"...we shall one day travel to the moon, the planets, and the stars, with the same facility, rapidity, and certainty as we now make the voyage from Liverpool to New York." -- Jules Verne, From the Earth to the Moon, 1865
"Space isn't remote at all. It's only an hour's drive away if your car could go straight upwards." -- Fred Hoyle, English astrophysicist, 1979
Since the time of ancient civilisations, space has been central to the understanding of our place in the world. Early astronomers devised grandiose, if naive, models of the Universe with the Earth at the centre. Astrologers created an elaborate metaphysics in the belief that the movement of stars and planets governed our daily lives.
But space has also drawn humans as the great unknown waiting to be explored. From the story of Icarus to countless volumes of science fiction, space travel has long been seen as humanity's ultimate challenge and the ultimate dream.
Our understanding of the Universe has come a long way over the past century. But despite advances in knowledge, our close contact with space is still in its infancy. It was only in 1957 that Sputnik 1 was launched, the first orbital satellite to circle the Earth. The spacecraft to have travelled the furthest from Earth, Voyager 1, has only flown the equivalent of 0.02% of the distance to the closest star, a-Centauri. In contrast to Jules Verne's optimism, travel to the edge of the Solar system and beyond remains a major challenge.
It is a challenge worth taking because space technology has already revolutionised our lives. Global positioning systems accurate to within tens of metres, live TV broadcasts from the other side of the globe, accurate forecasting of weather and major storms - all this technology we now take for granted has become available in the last 20-30 years thanks to space satellites. Most of these applications could not be foreseen when space exploration began. Likewise, there is little doubt that interplanetary and interstellar travel of the future will bring about more unexpected breakthroughs in science and technology. Take this Grand Challenge to learn about the science behind space travel and explore how it may be able to change our lives again in the future.
Early morning view on November 9, 1967 of Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center, showing Apollo 4 Saturn V (Spacecraft 017/Saturn 501) prior to launch later that day. This was the first launch of the Saturn V.
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