Space travel and exploration has largely been advantageous to mankind. This is especially in the setting up of satellites which have eased communication around the world. However, there are hazards as well. Accidents can happen as the Columbia space disaster has showed. Injuries and even deaths have been caused by these accidents. The accidents are, of course, an outcome of the different dangers that outer space poses. Tragedies will continue to occur if no measures are taken to combat the dangers. The paper highlights the dangers both to the crew and the space craft.
At the end of the Second World War, USA took apart Germans V2 rocket and embarked on building their own. Later, Gemini came into place to replace Mercury capsules. Apollo then followed as JFK set the goal for scientists to land a man on the moon by 1960. The venture was a success (National Research Council, 2006)
Operating spacecraft within the earth’s orbit or those in interplanetary paths are exposed to particles in high velocity which can ruin the sensitive instrumentations of the spacecraft. Comets and asteroids for example disintegrate into small particles on their course. The particles-meteoroids-will then maintains their position on orbits around the sun especially if they happen to be less than ten micrometers in size. Due to their high speeds, they thus create a hazardous environment for the spaceships (Daglis, 2001)
The particles can cause three types of impact degradation on the space crafts surface. The first is hull penetration which is caused by meteoroids with a radius of over 1 μm. The second is surface degradation that is as a result of meteoroids within the range of 0.01 to 0.1. The last is a plasma discharge as a result of meteoroids ranging from 1 and 10 μm. It is worth noting that all this meteoroids will be traveling at very high velocities and thus due to friction on the surface, the end result could be catastrophic (High Stakes Writing, 2010)
Apart from the impacts, space exhibits extreme conditions. Beyond the earth’s insulating atmosphere, the craft will be exposed to extreme temperatures ranging from very hot to freezing cold. This is in addition to the risk of radiation damage. As the spacecraft launches, this is the on set of extreme temperatures. Also, the rocket which is to transport the spacecraft into orbit also shakes violently thus transferring the motion and loud sound into the spacecraft. The two of these events can be responsible for shattering of delicate parts of the equipment on board. With the parts ruined, there is an apparent risk for accidents due to system failure.
Meteor showers are also common phenomena in space. They pose a danger of outer surface and in extreme cases, interior damage on the spacecraft. The minute dust particles which cause the naked human eye to observe “shooting stars,” travel through the outer space at thousands of kilometers in a second. They can thus have an effect referred to as sound blasting on to expansive arrays of important solar panels. This could lead to complete system failure as the spacecraft harness solar energy for their operation (Johnson & McKnight, 1987).
In the case that there is a storm, as was the case in Leonoids, the responsible scientists came up with the Hubble space telescope which ensured that the solar panels offered the least surface area for any incoming meteors.
Another hazard is the case of solar flares. They are a major influence to space weather within the earth’s vicinity. Solar flares have been found to generate very energetic particles in solar wind commonly referred to as the proton event. Other scientists have also called it the “coronal mass ejection” or CME. The particles are known to impact earth’s magnetosphere which has lead to the effect of radiation hazards to the spacecraft, the astronauts as well as cosmonauts.
It has been found out that the soft X-ray flux exhibited by X type flares raise the ionization of gases in upper atmosphere. This in turn interferes with all short wave radio communication. It can also heat the upper atmosphere which increases the drug on satellites that orbit in this low atmosphere. The lowered speeds are what cause orbital decay. The hard X-rays will produce energy that is capable of penetrating and ruining spacecraft equipment and are the cause of big plasma ejection that is found in the upper chromosphere.
The radiation is also a cause of concern for manned missions. The astronauts who are to repair and maintain satellites have to travel through these harsh conditions. The high energy proton emissions can easily penetrate human flesh which in turn leads to biochemical damage. This simply means that it poses a health hazard to them in their interplanetary travels. It therefore means that for them to be safe, they have to wear protective magnetic shielding. On 20th January 2005, a solar flare emitted the highest number of protons to be ever tested directly and took only 15 minutes from observation time for the radiation to reach earth. This would have given astronauts a fifteen minute window period to seek shelter (Fortescue et Al. 2003)
The implications are clear. In as much as the world try’s to advance to the outside world, the hazards will remain there. They will coexist with us and we have to device methods of combating such problems to maintain the hundreds of satellites in the atmosphere. I am for the opinion that change is good and I believe that space exploration and setting up of satellites is a critical move towards global civilization.