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Space Travel (history)

23 Jun 2014

Our Subjects / Ā Mātou Kaupapa:
History, Science, Technology

Where can I find information on the history of space travel? What was the first creature in space? Who was the first person in space?

LEVEL: Primary / Intermediate

Nowadays we have a rover on Mars, satellites whizzing overhead and rockets flying out into the far reaches of our solar system, but not so long ago being able to travel into space was something that people could only imagine.

During World War II Germany developed new long-range missiles that could hit far away targets, which paved the way for creating long-range rockets (or spacecraft) that could be sent very far away - into space.

There are a few different terms that can be used when talking about space travel. Sometimes it's called space exploration, or more often (especially when there are humans aboard the spacecraft) it is called spaceflight.

A good place to start is with the search engine DeeperWeb. Try typing in some key words, such as 'history of spaceflight', and see what comes up.

HOT TIP: We like DeeperWeb because the ‘tag cloud’ on the right suggests search words that will help ‘build’ a search. We can also use it to narrow our results to educational resources or to sites with .org or .govt in the website address.

Some of the websites that we found and liked when we used DeeperWeb were A Brief History of Space Exploration run by the Aerospace Corporation, NASA's page on the History of Human Space Flight, and an article from New Scientist with some cool facts about spaceflight.

Another excellent resource to use is the EPIC databases. This is great if you need more in depth information, and it's all reliable.

HOT TIP: To get to the EPIC databases you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or, you can log on to AnyQuestions.co.nz between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday, and one of the librarians can help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Once you've logged in, click on Science In Context from the list on the main page, and use the search bar to do a keyword search.

One of the most influential events in the history of spaceflight was called the space race. The United States of America and Russia both wanted to be the leading country in the race to send rockets, and then humans into space.

If you want to learn more about the space race, take a look at the How Stuff Works entry 'Did NASA win the space race?' or the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's online exhibition about the space race.

Before humans were sent into space, animals went first. Both the US and Russia sent animals into space to test if surviving spaceflight was possible, before finally sending humans. Check out this How Stuff Works post on Early Animals in Space, or the Wikipedia entry on Animals in Space.

HOT TIP: Wikipedia has great coverage of many topics, including animals in space. But you need to be aware that this information is contributed by lots of different people. If you are using this site, it always pays to check the information against that on other sites or in books from the library.

One of the big milestones of the space race was when the first human was sent into space. Yuri Gagarin, a Russian cosmonaut (the Russian term for what we call an astronaut), was the first person in space, making a 108-minute flight in the Vostok 1 spacecraft. You can finds some basic facts about Gagarin on the Biography.com page about him, or some more in depth information from Biography in Context through the EPIC databases.

HOT TIP: Don't forget to check out our other ManyAnswers entries on Space.

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