The first Friday in May is National Space Day, celebrating all the advancements and achievements made in space exploration throughout the years. This day also aims to inspire young people to enjoy learning science, engineering, math, and technology, and maybe even pursue a career in one of these fields, to be the generation that advances space exploration even further.
Get your telescopes out for National Space Day, and get to exploring the night sky in your area.
History of National Space Day
The Lockheed Martin Corporation hosted National Space Day for the first time in 1997, to teach young people about different aerospace careers, and inspire them to become interested in space exploration. What was meant to be a one-off event became so popular with teachers, space enthusiasts, and aerospace workers, that it continued to be celebrated every year. In 2001, John Glenn, a former astronaut and U.S. Senator tried to make this into a worldwide observance by creating International Space Day.
Space has fascinated us, humans, since the beginning of time. The study of planets and stars that would evolve into the science of astronomy that we know today was first developed by the Ancient Greeks. Before this, early cultures revered the sky and identified different constellations and planets as sky gods and spirits.
One of the first big developments for astronomy happened in 1543, when Copernicus published his study on the heliocentric system when he discovered that the planets revolved around the sun. Later, in the 17th century, Galileo Galilei became "the father of astronomy" by dedicating his life to the study of space and building different tools for observing and studying space, such as the first telescope, which allowed him to discover things such as the phases of Venus and the observation of Saturn's rings, among many other contributions to astronomy.
Later, in the 20th century, America and Russia began their race for space, each attempting to become the first country to send a man to the moon. That was achieved on July 16, 1969, when American spaceflight Apollo 11 sent astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the moon, with Armstrong becoming the first human to ever walk on the surface of the moon.
How to Celebrate National Space Day
Celebrate this holiday by making an effort to learn more about space and astronomy. There may be events held by schools, organizations, or groups of space enthusiasts on this day, such as exhibitions, lectures and seminars, that you can attend to expand your knowledge.
As an alternative, you can grab your telescope and go to an open area at night (preferably away from the city) to explore the night sky by yourself. Make it fun by seeing how many stars, constellations, and planets you can identify.
No telescope? There are many educational resources about space that you can look out for such as books, documentaries, and websites with a lot of information about astronomy.