On 4 October 1957, Sputnik 1 was launched into space by the Soviet Union. It was the first successful satellite (an object intentionally sent into orbit) made by humans. Since then, about 8,900 satellites from 40 countries have been launched; over 550 people have been in space, and 12 have walked on the Moon.

Today marks the start of International Space Week. It is a time to celebrate the great achievements and discoveries of space exploration.

This year, Space Week is about the relevance of space exploration to our daily lives, with particular focus on the theme of satellites.

Sputnik 1 has long since returned to the Earth’s atmosphere and burnt up. But there are many still in space. In January 2020, there were roughly 2,000 operational satellites in orbit and 3,000 “dead” ones littering space.

From watching TV and using the internet, to making phone calls, to using Google Maps, satellites affect our daily lives. They are used in medicine, transport and space exploration.

Positioned above the Earth, satellites also provide information about clouds, oceans, land, and ice. They measure gases, such as ozone and carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. Scientists can use these data to predict and monitor climate change.

How will you celebrate space this week?

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  1. Design an infographic presenting important moments in the history of space exploration.
  2. Imagine you moved to a foreign planet and could only take one suitcase of items to remind you of life on Earth. Make a packing list.
  3. Some companies are preparing opportunities for commercial travel in space. Come up with five arguments for and against space tourism, writing them in two columns.