of these giant gas planets as huge balloons floating in space. The outer planets have a diameter of over 48 000 km.
Now for Pluto. This tiny dwarf planet is the smallest and because it is so far away not much is known about it. It is believed to be made of rock and ice with surface temperatures colder than - 200 C.
Using a telescope, all of the planets can be seen, even the dwarf, Pluto. Most can be seen just using binoculars. Very little is known about the new dwarf, 2003UB313, that was discover on Jan. 8, 2005. It is believed that it is a bit larger than Pluto.