Spoils of War
The very earliest attempts at getting man-made objects into space were not taken in the interests of globally beneficial science. On 3 October 1942 the A-4 rocket became the first man-made object to reach space; the A-4 was part of a programme developed by the Germans which resulted in the infamous V-2 rocket, used as a short range rocket to deliver death and destruction to London, Antwerp and a range of targets in northern France. After the war both the Soviet and US armies focused heavily on retrieving both the technology and the scientists who had developed it from the ruins of defeated Germany. The US appropriated a leading German rocket scientist named Werner Von Braun along with much of his equipment while the Russians also re-homed significant members of the German rocket science team. The Space Race had begun.
The US Takes an Early Lead
By as early as 1946 the US were already a few laps ahead. They launched adapted versions of the V-2 into the outer reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere and in 1947 they sent the first rockets contain living organisms (fruit flies) into space. The Soviets were not far behind, however, conducting similar experiments in the same year. These early experiments were classified as ‘sub-orbital’ and the limited amount of time in space that they allowed for limited the accuracy of the results. The main aim was to establish the effect of cosmic radiation on living organisms but during the tests the first picture of earth from space was also taken by a US team. The grainy photographs were taken by a camera that was simply launched on a V-2 type missile to an altitude of around sixty five miles; after snapping a few shots the rocket, camera and film crashed back to earth – not much was left but the film survived giving mankind its first “you are here” view of solar system.
The First Dog to Hate the Word “Walkies”.
In 1957, however, the Soviets were racing ahead and launched Sputnik 1, the first satellite to orbit the earth successfully. Feeling the pressure the US followed suit with Explorer 1 in January 1958 but the Soviets had already trumped them by successfully launching Laika, the unfortunate canine to be the first dog in space. Prior to Laika’s ill-fated trip the US had attempted to launch a string of Rhesus monkeys into space but had failed to get them into true orbit. Mice had also been sent where no man had gone (or appeared to be that willing to go) before. Laika’s orbit was designed to prove that a living creature could withstand the launch into space. The flight was proclaimed a success and Laika apparently lived for six days until her oxygen ran out. However, in 2002 it was revealed that this early space pioneer actually died after six hours, when overheating caused by the failure of the launch rocket to separate from the payload capsule curtailed this (space) walkies.
From the ashes of World War Two, the modern Space Race soon got off the ground. For out of this world experiences today, wish.co.uk offers experiences that may take your breath away, but in a good way!