National Space Day 2022: Space is closer than ever

When a great philosopher in the Middle Ages wanted to give an example of something impossible, he said: “it would be like a metal ship flying.” Today, that “flying metal ship” is a reality. Only 54 years after the first airplane flight by the Wright brothers in 1903, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first satellite, into space. A mere 12 years later, the US would launch Apollo 11 and successfully land the first man on the moon.

National Space Day is celebrated annually on the first Friday in May, and its purpose is to inspire us to continuously pursue knowledge. Lockheed Martin celebrated Space Day in 1997, with the intention of it being a one-time event. However, in 2001, the day turned into International Space Day with the support of former astronaut and US Senator John Glenn.

Space exploration has reached all the planets in the solar system. In 1962, the first data was received from another planet, Venus, and eight years later, it was the site of the first soft landing on a planet in outer space. In 1965, we saw the first pictures from Mars and six years after that in 1971, a spacecraft would orbit Mars, marking the first spacecraft orbit of another planet. 

In the 1970s, more distant planets were reached. The first spacecraft to fly by Jupiter was in 1973, by Mercury in 1974, by Saturn in 1979, Uranus in 1986, Neptune in 1989, and Pluto in 2015.   

An interesting aspect of space exploration is the International Space Station (ISS), launched in 1998 by the US, Russia, Canada, Japan and other countries which are all partners in the European Space Agency. It is one of the most complex international cooperations that exist with each participating country managing the hardware supplied to the ISS. Operating and constructing the facility requires the support of the different partners. The ISS has been visited by astronauts from more than 18 countries.

While space exploration used to be run by the government, today, many companies are operating in that area. Furthermore, the whole concept of outer space is more tangible to the ordinary man than ever before. The ideas of space tourism, a branch of the US army dedicated to space fighting, or Elon Musk moving a satellite to provide uninterrupted Internet access in Ukraine, are just a few examples.

In commemoration of National Space Day, we would like to take a look at some companies advancing our knowledge and contact with outer space.

Lockheed Martin Corporation is a global security and aerospace company engaged in the research of advanced technology systems. Space exploration has been a driving force at Lockheed Martin as they teamed up with Nanoracks and Voyager Space, to build the first-ever continuously crewed, free-flying, commercial space station, Starlab, dedicated to conducting critical research in low-Earth orbit.

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Northrop Grumman Corporation specialises in the design and development of aerospace and defense systems. Northrop is pioneering across every sector of space, helping government, civil and commercial customers to tackle some of their biggest challenges. Northrop leads the industry team for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the largest, most complex and most powerful space telescope ever built.

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Virgin Galactic is an American spaceflight company founded by Richard Branson and the world’s first commercial spaceline. Virgin Galactic is developing a spaceflight system designed to offer travellers unique space tourism adventures. The company’s main sources of revenue are through carrying payload cargo and providing engineering services. In July 2021, the company completed its first full crew test flight into space, with owner Richard Branson on board. In the future, Branson hopes to fly on one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX spaceships.

CTA: Invest in Virgin Galactic

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Boeing is more well known as an American airplane manufacturer, however, it is also heavily involved in space exploration. It enables research at the ISS by providing engineering support services and processing for laboratory experiment racks. For six decades, Boeing has been building satellites for military, commercial and scientific use. More than 50 Boeing 702 satellites have been launched. The Space Launch System boasts the most powerful rocket ever built which is slated to take humans to Mars in the future. The United Launch Alliance is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, providing launch services for space missions. They have successfully launched more than 100 satellites into space.

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As we celebrate National Space Day 2022, we stand in awe as to how close outer space has become, but simultaneously know that there is so much more to explore.

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