The Universe - Technology Moves Science Forward

When Galileo looked into his elementary telescope, he became a pioneer in establishing the role that technology would play in our exploration of the universe. Today we have many tools that are used to help gain a better understanding of the space that surrounds us. We have telescopes that can detect virtually every kind of radiation; from Radio waves to X-rays. You may have seen the movie Contact starring Jodie Foster, in which she is a radio astronomer working with what looks like a group of very large satellite dishes. Those dishes are actually a group of radio telescopes at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Radio telescopes are used to detect radio waves, while an ultraviolet telescope detects ultraviolet waves. In 1990, the United States launched the Hubble Space Telescope about 600 kilometers into orbit around Earth.


The Hubble Space Telescope has very precise instruments that allow it to look deep into space. It has allowed scientists to see the formation of new stars, objects that are over 10 billion light years away. It has instruments that allow us to determine a star's mass, composition, age, and distance. Since it lies above Earth's atmosphere, it doesn't deal with the distortions caused by Earth's atmosphere and has provided some of spectacular views of the deep universe.

In 2004, NASA landed two rovers on our nearest planetary neighbor, Mars. While the Hubble is geared toward a study of deeper space, these two rovers were sent to study Mars in order to help us gain a better understanding our solar system. They were equipped with cameras that allowed three-dimensional photographs to be taken of the Martian surface, a microscope that serves as a camera as well, a grinder to cut into rock, a spectrometer, and a variety of other instruments. The rovers can do experiments in the fields of microbiology, geology, and chemistry. When launched, one of the primary goals was to investigate signs of water on the surface of the Red Planet. With this data, we have found several minerals and rock formations that indicate that liquid water may have once been found on the surface.

These are just two examples of how technology has assisted us in learning more about the universe. We cannot gain a better appreciation of Earth and its surroundings without technological advancement.

To learn more about the Hubble Space Telescope and the Mars Rovers, visit the NASA website.

What advances in technology do you predict may be developed and used in the future to explore space? Diagram one of these technology devices. It may seem that you are developing a science fiction device, but many advances in science have occurred after someone described them in a science fiction novel. Who knows, you may become famous for the development of an important technology.