On the way to Mars: space exploration from Pythagoras to the present

5 april 2021

As a child, we were often asked who we want to be when we grow up. Someone dreamed to become a princess or prince, a businessman, politician, doctor or scientist. But one of the most popular answers has always been "I want to be an astronaut." From an early age, we were taught a sincere curiosity in the study of the sky and the stars. Society taught us to be proud of our country's achievements in the exploration of the Universe, because the astronaut Yuri Gagarin who first flew on the Vostok-1 spacecraft was Russian. 

For many centuries, the study of outer space and new planets has been one of the most exciting and interesting topics. Many companies spend their energy, resources and time trying to understand the structure of the whole world, go beyond the Earth and at least to subdue the laws of physics to human. Information about new developments and next flights often appears on the madia news. Standardization companies regularly develop regulations to improve the quality of space equipment and the training of astronauts.

First steps into outer space

Since mankind was born people wonder what is beyond the boundless sky and bright stars. Even Pythagoras, who lived in the 6-5th century BC, paid great attention to the exploration of the Universe and was the first to call it "space". Centuries passed, but scientists from different parts of the world didn't stop trying to learn the unknown, prepare the necessary equipment for studying celestial objects, and learn about the existence of other living organisms in other galaxies. But the most important thing is that they bravely dreamed that one day a person would be able to break out from the planet Earth.

Only at the end of the 19th century society really believe in the existing possibility of flight to distant worlds.  Scientists have got the conclusion that in order to go beyond gravity and come to orbit, it is enough just to provide the aircraft with the necessary speed and maintain it for a long time. There was one problem in this story: at that time there was no powerful engine that engineers could use in their work. And only at the beginning of the next century a rocket that could take a person out of the gravity was created.

The appearing of spacecraft was preceded by ballistic missiles. German "V-2" during the Second World War was able to gain an altitude of almost 188 km. Five years later, this experience was repeated and greater result 403 km was achieved. For many years, countries have been experimenting with the goal of sending human on board the ship to outer space. Not all experiments were successful, many rockets exploded at the start. Finally, a positive result was achieved, and Yuri Gagarin's flight into space became the countdown for manned flights.

Reliability is always the main issue in the development of aircraft. Designers are developing the latest models of space technology, trying to improve the features of instruments. But despite the technological progress that has been achieved over the past decades, it remains impossible to be sure of the absolute safety of ships. Many companies that develop standards are interested in adopting new documents that would help bring space technology closer to high levels of reliability and safety. For example, here are few GOST standards which are in force in Russia:

ISO has developed more regulations that help industries to improve the quality of space technology. These include:

Unlucky Day and other superstitions

Astronauts are highly educated people whose work is advanced science and technology. But, despite this, they continue to believe in superstitions and each time they process all the necessary rituals. It may seem strange to ordinary people, but it is possible to understand the pilots of a spaceship. The astronaut profession is inextricably related to permanent dangers and risks, which in most cases cannot be influenced. How the flight will go and whether the astronaut will be able to return alive depends not only on the deep knowledge and serious training of the astronauts, but also on the strength of the equipment, the work of designers, weather forecasts on Earth, and much more.

The laws of the human psyche work when he comes up with non-existent connections between events and justifies certain actions, because he cannot explain what is happening by the other way. That is why astronauts blindly believe in mysticism and omens. Originated in the twentieth century traditions are still relevant. For instance, Sergei Korolev initiated the custom of not flying on Mondays. There was no justification for this, but he kept postponing the departure from that day to the next. This went on for three years, until other astronauts decided to fly on Mondays. Mysteriously, 11 accidents occurred, so then the custom of excluding spacewalks on Monday was fixed in the unspoken code of pilots.

Besides the "bad day of the week", there is also the "unlucky date". The start will never be scheduled for October 24, because it was on this autumn day when terrible disasters occurred in Baikonur and people died. On this date, no serious work is carried out at the station at all.

But these are not the only rules that Russian astronauts follow. For example, such a custom is among the most interesting and unusual: astronauts must not see the ship before the flight. It's like the groom meets the bride in a wedding dress before the ceremony, so it means don't expect anything good.

Before their first launch, the pilots must plant a tree in the alley in front of the Astronaut Hotel. The tradition began with Yuri Gagarin, who planted elm there. Another ritual is related with the same hotel. Flight participants, leaving their room in the morning of the start day, leave an autograph on the door. The signatures are saved there forever. When there is no free space on the door at all, it is sent to the Museum of Cosmonautics.

Astronauts try to think through everything. During the preparing for the flight, great attention is paid not only to the technical component, but also to the ideal physical training of the pilots, their appearance and uniforms. 

However, standardization have taken its place here too. To meet all the requirements for tailoring suits, craftsmen refer to a number of specialized standards. These include, for example, GOST ISO 17491-2-2019 Occupational safety standards system. Special clothing for protection against chemicals. Test methods. Part 2. Identification of the penetration of aerosols and gases into the undersuit space (method for determining penetration); NF EN ISO 15384 Protective clothing for firefighters - Laboratory test methods and performance requirements for wild land firefighting clothing and others.

From star exploration to colonizing Mars

Space flights are not enough to satisfy human curiosity. Scientists have long been tormented by the question of the possibility of colonizing other planets.  The objects of the solar system have been carefully examined to find on the possiblity of life there. It was Mars that attracted particular attention, as it has a number of advantages in comparison with its "competitors".

From all the planets and other objects in our galaxy, Mars has the most suitable conditions for colonization. For instance, the Martian day is as close as possible to the earthly one. It is 24 hours 39 minutes. The seasons also come one by one, but they are almost twice as long. A year on the planet is 687 days. Moreover, Mars has an atmosphere. Its density is less than that of the Earth, however, it provides some protection from radiation and facilitates aerodynamic braking of aircraft. But the most important advantage of the red planet is the presence of that, without which the existence of living organisms is impossible. This is water. It exists there in the form of deposits of water ice.

Over the past decade, humanity has made great strides in the study of Mars. In the summer of 2020, the American Mars rover Perseverance was sent to the planet, it successfully landed on the surface on February 19, 2021. The interplanetary ship entered the thin atmosphere  with a speed of 20 000 km / h, and parachuted into Jezero crater.

The rover was sent for certain reasons. At this stage, the main goal of the researchers is to assess the suitability of a space object for human life in the future, as well as to learn about the possibility of the existence of organisms in the past. 

The device will be able to explore the surface and take samples of soil rocks. American scientists plann that the elements will be delivered to Earth. The rover has already send several color images, in which the surface and traces of the apparatus are clearly visible.

Outer space is no longer the main dream or something unattainable. Humanity achieves results, mastering the objects of the solar system in small steps. The introduction and improvement of international standards aimed at improving the quality of technology and training of astronauts helps to achieve progress in the space industry much faster.

by Sabina Allakulova

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