What Is Aerospace Technology?

The International Space Station took 10 years and 30 missions to assemble. Now an invaluable research facility for scientists worldwide.

In the 1950s, Yuri Gagarin would urinate on his bus tire to mark his departure for space travel – an act that astronauts continue to follow today.

Aerospace Technology

Aerospace technology encompasses any machine designed to fly within or beyond Earth’s atmosphere; from rockets and spacecraft to satellites in orbit around Earth – as well as their respective power, control, and operation systems – such as rockets.

NASA’s space programs have relied on cutting-edge technologies since their beginnings – from landing satellites on the Moon and Mars to Curiosity transmitting a prerecorded message back from Mars – in order to meet their goals. Many of these advancements are then applied elsewhere on Earth such as medicine, transportation, consumer products, computer technology and agriculture.

Engineers are constantly in search of lighter and stronger materials to reduce the weight and improve efficiency in aerospace components. This has resulted in many innovations such as graphene – an atom-thick material expected to lead to high capacity batteries in spacecraft – as well as many advanced materials which require special manufacturing techniques in order to work in space environments.

Space Science

Science missions use space as an experimental laboratory to examine the universe, galaxy and solar system. Studies include space physics – which investigates electromagnetic fields and particles found in space; Earth observation satellites; planetary exploration (studying moons, planets and their orbits), asteroid/comet research as well as space biology/exobiology which examines nonliving objects under weightlessness with radiation exposure – among others.

Scientific instruments on board spacecraft collect telemetry data, send commands, and capture never-before-seen images. Scientists design and build these instruments before sending them off on spacecraft for launch. Once there, those same scientists then operate them while in flight to ensure all commands work as intended and that enough telemetry data is being collected as expected.

One of the greatest obstacles in securing funding for space science research is convincing the public of its relevance. Some “real reasons” might include wonder, excitement or inspiration that are difficult to quantify or justify on an economic balance sheet.

Biological and Physical Research

NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences (BPS) program takes advantage of spaceflight’s unique environment to make fundamental discoveries, advance transformative science breakthroughs, enable sustained human exploration of space, and enhance life on Earth and in space.

Researchers study living systems from molecular interactions to how complex networks direct behavior, such as stereotypical bird songs or mutualistic ecological communities. Researchers also use space as an arena to conduct experiments that cannot be completed on Earth; for instance, studying how atomic and molecular data changes when exposed to weightlessness or laboratory conditions that mimic space environments.

Recent Center poll results indicated that 7 in 10 Americans believe NASA should prioritize monitoring asteroids that might impact Earth and monitoring climate systems as its top two objectives, while only three-in-10 think humans going to Mars or searching for planets which might support life are top priorities for the agency. Overall, similar percentages across age and political affiliation groups agreed with these opinions regarding NASA’s continued work in space.

Human Spaceflight

Human spaceflight involves sending humans into outer space aboard rockets, aircraft or spacecraft. Many nations, companies and private citizens have developed programs to send humans into space; the first Soviet cosmonaut to reach space was Yuri Gagarin with Vostok 1 while Alan Shepard became America’s first astronaut with Freedom 7 shortly thereafter. Since then people have traveled nine times as part of Project Apollo to land on the Moon; 23 years and 238 days have been lived continuously aboard the International Space Station; many more people have traveled nine times as part of Project Apollo with thousands more visiting every year as part of Project Apollo; many others have lived continuously aboard the International Space Station during that period as part of Project Apollo and Project Apollo Lived continuous in space until this year!

Human spaceflight aims to push the frontiers of science. Scientists are particularly drawn to studying how molecules and cells behave under microgravity conditions, studying life in space as a whole and building the International Space Station as their project of choice.

Spaceflight can be dangerous. A total of 19 people have perished aboard U.S. spacecraft and four on Russian spacecraft since 1961; yet NASA remains confident that exploration’s benefits outweigh these costs and losses in terms of lives lost to exploration.

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