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Space History Topics
Periods, Events & Issues of Interest

There are certainly many periods, events and issues for the space history buff to explore. The history of modern rocketry and space exploration intertwines closely with the most dramatic political and technological developments of the 20th century.

Below are given a few suggestions of topics to investigate on the rich and fascinating space timeline:

  • Early space travel speculations arose as far back as the middle ages. By the late 1800's and early 1900's, space travel in science fiction from such authors as H.G. Wells became very popular. Science fiction continues, in fact, to help sustain public support for space exploration.

  • Father of the Space Age: Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in Russia, Herman Oberth in Germany or Robert Goddard in the USA. Each are often referred to as the "father" of the space age. Debates continue on who best deserves that title. It is clear, however, that all three made major contributions to the development of space exploration both in their scientific accomplishments and in their influence and inspiration to other pioneers.

  • Development of Rocketry in the early 20th century was primarily done by amateur groups such as the Society for Space Travel (VfR) in Germany (the VfR was later absorbed by the Nazi military) and the American Rocket Society. (Even Goddard, a physics professor, had to rely on funding from nonprofit organizations such as the Smithsonian Institution.) Most scientists at the time ridiculed rocketry and talk of space travel as fantasies. Today many scientists take the struggle to develop rocketry for granted and now ridicule human space exploration.

  • The V2 rocket turned out to be Hitler's greatest wonder weapon but had little effect on the course of the war. Most of the V2's were built with slave labor in hellish underground factories. Von Braun and many of his Peenemünde colleagues were captured by the Allies and became core members of development teams for US ICBMs and later the Saturn V moon rocket. Other members of his group were captured by the Soviets and worked on their programs. The relationship of the US space program with those who, at the very least, acquiesced with the Nazis remains a very controversial subject.

  • Sputnik provided a spectacular victory for the Soviet Union in the Cold War. The US responded with an explosion of enthusiasm and financial support for all areas of science and engineering that not only resulted in landing men on the moon but in a scientific and technological tidal wave that continues rolling forward to this day. New York Times Sputnik Special Report

  • Spysats, launched almost immediately after the first scientific satellites achieved orbit, quickly became essential tools of the cold war. They are credited by many for preventing it from becoming a hot war. They also saved tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars by stopping missile programs to defend against threats they showed didn't exist. John Kennedy, for example, in his race for President accused the Eisenhower administration of allowing the Soviets to race ahead of the US in missile production, creating the famous Missile Gap. Eisenhower, though, knew this not to be true because of the new satellite photos but said nothing to avoid alerting the Soviets to the spysat capabilities. Once Kennedy became president, he also realized the absence of a gap and thus did not authorize a big missile program.
  • Communication satellites became a pillar of the telecommunications revolution and a major force in the globalization of our economies. However, comsats are buried down in our industrial infrastructure and the public is generally unaware of how pervasive comsats are. For example, satellite distribution of programming has fueled the big expansion of cable TV in the US since the 1970's. Large companies like the US Walmart chain rely on thousands of VSATs (Very Small Aperture Terminals) at every store to send by satellite the credit card checks, as well as other sales data, from the cashier to central processing centers.

  • The Space Shuttles are technological wonders but big disappointments economically, hardly the DC-3's of the space age as promised. The history of the shuttle program provides deep insights into what is both right and wrong with the state of space exploration today.

  • Rocket & Spacecraft Development is one of the most popular historical areas. The development of such rockets as the Atlas booster and the Ariane are rich with both social, political and technological issues.



The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey
NewSpace Watch at NSG





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