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space science

Introduction

space science, body of scientific knowledge as it relates to space exploration; it is sometimes also called astronautics. Space science draws on the conventional sciences of physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering, as well as requiring specific research of its own. The particular disciplines that are relevant depend on the type of mission being planned. There are four basic categories of space mission. The sounding rocket is restricted to suborbital flights with maximum altitude between 35 and 1,300 mi (55–2,100 km). Artificial satellites orbit the earth at altitudes between one hundred and several thousand miles. Space probes travel to the moon and planets. The final and most complex category is human spaceflight, of which the Apollo moon landings, the space shuttle, and the Skylab, Mir, and International space stations are the outstanding examples. The problems that space science must deal with include prediction and control of trajectories and orbits, telecommunications between spacecraft and earth, spacecraft design and fabrication, and life-support systems for human spaceflight.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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