This post is a guest contribution by Rachel.
1) International space stations, sent up into space to carry out research, orbit the earth at around 350km high. Passenger aeroplanes only reach around 9km high.
2) We have achieved much in space research: putting a man on the Moon, and exploring Mars. However, there is still a very long way to go, and more to explore than we could ever imagine. We’ve yet to reach any of the stars: the nearest, Proxima Centurai, would take tens of thousands of years to reach with current technology.
3) Space satellites and research missions help us understand the earth and its climate, as well as the world beyond it. It gives us the ability to observe our climate and weather, and see how we are being affected by global warming.
4) Space research has many spin-offs that are useful down here on Earth. These have included barcodes, smoke detectors and heart pacemakers. Space research pushes the boundaries of what can be done so frequently, that it is always likely to lead to innovation in many fields.
5) Space may be vast and largely unexplored, but spacecraft have explored huge areas of our solar system, and travelled further and faster than we could ever have believed possible a few decades ago. Much of this exploration has been done by robots: they are the most useful tool space researchers have, as sending humans long distances is not often possible. They have been to most of the planets and moons in our solar system, and some are making their way out of it to explore the universe beyond.
6) Space-based imaging technology uses x-rays and electromagnetics that can only work outside the Earth’s atmosphere in order to create images of space. The images they create open the door on a magical, mysterious work of incredible energy. We can now see colliding galaxies and exploding stars in all their amazing glory.
7) Space research has found that all particles have a negative version of themselves: like a parallel universe. This is what is known as anti-matter. When matter and anti-matter collide, they explode, destroying each other.
8) Space is thought to be full of radiation that was created by the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago. This is known as cosmic microwave background, and is one of the most compelling pieces of evidence we have for the Big Bang theory.
9) Space researchers think that the universe might be made up mainly of a mysterious substance called ‘dark matter’. Dark matter cannot be seen, and cannot be detected with any of the scientific research instruments we have available, and its nature remains uncertain. It could make up invisible black holes.
10) While NASA may dominate space research, they’re not the only players: here in the UK we have a new space innovation centre at Harwell Oxford. It’s the first of its kind in Europe.
Rachel is a keen blogger with a particular interest in space exploration and the science of the universe. Personal heroes include Sir Patrick Moore and Professor Stephen Hawking.