A quick tour of the solar system
by Robin Scagell
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You may use any of the pictures for school projects, but if you use any of the information here you must rewrite it in your own words (or your teacher will probably catch you out!)
To anyone who’s used to watching Star Trek, the solar system is really on our doorstep – the other planets that go round the Sun, along with the Earth. But if we wanted to go to the other planets at the moment, we’d have to find a better way of getting around than ordinary rockets. They’re just so slow! Actually, the problem is getting the fuel. If there were plenty of rocket fuel in space already, we could just fill up and zoom off wherever we wanted to go as quickly as we liked.
So let’s imagine that we’ve got a super-rocket that can travel a million miles an hour – about 40 times faster than the best rockets we have today – and set off to visit the rest of the solar system. Our spaceship would have to carry all our food and air for a long trip – because there is no proper air on any of the places we are going to visit. In between the planets is space – almost complete emptiness, with no air to breathe. And most of the planets either have no air, or it’s not the right kind of air for us.
If we want to explore, we will need spacesuits. Without them, not only would we be unable to breathe but other things would happen to us. Our blood would boil instantly, because we need the pressure of the air surrounding us. If there is no air pressure, things boil almost instantly. We also need some protection against the fierce light of the Sun, which is much stronger in space and would give us sunburn within a few minutes. And if there is a sudden stream or particles thrown off by the Sun, we’d need somewhere to shelter – our atmosphere also shields us from space particles and dust particles that go so fast they are as powerful as a bullet.
So now we are ready to begin our tour of the solar system. If you want facts and figures, get them from this NASA website which will give you the very latest information.
Rocket leaving Earth orbit
Astronaut in space suit