Science

A place called ‘Space’

Milky Way

‘Space the final frontier‘ is how Space is introduced in the Star Trek series. What really is this place which we call Space? Beyond our planet Earth lies a number of other planets, galaxies, dark matter etc and this region is called ‘outer space’ or just ‘space’. If you travel about 100 kilometers (60 miles) outside of planet earth then you enter space. You will leave behind the blue sky and enter a black region as sunlight doesn’t have an atmosphere to interact with to give out blue light hence the darkness. Researchers haven’t been able to predict how big space is as all the measurements we do from earth are in light years and till now astronomers have been able to measure a distance of 13.7 billion years beyond which it is not certain if more space exists.

It was World War II which paved the way for humans to explore space in a more intimate manner than just from Earth. The launch of the first artificial satellite by the Soviets in 1957 made way for us to spend more time outside Earth and in space. Advancement in science and technology has allowed us to explore translunar space (region between moon-earth systems) from the International Space Station, however we are yet to explore beyond this small region. Even exploration of this small region of space has given us immense knowledge as scientists are studying the harmful effects of cosmic radiation on life and figuring out ways to mitigate such risks. This type of knowledge is especially useful if we are going to set foot on Mars.  

Selfie image using smartphone camera

Even though space seems so far away from Earth, its exploration which started centuries ago as a mere curiosity has an impact on our daily lives. One of the most impactful discoveries in my view is the camera that is now an integral part of our smartphones. Jet Propulsion Labs created cameras which were small enough to be fitted on to spacecraft which conveniently found ways in our phones as well. CAT scans which are routinely used for imaging purposes in hospitals is also another by product of space research. The most fun product out of such research is Nike Air shoes which uses some technological aspects of space suits. Even baby milk formula which is closest to breast milk for which many mothers around the world are eternally grateful is also a result of research done by space scientists. 

Even though we haven’t yet physically traveled very far in space, just the translunar journey and landing on the moon has resulted in many discoveries which we use on earth. All this only goes on to show how intelligent we humans are as a species as we can so successfully transcend our innate curiosity to know space and make this a part of our daily lives. All in all, like how our predecessors gave us the pyramids, telescopes, microscopes etc, space research and development will be our contribution to the future generations. 

So, next time, when you click a selfie with your phone, don’t forget to thank the space scientists 😉

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