The first phases of the
International Space Station project have already begun.
The second Space Shuttle, Americas Columbia (the first shuttle was
called the Enterprise) takes its inaugural flight into Earths Orbit. The mission
objectives are to evaluate the shuttle system and accomplish a safe ascent into orbit with
a safe return and safe landing. The mission objectives are met and Columbia passes with
flying colors. Columbia makes 37 orbits of Earth over the course of two days, six hours,
20 minutes and 53 seconds. In this time, Columbia travels 1,074,567 miles. The
shuttles worthiness as a space vehicle is assured.
1981-AIDS Hits Home
The HIV virus was discovered as
the cause of AIDS in 1985.
Originally called the "Slim Disease" in Africa, for
sufferers were emaciated before dying, infections that an intact immune system would fight
off were documented as early as 1977 in Zaire. The two most common of these infections
were pneumonia (pnuemocystis carinii) and Kaposis sarcoma, a rare skin cancer.
Outbreaks afflict gay men in New York and San Francisco where this still unknown disease
is dubbed the gay cancer. The epidemic yields more questions than answers in 1981.
1981-Mechanical Heart Transplanted
Dr. Robert Jarvik designs the first permanent artificial heart, of which
Barney Clark is the first recipient. Dr. William DeVries, along with the surgeons at the
University of Utah Medical Center, implant the mechanical heart, but Clark dies 112 days
later. Artificial hearts and ventricular assist devices are now used as temporary measures
to allow heart muscle to recover function or until a heart donor can be found.
1981-Insulin Genetically Engineered
The Food & Drug Administration gives Genentech, Inc. approval to
market genetically engineered human insulin. This marks the first genetically engineered
drug, a form of human insulin produced by bacteria.
Each person has a unique DNA fingerprint. Typical fingerprints are found
only at the tips of the fingers and can be surgically removed. DNA fingerprints are the
same for every cell, tissue and organ of a person. This is rapidly becoming the primary
method for identifying people. Genetic scientists claim that everyone is 99.9 percent
identical, but in a DNA code of three billion letters, even a tenth of a percent
difference translates into three million spelling differences, making us all unique. In
order for DNA to be "fingerprinted," a very small handful of sites of variation
between people are examined. These provide unique sequences of DNA with which to identify
1985-HIV: The virus that causes AIDS
The virus that causes AIDS is identified by two independently working
researchers at the same time. Robert Gallo, of the U.S. National Cancer Institute and Luc
Montagnier, of Frances Pasteur Institute, break the genetic sequence of the virus.
An International Commission declares that both researchers found the same virus and call
it the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV.
Mid 1980s-Atomic Bonds
The Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) allows scientists to directly push atoms
and molecules about and prod them into place. Nanotechnology, a proposed technology
seeking to build electronic instruments at the molecular level, relies heavily on this
instrument. The tip at the end of the AFMs extremely sensitive cantilever probes the
surface of atoms. A laser beam reflects off the cantilever to a spot on a
position-sensitive photodetector. The cantilever bends along the varying topography or
forces on the atoms surface, causing the laser spot to move. Its displacement is
read by the photodetector to make an image.
A major breakthrough in the medical treatment of depression is heralded by
the marketing of Prozac as an antidepressant. Prozac increases the levels of serotonin, a
neurotransmitter in the brain. This increase improves depression. Prozac can treat the
entire spectrum of depression from mild to most severe. In addition to this, Prozac can be
used to treat obsessive-compulsive behavior. It is also useful in panic disorders and
other types of anxiety and phobias. People taking Prozac report increases in their ability
to concentrate and increases in their energy and mental acuity. In fact, they function at
a much higher level, hence the dubbing of Prozac as the "better than well" pill.
1990-Mapping the Body
A major undertaking, called the Human Genome Project, is begun in 1990 to
map human DNA. Such a map should give better insights into disease diagnosis and
prediction as well as provide information about disease intervention. The project is
coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institute of Health. It
seeks to identify all the estimated 80,000-100,000 genes in human DNA and determine the
sequences of the three billion chemical bases that make up human DNA. The Project plans to
store this information in databases and develop tools for a data analysis. It will also
address the ethical, legal and social issues that may arise from this project. Originally
forecasted as a 15-year project, rapid technological advances accelerated the project to
an expected completion date of 2003.
1990-Diplomacy In Space
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a space-based observatory designed to
benefit the international astronomy community. The European Space Agency (ESA) and the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) worked cooperatively to launch the
Hubble into space.
The Earths atmosphere bends light, causing distortion in images that
can be viewed by an Earth- bound telescope. A space-based observatory is free of such
distortions. In 1940, Hubble dreamed of a space-based observatory. The original designs
for the HST, which became operational in the 1990s, were drawn in the 1970s and 1980s.
Mid 1990s-The World Wide Web
Before the mid-1990s, use of wide-area computer networks was unheard of
except by the military and some other government agencies. Before the Internet was the
ARPANET, which was demonstrated at the International Computer Communication Conference
(ICCC). The ICCC marked the first public display of this new network technology available
to the public. Also around this time, Ray Tomlinson is working on another "hot"
application- electronic mail. The ability to share information across networks leads Tim
Berners-Lee to coin the term, "World Wide Web."
