Can we all remember how historic the first and subsequent space missions were? Many of the launches were even televised for people far and wide to see. Asides from the significance these expeditions and travels have brought, one thing many also know is that to lead these expeditions is very costly and expensive. This is why it is easy for multi-billionaire Elon Musk to have SpaceX exploration to the moon. Space expeditions not only seek to understand alien worlds, but also drive innovations and developments in different human endeavors. NASA space expeditions and how they are led are explained in the coming paragraphs.
There are about three phases to NASA’s space expeditions, namely;
The preflight phase
In this phase, after a mission has been proposed to NASA, through a scientific working group, the science components of the mission are developed. After which, an announcement is put out to invite interested scientists to come work with the information gathered by the mission. The scientific working group makes designs for the required spacecraft and presents it to NASA. This phase ends when the spacecraft is built and also tested on the ground.
The Flight phase
After the spacecraft is launched and orbits away from earth, communication through the Deep Space Network is made. Constant exchange of information is done between the spacecraft and command centers, to keep them updated. The spacecraft goes into an encounter phase when it is in contact with anything in space worthy of studying, once it is done studying, any information it has gathered is sent back to earth. It is received by scientists who analyze this data and publish their findings.
In this phase, the spacecraft continues to collect data and send them back to earth. For manned missions, the crew and everyone are brought back. For unmanned spacecraft, it just keeps collecting data and sending it to earth until it is no longer able to do so.
NASA’s space missions are led by a principal investigator (PI), a scientist who is supported by a deputy PI and many other instruments PIs. Together they all put together a team that helps them nurture and bring their vision to fruition. In order for there to be a successful mission, it is important the PIs are all one accord and direction. To achieve this, a clear line of communication must be established between the team members as they are all players from different fields of endeavor.
It is important to note that the PIs are held accountable for the use and management of funds, NASA foots the expense for these missions. As a result of these, there is an endless stream of reporting and interacting with NASA’s offices for contracting and project management. After a successful launch, tasks that are not so thrilling such as budgeting, telecom participation, and budgeting become the order of the day. Though these tasks are not as glamorous as the launch, they are still things the PIs have to do on a daily basis.
On the ends of these astronauts that go to space, a lot of work is commanded from them too. They train as rigorously as possible while pushing the limits of their bodies as they do so. Since weightlessness is one thing astronauts would have to deal with in space and also owing to the fact that it's an unnatural state for us. A lot of work is directed at helping astronauts prepare for this so acclimatization would be easy for them once they are in space.
The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory is a platform of water that has been designed to help astronauts feel and come to terms with weightlessness, the tank of water is the best and most cost-friendly solution there is in helping astronauts learn about weightlessness. Another method astronauts learn of weightlessness would be through the use of specially designed spacecraft called vomit crafts. These spacecraft are made to mimic flight patterns that will in turn induce a feeling of weightlessness in the crew. They are also designed in the same sizes as the actual spacecraft, they are done with the intention of familiarising the astronauts and crew with the size and shape of the craft.
However, NASA is just one means of going to space and it is controlled by the government. Currently, a number of companies have come up as the frontiers for space tourism. Private companies will soon be able to take their passengers into space, of course, this means the companies and the people they are taking would be footing the bills. These organizations though not yet talking about how much it is going to cost, have given inclinations showing their services are going to be very expensive.
Currently, only about 550 people have been in space. Of all the companies that have sprung up with space tourism as their mantra, SpaceX is the most promising and successful. They are followed closely by Rival Boeing, by the end of 2021 they hope to have their Starliner spacecraft. Different organizations and people are also offering space opportunities to people with special skills and talents. Well-known and talented artists are being offered space tickets, the twist being they would help capture the environment of space on a canvas, they hope to help many others who can't be in space to feel it.
Space travel itself, although interesting, also has a number of things that make it hard. At the top of the list is gravity. Because of gravity, excessive speed is needed for these spacecraft to be able to leave the earth’s atmosphere. Excessive speed in turn means more fuel and much more fuel. At the end of the day, fuel begins to become a load on the craft and that is a problem, spacecraft are supposed to be as light as possible in order to be able to escape earth's gravity.
At the end of a spacecraft's escape from Earth's gravity, about 31% of the original fuel has been used. As advances are made in the field of science and technology, different and better solutions are proffered to these problems and any other problem that might be created.