The following essay won 1st place in the 2017 SSTC Student Essay Contest organized by The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) & The AIAA Space Systems Technical Committee (SSTC).
Astronauts and Space
-By LiAn Song, 7th grade, STEM School Highlands Ranch
Imagine a world where we didn’t even know we were on a planet, or even a universe existed-imagine that we only had far-fetched, hard-to-believe theories. That would be our world without space exploration and research by agencies such as NASA. You see, space exploration plays an exponential role in today’s world. Without the findings and information agencies like NASA present to us, we would not be as technologically advanced as we are today. However, you cannot have space exploration without the hard-working, headstrong astronaut. Today, we cannot thank astronauts enough for all the work they have done for us in the past and what they will do for us in the future, such as helping us observe the wonders of space better, helping us research how being in space affects our bodies, and aiding us in innovating navigating and travelling in space.
To begin with, all astronauts are sent into space for a reason, and that usually leads up to observing space more. As we all know, we already know a bit about space, but it’s never enough. Even though we know a lot about space, we only are familiar with about 4% of the universe’s composition. As an article on the website Space.com says, “All the stars, planets and galaxies that can be seen today make up just 4% of the universe. The other 96 percent is made of stuff astronomers can’t see, detect or even comprehend” (Moskowitz, 2011). Yet each day, step by step, astronauts aid us in trying to find out what the rest of the universe is made of. Evidently, it’s pretty clear that astronauts play an extremely important role when it comes to understanding space. Astronauts are to observe space and its factors, and we’re getting closer and closer to discovering something unbelievable every second that passes by. Altogether, if astronauts did not study space, no one would, and we’d be falling way behind whatever alien species that may be out there to get us someday.
Equally as important, astronauts also are like the guinea pigs in researching things like how going to space affects the body. For example, as the article about the twin space travel experiment on NASA’s websites says, “NASA astronaut Scott Kelly returned home last March after nearly one year in space living on the International Space Station. His identical twin brother, Mark, remained on Earth” (Gushanas, 2017). When Scott Kelly returned to Earth, the twins had DNA tests and they found astounding results. Basically, these results were that Scott’s RNA was expressed widely differently than his twin’s- which people called the “space gene”. Of course, these astronauts will be kept safe and happy as they are experimented on. The sole purpose of these experiments is that we can learn more about how space affects the body in detail- we wouldn’t want to ruin such a precious and delicate thing. All in all, we’ve done a number of experiments with space already, and we’re bound to do more in the future, which will furtherly aid us in learning more about the complexion that is space.
Last but not least, astronauts also guide us with improving and innovating in space navigation and space travel. Now, becoming an astronaut is no easy feat-it doesn’t just happen with the push of a button. No, one must meet countless requirements and know certain things and pass several physical tests to be even applicable to be an astronaut. According to an article on Space.com, “After graduating, many astronauts are not assigned to a flight for years. They will back up other astronauts in orbit through serving as a “CapCom” in Mission Control, doing simulated spacewalks in NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory and picking up more skills they will need for their time in orbit. They spend time not only at NASA, but also international partners with training facilities such as Canada, to learn how to operate the station’s robotic arm.) All astronauts also must maintain flight proficiency on T-38 aircraft, flying a certain number of hours per month” (Howell, 2017). This quote states that it is more than just difficult to even get ot the point where you get to fly an aircraft as an astronaut- and it requires immense amounts of training. Obviously, we all know that having a first-hand experience with something can give you an impression on what it’s really like, and you can provide constructive criticism better that way. I imagine it is the same with astronauts- they will guide people in improving flight experiences, controls, navigation, and all that whatnot to help us take a leap forward in space travel. Clearly, astronauts serve a great role in helping us innovate in the engineering of spacecrafts and space travel.
In conclusion, astronauts are more than just important to our society today, and will also be more than just important in the future. Astronauts deserve all of our respect and appreciation, because they are guiding us to a better world that bursts of knowledge. They are honorable by all because they observe space for those who don’t get a chance to, aid us in learning more about how space affects bodies down to the tiniest details, and they help us in improving space travel and navigation. Astronauts truly are not represented enough as higher, respectable figures in our society today.
Gushanas, T. (2017, January 30). First Look at Findings of NASA Twins Study. Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/feature/how-stressful-will-a-trip-to-mars-be-on-the-human-body-we -now-have-a-peek-into-what-the-nasa
Howell, E. (2017, June 7). How To Become An Astronaut. Retrieved from https://www.space.com/25786-how-to-become-an-astronaut.html
Moskowitz, C. (2011, May 12). What’s 96 Percent of the Universe Made Of? Astronomers Don’t Know. Retrieved from https://www.space.com/11642-dark-matter-dark-energy-4-percent-universe-panek.html