Until this century, we could only observe space from Earth, but in 1957, the first man-made satellite was launched. Now, we explore other planets with robotic vehicles and astronauts live in a space station. Scientists also scan the heavens using powerful telescopes to learn about planets, comets, asteroids, nebulas, stars and other galaxies. To learn more about space exploration, use the direct links on The Times Launch Point Web site: http://www.latimes.com/launchpoint/
StarChild: Space Stuff: Did you know that Sputnik II was launched with a dog named Laika? Important figures in the history of space exploration are featured. Find out about space probes that perform scientific investigations such as taking pictures and testing soil samples.
Kids Space: A space shuttle is a vehicle that takes off like a rocket, orbits like a spacecraft and lands like an airplane. Get the scoop on space shuttles, spacesuits and careers in space. Try some space puzzles and quizzes and discover what you would weigh on another planet.
Spacecraft Cassini Is Going to Saturn! Italian astronomer Jean Dominique Cassini discovered that the planet Saturn had rings around it that were made of particles and tiny moons. Obtain the facts about the spacecraft named after him that will explore Saturn in 2004.
Galactic Odyssey: Space exploration has led to a range of important medical discoveries such as special devices that can detect early signs of vision problems. Read about early space exploration pioneers and view video clips of such moments as the first real moonwalk.
Space Exploration Home Page: In 1903, Russian schoolteacher Konstantin Tsiolkovsky figured out important principles of rocketry without ever building a rocket. Find out about orbits, spacecraft design and model rocket safety and get all the help you need to earn the Boy Scout Space Exploration merit badge.
Student Astronaut Challenge: What is it like to be an astronaut? Join the crew that serviced the Hubble Space Telescope and see if you can solve the final challenge.
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History of Space Exploration: The United States is not the only country that has made contributions to space exploration. This site will guide you through the international history of space exploration. You can search this site by date, by planetary body or by order of solar system discoveries.
Space Magnificent: Explore deep space through the eyes of the powerful Hubble Telescope. Take a close look at beautiful clouds of energized interstellar gases called nebulas. Check out the stories behind these stunning images of space.
Lunar Prospector: Welcome to the Moon. Stay up to date with the current mission of the spacecraft, the Lunar Prospector, as it searches for water ice on the moon's surface.
\o7 Launch Point is produced by the UC Irvine department of education, which reviews each site for appropriateness and quality. Even so, parents should supervise their children's use of the Internet. This week's column was designed by Carrie Singer, Barton Hickson and Anna Manring.\f7
EXPLORER'S QUEST QUESTION: How can a spacecraft increase its speed without using any extra fuel?
CLUE: See Spacecraft Cassini is Going to Saturn!
Find What You Need to Know: Have a project on California history? Need help doing a math problem? Launch Point now covers more than 50 topics for getting your schoolwork done. Go to \o7 http://www.latimes.com/launchpoint/\f7 for the full list of subjects and direct links to the best Internet sites.
Answer to last week's Quest: Algae, which were the first plants on Earth, produce more than half of the oxygen we breathe.