Did you know that you’re on a satellite right now? No, not the armchair, planet Earth. Into Orbit.
A satellite is an object that is in orbit around another one, the Earth orbits the Sun and the Moon orbits the Earth because of the force of gravity. The little bits of rock and ice in the asteroid belt are all satellites. But there are artificial satellites too, far above your head, in orbit around the Earth.
The International Space Station.
The first section of the ISS was launched in November 1998 and the very first crew joined the station two years later in November 2000. It has been inhabited ever since.
On the 35th anniversary of Alan Shepard’s golf swing on the Moon, Mikhail Tyurin, a Russian cosmonaut aboard the ISS, hit a golf ball, making it into the record books for the furthest golf ball drive. Track the ISS (but unfortunately not the golf ball) by visiting this link: http://spacetlight.nasa.govirealdata/tracking
The Space Shuttle
If you see a space shuttle in the night sky, you’re looking at one of three shuttles that are still in service (Atlantis, Discovery or Endeavour). The first manned shuttle mission began with Columbia, April 1981.
Since then the shuttle fleet has flown over one hundred missions and is due to fly many more before it retires in 2010. So visit the link and see the shuttle in orbit before it is taken out of service for ever:
In 1957 the USSR launched Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite. Sputnik weighed just 83 kg, took about 98 minutes to orbit the Earth, and was used to conduct experiments on the atmosphere. After the Second World War, the USA and the USSR (now split into Russia and other countries) were bitter rivals.
The Americans must have been very annoyed indeed that their rivals had done something they hadn’t, and they were aware that there were all sorts of uses for satellites, including spying. The following year, the USA launched its first satellite, Explorer I, the ‘Space Race’ was on.
Spy Satellites Space Junk
You’re not supposed to know about these satellites, so here’s a tip: the best way to spot a spy satellite is by its orbit – spy satellites travel north to south! To track the Cosmos 1222 spy satellite, go to www.heavens-above.com and in the satellite name box, type Cosmos 1222 and click submit – when you spot the satellite, keep an eye out for space junk. It is followed by the spent rocket that launched it!
Now there are tens of thousands of artificial satellites in orbit above the Earth. There are satellites for communication, navigation, monitoring the weather, observing the Earth and scientific research. Since we use them for making phone calls, watching TV, finding our way and forecasting the weather, life wouldn’t be the same without them.
Hubble Space Telescope IHST1
The Hubble Space Telescope is an incredible camera. It has taken some of the most amazing pictures you are ever likely to see. Over the last eighteen years it has photographed stars being born, stars dying and it’s even been able to look back in time by photographing galaxies millions of miles away. To track the Hubble Space Telescope and many other satellites, visit this link: http://science.nasa.govirealtime/jtrack/Spacecraft.html
For more information, visit www.nasa.gov
A month after Sputnik 1, the USSR sent the first living creature into space on Sputnik 2 – a dog called Laika. Since then, lots more living things have been sent into space, including humans (Soviet Yuri Gagarin was the first), spiders, bees, frogs and jellyfish.
Earth has over 8,000 artificial satellites and one natural one. Have you spotted a satellite before? If not, here are some tips on what to look for and how to find them. Tick the boxes below once you’ve spotted
each one. Earn your star when you’ve spotted at least three of the five.
The Moon is Earth’s only natural satellite and the easiest to spot – just look up in the sky on a reasonably dear night and there it is. But did you know that the Moon is slowly moving away from us? Each year it moves 3.8 cm further away from the Earth.
At present the Moon is 400 times smaller than the Sun. and coincidentally it’s 400 times closer to Earth. which means we are able to see very impressive solar eclipses. As the Moon moves away, total eclipses will become a thing of the past.
For a fist of the next solar eclipses and where o view them, visit this link: http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse/eclipse.html