Five really cool facts about spaceflight

Five of your burning questions about spaceflight answered, right here.


Credit ESA

Why do rockets take off close to the equator?

The Earth spins on an axis that runs through both poles. This means the poles experience little to no rotational force from the Earth, whereas the equator experiences the maximum possible force. By launching close to the equator, rockets get an extra boost of speed from the rotation of the Earth that helps them reach orbit.

What is the longest an astronaut has been in space?

The record for the longest continuous time spent in space is held by Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov, who spent 437.7 days on board Mir in 1994-95. The record for longest non-continuous time in space belongs to cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev who has spent 2.2 years in space on board Soyuz, the Space Shuttle, Mir and the ISS.

How do rockets move through space if there’s nothing to push against?

Under Newton’s Third Law, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So, even though there’s nothing to push against, the force of the propellant leaving the rocket pushes it forwards with the same force.

What is space sickness?

On Earth we analyse our surroundings predominantly with our eyes and ears in order to balance. However, in space your ear receptors are rendered useless, so you must rely on vision alone. This can be disconcerting during the first few months in space, and can often lead to a bout of nasty space sickness.

What was the first animal in space?

The first animals to be sent into space were fruit flies on board a US V2 rocket on 20 February 1947. The first mammal in space was the Rhesus Monkey Albert II on 14 June 1949, while the first animal to orbit the Earth was the Russian dog Laika on 3 November 1957.

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