1990-A Small World, After All
Researchers into nanotechnology at Japans NEC discover a new form of
Carbon which they call nanotubes. Nanotubes are long pipes of a rolled-up sheet of
graphite which are electrically conducting and can be made into wires only a few
nanometers in diameter. It is hoped that the further miniaturization of microchips will be
possible making chips from these nanotubes, which have been likened to cooked spaghetti.
Like cooked spaghetti, each nanotube will stick to a surface and maintain any shape it is
placed in. Good electrical contact between the nanotube and metal electrodes is also
possible following this adhesion. Nanotubes may form the new circuitry for nanotechnology,
which is done at the molecular level.
Researchers at George Washington University successfully clone human
embryos and nurture them in a petri dish for several days. Cloning is accomplished via
nuclear transfer. In nuclear transfer, an embryos nucleus, or controlling genetic
mechanism, is first removed. A nucleus from a cell of the human to be cloned is then
transferred and fused into the embryo. The embryo then develops under the genetic
supervision of the transferred nucleus, making a clone.
1994-Shoemaker Shines Jupiter
The comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collides with Jupiter from July 16 to July 22,
marking the first observation of the collision of two bodies in the Solar System.
Twenty-one discernable fragments impact the planet Jupiter, some estimated to have
diameters of up to two kilometers. Each fragment explodes on impact, creating a fireball
that rises above the cloud tops. Pressure waves are created in the atmosphere and
"surface waves" at the cloud tops.
1994-Our Humble Origins
The time humans have been on Earth is pushed back with the finding of the
fossilized remains of the oldest human ancestor to date. Dating of the find places it at
4.4 million years old. Scientists speculate that the find may demonstrate a common link
between humans and chimpanzees.
1994-Microbes are from Mars
Evidence that strongly suggests primitive life may have existed on Mars
more than 3.6 billion years ago is found in a Martian meteorite. The findings are
controversial to the scientific community. A NASA research team of scientists at the
Johnson Space Center (JSC) Houston, TX and Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA investigate
the meteorite and find several mineral features characteristic of biological activity. The
meteorite may have also yielded microscopic fossils of primitive, bacteria-like organisms.
Dolly is named by Science magazine as the top scientific
breakthrough of 1997. Researchers at the Roslin Institute successfully clone Dolly from
another sheep. A nine-day-old sheep embryo is taken from a pregnant ewe at a stage when
the embryo has cells that are not differentiated into any particular organ or tissue type.
These cells, called Totipotent cells, can develop into any organ or tissue type under the
proper conditions. The nucleus is removed, a nuclear transfer from the sheep they wish to
clone is attached and by the process of electrofusion becomes the new nucleus. The embryo
is then inserted into a sheep that carries it to term.
1997-Pathfinder Roams Mars
The Mars Pathfinder Sojourner Rover marks an innovation in remote sensing,
or the gathering of data from a distance. The Pathfinder, designed to send pictures of
Mars back to Earth, travels across the surface of Mars on 6 wheels at 0.4 inches per
second. The Pathfinder is 2 feet long, 1.5 feet wide and 1 foot tall. To prevent it from
tipping over, the Pathfinder is designed with a rocker-bogie system. The joints of this
system bend to conform to the contour of the ground. This system, which is best for rocky
terrain, allows the Pathfinder to tilt up to 60 degrees in order to climb over rocks.
Three motion sensors detect any excessive tilt and stop the Pathfinder from moving.
1998-Viagra Makes Queens Into Kings
Pfizer, Inc. develops Viagra as a treatment for male impotency. The Food
& Drug Administration approves the pill- which claims a success rate of 80 percent-
for marketing. Viagra works with the bodys natural erection process by increasing
the bodys ability to achieve and maintain an erection.
Space Station Launched
The International Space Station (ISS) marks the largest peacetime
effort involving 16 nations. NASA leads the way with its chief contractor, the Boening
Company, in producing a giant Earth-orbiting laboratory. On this Space Station,
international crews will live and work in space, running experiments that will benefit
from the ISSs microgravity environment. A microgravity environment doesnt
really mean that there is little or no gravity. An object in orbit is falling all the time
but never hits the ground; this is known as free-fall. Over the next five years, 45
launches will put nearly a million pounds of hardware into orbit 220 miles above the
Earths surface. The first component, Zarya, (which means "sunrise") built
by the Russians, will provide the initial propulsion and power for the ISS. It will later
provide orbital control, communications and power for the U.S. component, Unity.
1999-Big Bang Revisited
The Very Large Telescope (VLT), which will be the worlds largest and
most advanced optical telescope, will be constructed at the Paranal Observatory in
Atacama, Chile by the European Southern Observatory. The telescope is an array or series
of telescopes that can work together as if it were one larger telescope. The VLT will come
closest to imaging the Big Bang, which the Hubble Space Telescope, with its smaller
surface area mirrors, cannot see.