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Final Frontier: Voyages into Outer Space
Final Frontier: Voyages into Outer Space Final Frontier: Voyages into Outer Space Final Frontier: Voyages into Outer Space Final Frontier: Voyages into Outer Space

* Book Type:

Publisher: Firefly Books

Author Statement: David Owen
Audience: Juvenile
Age range lower: 11
Age range upper: 14
Specs: 300 color photographs and illustrations, glossary
Pages: 128
Trim Size: 5 3/4" x 9"
Language code 1: eng
Publication Date: 20040901
Price: Select Below


Final Frontier: Voyages into Outer Space

Space exploration from early attempts to the future including: the Apollo missions, space shuttle, international space station, Hubble Space Telescope and unmanned space probes.

A young reader's guide to space exploration.

Final Frontier is an illustrated guide to the past, present and future of space exploration. The book covers the early history of space flight: from the first unmanned missions, to the early manned flights and finally to the Apollo moon missions. Space program successes and failures are covered including the disasters that befell Apollo 1 and the shuttles Challenger and Columbia.

The book explains how deep space is explored today with such sophisticated telescopes and space probes as:

  • Hubble Space Telescope
  • Manned space stations
  • Unmanned probes such as Voyager and Pioneer
  • Space stations such as Mir and Apollo-Soyuz.

The proposed International Space Station is described as well as the unique challenges people will encounter in space such as living in a zero-gravity environment.

The future of space exploration is discussed including the possibility of alien life on other solar systems. Proposed projects such as an automated lunar mining operation and a scientific base on Mars are also covered.

Readers will enjoy Final Frontier for its colorful, abundant illustrations and easy-to-follow text.


David Owen is the author of Spies, Hidden Evidence and Hidden Secrets.

First Chapter:

Chapter 1
The Mapping of Space

Step by step, pioneer astronomers gained new knowledge of the heavens, which later enabled people to launch spacecraft to distant planets and send humans to the Moon.

Since humans first walked upon the Earth, they have been awed by the spectacle of the starlit sky. Ancient civilizations named groups of stars after their gods or heroes. The Babylonians used calculations to predict planetary movements, and the Mayans of Mexico and Central America studied the stars to determine planting and harvesting times. The ancient monument of Stonehenge in England may be a complex astronomical computer.

Some 2,000 years ago, astronomy began to develop as a science. One of the pioneers was Claudius Ptolemy, a Greek working in Egypt around AD 127-41. Using his naked eye, Ptolemy mapped the heavens. He thought the Earth was stationary, with the Sun, the Moon and the planets all revolving around it on circular orbits. Centuries later, Ptolemy's basic ideas would be proven wrong.

In the meantime, humans found new ways to use astronomy. On clear nights, navigators at sea could spot true north by locating the Pole Star. Later, they used instruments, such as the sextant, and printed tables showing the positions of the stars to find their ship's position on an ocean voyage.

Ptolemy's map came under fire in 1543. A Polish priest and mathematician named Copernicus (or Niklas Koppernigk) noted variations in the way planets moved, which Ptolemy's ideas did not explain. He also thought that the Sun, not Earth, was at the center of the universe while Earth, and all the other planets, rotated in circular orbits around it.

That century brought another big discovery. In 1572, a new star appeared in the constellation of Cassiopeia, blazing so brightly that it could be seen in the daytime. This was a nova, although nobody knew this at the time. Yet its real importance lay in where it was. Using instruments created by a Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe, astronomers realized that this new star must be a colossal distance from Earth.

Brahe thought that Copernicus's map was partly wrong. He said that all the planets but Earth moved around the Sun. Both the Sun and the Moon, said Brahe, were in orbit around Earth. But a young German mathematician and astronomer, Johannes Kepler, questioned this theory. Kepler became Brahe's assistant in 1600. After Brahe died in 1602, Kepler studied his paperwork and calculations. They did not match his observations of how the planets moved, especially Mars. Its orbit was measurably longer on one side of the Sun than it was on the other. By 1606, Kepler had concluded that the planets moved in elliptical orbits, not circular ones.

Progress was made with the invention of the telescope. The Dutch developed a type of spyglass, which they brought to the trading city of Venice, Italy, in 1609. A scientist and mathematician from Padua named Galileo Galilei was working there. After he heard about the new invention, he figured out how to make his own device, which magnified distant images about three times. Within months, he had made a telescope with a magnification factor of 30. Galileo explored the night skies and saw many previously invisible stars. He scanned the surface of the Moon and its craters and mountain ranges.

When he studied Jupiter, the largest planet of the solar system, he was surprised to find that four bodies which had looked like stars were actually planets or moons. They were in orbit around Jupiter, like the Moon circling Earth. Galileo realized that if Jupiter could have four moons and still orbit around the Sun, maybe the Earth and its one moon did the same? He went on to study Venus. His observations supported Copernicus and Kepler's explanation of the relationship of the planets, as they orbited around the Sun at different distances from it.

In 1610 and 1632, Galileo wrote two famous papers discussing his theories. They clashed with the teachings of the Catholic Church, which placed Earth at the center of the solar system. Galileo was put on trial in Rome in 1633 and found guilty of heresy. Threatened with torture, he was forced to deny all his work, then placed under house arrest and forbidden to discuss or publish anything about astronomy. Galileo died nine years later, still confined to his house. For more than two centuries, all Catholics were forbidden to read his papers. But other scientists continued to ask questions and make observations that revealed the laws of space and how the universe works.

