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Curious About Space Travel? Here are 7 Rocket Facts to Wow Your Friends With

7 Rocket Facts to Wow Your Friends With

The ‘Race to Mars’ between Space X and other space travel rivals has captured the imagination of people all around the world. The idea of landing on the red planet is something that was mere science fiction just a decade ago, but new rocket technology means that it’s now a real possibility.

But what about the technology behind the mission, the rockets that will power the spacecraft, or how space engineers are planning to overcome the odds of failure?

Here are seven interesting facts about the trajectory of rockets throughout history, and how we’ve arrived at today’s incredible machines.

Rocket comes from the Latin word for ‘coil’

The ultra-modern rockets powered by the likes of Space X today have come a long way from their original meaning. Many modern English words are derived from Latin, so it’s natural that their definition changes over the course of centuries. ‘Casino’, for example, roughly translates as ‘little house’, or the place where the first gamblers used to play, a far cry from the virtual online casinos that we know today.

Rocket, meanwhile, comes from ‘rocchetino’, or ‘coil’. This refers to the simple mechanism that powered the first rudimentary rockets centuries ago when simple kinetic energy thrust the first object through the air.

You can make a rocket at home

Paper, an antacid table, a plastic canister, water…these items, along with a few others, are what you need to construct a homemade rocket.

The gas released by the breaking bubbles caused by the fizzing tablet pops the bottom of the canister, causing water and gas to rush out and push it up with the rocket attached to it.

This is known as the law of action and reaction, and you can try it out yourself in just 30 minutes!

Liquid fuel is much more powerful than solid fuel

The very first rockets, thought to come from 13th-century China, used solid fuel. However, the age of space travel was only made possible through the invention of liquid fuel, which causes stronger chemical reactions and thus stronger propulsion through its super-reactive oxidizers.

Liquid fuel’s sheer power, however – it powers a speed of 4.9 miles per second (or almost 18,000 miles per hour) – means that it’s extremely volatile. If handled or stored incorrectly, it can be very dangerous.

Rockets launch in three stages

Remember seeing your first rocket launch? You may have been surprised how parts of the rocket seemed to fall apart as it took off.

This is just part of the launch procedure, which happens in three essential stages:

1.  Ignition

The spectacular first stage includes the countdown and the blast of rocket jets as scores of chemical reactions launch the spacecraft upwards with huge force.

  • Rocket exhaust breakoff

The exhaust that powered the ignition isn’t needed anymore, so it will break off once the launch fuel has run out.

  • Second-stage fuel reserve used

The next reserve of fuel kicks in, which powers the craft until it reaches orbit.

A rocket can travel through a vacuum

You may have been taught that nothing can exist in a vacuum at school, but this isn’t true. It’s a common misconception amongst science teachers, but they were probably confusing it with a black hole.

While there is no air or atmosphere in the giant vacuum that we call space, spacecraft can move through it via a chemical reaction within its engines that propels it forward. The rocket exhaust produced from it is pushed in the opposite direction, allowing the craft to keep its speed up and navigate its way through space.

Rockets have reached 14.5 billion miles away

Humans have managed to send rockets out to an almost incomprehensible distance away. The Voyager 1 and 2 twin crafts had reached 14.5 billion miles away by January 2022: This is part of a zone known as the heliosheath, an area just inside the boundary of our solar system.

The next step? Well, the rockets are heading for the heliopause, which scientists say is the edge of the solar system – and we know relatively little about the area beyond that.

So far, we’ve found out that cosmic radiation out there is very intense, as well as important info about how sun-charged particles interact with star particles, according to an interview with project scientist Ed Stone.

 

We’re about to see reusable rockets

Back here on Earth, we’re in the grip of a climate crisis that threatens our existence on this planet, so it was inevitable that eco-friendly topics entered the rocket industry, too.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 craft is famous for many things – not just the reputation of its owner, Elon Musk – but one of the most interesting things about its successor, Starship, is that it aims to be fully reusable.

The craft’s orbital test flight is set to take place later this year, so the world will be watching to see if the first-ever reusable rocket ship can make its way around the world safely.

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