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The Conquest of Space: Space Exploration and Rocket Science

Universidad Carlos iii de Madrid via edX


Space exploration plays a major role in the history of humankind. The cultural, political and sociological repercussions are extraordinary, and the amount of resources dedicated to space exploration is enormous. This aerospace course is a first step for those interested in learning more about the history of the space and the impact of space exploration on our daily lives.

Each week we will focus on a major chapter in the history of space exploration accompanied by an introduction to the relevant technical topics to fully understand these historical developments. During the seven weeks of the course, we will follow the technical, political and cultural contexts that lead to the birth of the space age, uncover the evolution of space exploration from competition to cooperation in the Apollo and post-Apollo era and finally, analyze current trends in space exploration.

By successfully completing this course, you will acquire the critical tools to understand the key events and developments of the Space Age. You will learn to solve basic technical and engineering problems of space travel, rocket propulsion, space systems, and human space flight.

Course image: Rosetta at Comet (landscape) / Copyright: ESA/ATG medialab; Comet image: ESA/Rosetta/Navcam.


Week 1: The first dreamers and visionaries. Frau im Mond (1929)
Towards space travel. When the story begins. Imagining space travel. Spaceflight literature. Promoting space travel. Pioneers and visionaries. The motion of celestial bodies.

Week 2: The first missiles. The vengeance weapon V-2 (1944)
Times of Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. Principles of rocket operation. V-2. Rockets and the birth of the Cold War. Chemical rockets.

Week 3: The dawn of the Space Age. Sputnik (1957)
Treaty of Rome and Sputnik. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. International Astronautical Federation. Rockets and Atmospheric exploration. IGY. The Space Environment. Sputnik and the birth of the space era.

Week 4: The Giant Leap. Apollo 11 (1969)
The Giant Leap. First Man in Orbit. Moon Race. Apollo. Introduction to Space Systems I.

Week 5: Space Cooperation. Birth of ESA (1975)
Post-Moon-race cooperation. Soyuz-Apollo programme. ESA example of cooperation. The International Space Station (ISS). Introduction to Space Systems II. Life in space. Accessing space.

Week 6: Using space for Humankind. The exploitation of space
Today’s life needs space. Telecommunications. Earth Observation. GNSS. Space Situational Awareness. Space technologies back on the Earth.

Week 7: Looking ahead. Ambition (2015)
What’s next? Human Exploration of the Solar System. Robotic Exploration of the Solar System. Scientific Exploration of the Universe. Space Tourism. Getting farther and beyond: electric propulsion.


4.7 rating, based on 3 Class Central reviews

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  • Kristina Šekrst completed this course and found the course difficulty to be hard.

    This is a nice course, and it covers engineering, mathematics, physics, history and future of space exploration as well. However, advanced mathematics is needed for the first couple of classes, and this may fool people into thinking the course is calculus-oriented. It was a nice one, and it's nice to see a European course about space exploration once in a while. It's a great course if you have prior knowledge and background in a bit of astronomy, mathematics and engineering, even though sometimes feels rushed.
  • George Tang

    George Tang completed this course, spending 6 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    This course is really worth my time, and the instructors explain the contents really in detail. It is really content-heavy, so especially if you are a beginner, it will take a lot of time. Some math and physics will help a lot in some technical topics. However, I would like the tests to have 2 attempts instead of 1 so everyone can learn from their mistakes and try again, and the practice ones(ungraded) to have unlimited attempts.
  • Jonathan Golland completed this course.

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