Kepler had said that the length of a planet's orbit was proportional to its distance from the Sun. He suggested that some kind of force between Earth and the Moon maintained that orbit and caused tides to form. But how was it possible for Earth to move through space without this being obvious to anyone standing on its surface?

The answers came from a brilliant British mathematician, Sir Isaac Newton. Newton suggested that all objects attract other objects relative to their size. A person standing on the Earth's surface is held to Earth by gravity, but the person's mass also attracts Earth by an immeasurably small amount. Furthermore, gravity also holds the atmosphere in place, so there is no sensation of Earth's movement through space at its surface. Earth, the atmosphere and everything on its surface are all moving through space at exactly the same velocity. The only signs of movement are the Sun's path across the heavens by day, and the rotation of the stars about the Pole Star at night.

With his three Laws of Motion, Newton could explain all planetary movements. His first law stated that any immobile body will either stay at rest in the same position, or will continue its motion in a straight line, unless acted on by an outside force. The second law stated that the action of an outside force on a body will make it speed up in the direction of the force, by an amount proportional to the size of the force. Newton's third law went on to state that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Newton proposed that a body attracts any other body with a force directly proportional to the result of their masses multiplied together, and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. This explained why the Moon stayed in orbit around Earth, for example. Newton's first law showed its natural tendency was to move in a straight line, but this was balanced by the gravity between Earth and the Moon that forced it to follow a regular orbit around the planet.

At last scientists could explain how and why the planets move around the Sun. Moreover, Newton's concept of gravity would eventually help scientists control a spacecraft so that it followed a desired path through the gravitational fields of different planets across the solar system and into deeper space. His findings, first published in 1682, have remained vital in space exploration.

Other scientists built on this work and added new ideas. Newton and others thought that the speed of light should vary depending on whether it was measured with or against the rotation of Earth. Early in the 20th century, however, German-born physicist Albert Einstein based his Theories of Relativity on the assumption that the speed of light never changes. In the "Special Theory of Relativity," he showed that because the speed of light is a constant, time would pass at different rates depending on the speed of the person measuring it. Similarly, mass and energy can be converted from one to the other. Einstein went on to develop the general theory of relativity, which showed that the effects of gravity and acceleration are identical.

A German astronomer, Friedrich Bessel, demonstrated the size of the universe beyond the solar system. He noticed an apparent change of position of a distant star, 61 Cygni, caused by Earth moving around the Sun. He calculated the distance between Earth and the star as approximately 60 million million miles (96 million million kilometers).

In 1851, a French physicist showed that Earth was rotating about its own axis. By then, improved telescopes had identified two more planets: Uranus (1781) and Neptune (1846). The outermost planet, Pluto, was finally spotted in 1930. William Herschel, who had first identified Uranus, also studied the densest pattern of stars in the night sky: the Milky Way. He suggested that the solar system is part of a much larger group of stars called a galaxy.

In 1918, American astronomer Harlow Shapley measured the distances of clusters of stars within the galaxy, and used his findings to calculate the size of the whole galaxy as 100,000 light-years across. Furthermore, the Sun was outclassed by powerful neighbors among the 100,000 million galaxy stars.

Six years later, another American, Edwin Hubble, confirmed the importance of the Milky Way. Using the huge Mount Wilson telescope, he identified whole groups of galaxies, and found that each one was receding from another. This proved that the universe was vaster than all previous estimates, and is continually expanding. Hubble discovered that the galaxies were moving farther apart based on the light they emitted. He found that other, more distant galaxies were receding more quickly.

This discovery excited scientists. Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian astrophysicist, suggested in 1927 that if this movement were reversed, all the galaxies would come together in one spot at the center of the universe. Perhaps the universe had begun from what he termed a cosmic egg, by an enormous explosion that accelerated fragments in different directions throughout space? This became known as the big bang theory.

Later, a rival group of astronomers devised the steady state theory. This suggested that as the galaxies receded from one another, new material was created from interstellar gas to fill the gap, so the structure and appearance of the universe never changed. A third theory was the oscillating universe. It suggested that gravity would slow down the vanishing galaxies, which would plunge back into the center of the universe, to trigger a huge explosion and yet another expansion.

Current evidence favors the big bang theory. The colossal distance of some very distant sources of the radiation picked up by radio telescopes show that this radiation began its journey to Earth millions of years ago. Older radio sources are more numerous than objects closer to Earth, which means the structure of the universe has changed over time. A new discovery, made in 1965, reinforces the big bang theory. Scientists found that space was slightly warmer than the theoretical temperature of absolute zero. Astronomers think the heat energy was left from the original big bang. Furthermore, none of the receding galaxies seems to be slowing down, casting doubt on the idea of the oscillating universe.


  1. The Mapping of Space
  2. The Rise of the Rocket
  3. Launching the First Satellites
  4. Humans in Space
  5. Destination Moon
  6. The Space Shuttle
  7. Space Stations
  8. To the Solar System and Beyond
  9. Space Spin-offs
  10. An Exciting Future
  11. Glossary

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