Space Technology: An ever-growing field

Essay by ages_1College, UndergraduateA+, November 2002

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From early star gazing through primitive telescopes to t

test rockets to sophisticated

satellites, the human expansion into space is perhaps the most amazing engineering feat

of the 20th century. The development of space technology has thrilled the world,

expanded our knowledge base, and improved our capabilities. Thousand of useful

products and services have resulted from space technology, including medical devices,

improved weather forecasting, and wireless communications.

English scientist Roger Bacon first described the fundamental optical principles of

the telescope in the 13th century. Dutch spectacle-maker Hans Lippershey is credited

with inventing the first telescope in the year 1608, when he discovered that a distant

object appeared to be much closer when viewed through a concave lens and a convex

lens held in front of each other. He mounted the lenses in a tube to make the first

refracting telescope.

Early telescopes were not used to explore the heavens; rather, they were

employed for military purposes, to detect advancing armies or ships.

News of the

telescope's invention spread rapidly through Europe. Glass grinding and polishing

techniques, which had been developed since the 13th century, made it easy for the

telescope design to be constructed and improved. Science historians credit Italian

scientist Galileo with the first use of the telescope for scientific observations of

astronomical objects. In 1609, using a homemade telescope that could magnify objects to

20 times the size seen by the naked eye, Galileo discovered four moons orbiting the


planet Jupiter. By the end of the following year, he had used his telescope to resolve the

Milky Way Galaxy into countless stars, see dark spots on the Sun, and map the face of

the Moon.

A modern astronomical telescope weighs hundreds of tons, yet it is able to swing

smoothly to point at any part of the...