In October 1957, the world learnt of a new achievement by the Russian Scientists. They launched into outer space the first man made earth satellite, Sputnik, opening up possibilities of further space probe. A second, much larger satellite containing a dog, the famous Laika, was launched in November.
These spectacular achievements of the Russians spurred on the Americans to launch their Explorer in January, 1958- In 1961, it was again Russian, Yuri Gagarin, who had the unique distinction of becoming the first man to travel in space.
Subsequent achievements by both the Russian and the American astronauts have reassured the world that the first man to land on the moon will do it before the end of this century. Thus what was a part of science fiction some years ago has become a fact of life.
Since the days of Galileo the possibility of exploring space further has been there though it is only in the 20th century that rapid strides towards achieving this have been taken. The new developments in the field of aeronautics and rocketry have made it possible to visualize a day when it will be possible for man to travel in comfort to Mars.
Some people want to know why man wants to explore space, at an enormous cost, especially at a time when much money is needed to remove poverty and hunger from the face of this earth. It is a fact that many millions in Asia, Africa and Latin America go without food, for no fault of theirs.
And the huge sums of money that are being spent on space research can easily be used to feed the hungry and to heal the suffering.
But it is only one side of the picture. From the other side we see man's thirst for knowledge that has made him undertake fantastic explorations. And it is quite possible he may discover hospitable planets which may help him solve some of the problems he is facing, if we wait for a day when we may not have any problem that day may never come.
So, it is a part of man's spirit of adventure—the same spirit that sent him round the world to discover a new continent on his way to India; the spirit that sent him up the Himalayas to reach Mount Everest; the spirit that has given him a new source of energy in nuclear fission; the spirit that has been responsible for several of our achievements in various fields. Space travel holds out great possibilities.
But in today's world of mistrust and fear, it is possible all of it may not be beneficial to mankind. No doubt, Telstra has given a big boost to telecommunications. It has also made people suspect that; their military secrets are no longer secrets.
Unfortunately the two countries which are leading the others in the field of space exploration are using their achievements more for political propaganda than for enlarging the frontiers of knowledge. If only the two were to pool their resources and experience, the first man may reach the moon before the end of this decade itself. But it is not the first man on moon they are interested in. They want a Russian or an American to be the first to land on moon. It is this attitude that is to be discouraged.
Knowledge knows no frontiers. Why erect artificial barriers to prevent its spread? A great deal of effort is unnecessarily duplicated. One can always learn from other mistakes but the present system does not allow any scope for doing this. Space race is a close race and the world is anxiously watching who is going to win it.
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