Achievements in space exploration have had an impact on science and technology around the world. The study and exploration of space is a quest for excellence and adventure, as well as a thirst for unlocking the secrets of the unknown. The first decade of space exploration was marked by many Soviet and American firsts. In October 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite to circle the Earth. A month later, Sputnik II rocketed spaceward carrying a dog, Laika, the first space traveller to orbit our planet. In following years, dozens of American and Soviet satellites were launched, with several probes exploring even more distant regions of space. The real challenge of space exploration was to rocket people into space, and then toward the Moon. The first human to orbit the Earth was Soviet cosmonaut
, Yuri Gagarin. He flew in the Vostok I spaceship for one circuit of the globe in April 1961. During the 1960s, many Soviet cosmonauts and American astronauts mastered space flight. Only U.S. astronauts achieved the goal of landing on the faraway Moon. In 1975, The Soviet Union and the United States worked together to link their respective spaceships above Earth the U.S. Apollo and the Soviet Soyuz 19 a historic first in space cooperation. Today, U.S. space shuttles routinely take astronauts on voyages in Earth's orbit to experiment in microgravity
. The Soviet Union uses their Space Station Mir to study the effects of long durations of weightlessness on the cosmonaut space travellers. Built of many modules, the Mir was first launched in 1986. On one expedition aboard the Mir, the cosmonaut team of Musa Manarov and Vladimir Titov spent a total of 366 days, 18 hours and seven minutes in space the current world's record. In recent times, the Soviets have opened up their space program to more and more cooperation with other nations. They also want to commercialize their space program to help reduce its cost. In upcoming years, U.S. astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts are expected to once again fly together in space, forging friendships that could lead to a joint mission to the distant dunes of Mars.
You will observe the physics of selected toys on Earth, and predict the physics of the same toys in a microgravity environment like that of the space shuttle. Space travelers have to learn to live, work and play in a weightless environment. In April 1985, the Space Shuttle Discovery transported 11 familiar toys into the weightlessness of space for the Toys In Space Project. This project was known simply as TOYS (Testing Of Youth Science). The TOYS Program included a selection of toys like those below. Find as many of these toys as possible. Materials:
- Toys In Space video (available from NASA CORE, see resource section)
- Paper airplane
- Set of ball and jacks
- Magnetic marbles
- Wind-up car
- Metal top
- Flipping mouse ("Rat Stuff")
1. Work with each toy to see how it responds to gravity and motion. Try different actions with each toy like flying the plane or pushing the car backward and forward. 2. Write down your predictions of what you think would happen if you played with these toys aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. 3. Match your predictions with what happened on the "Toys In Space" video. 4. Talk about the reasons these activities might be valuable to space exploration.