Space science encompasses all scientific disciplines that involve the exploration of space and the study of natural phenomena and physical bodies that occur in outer space, such as space medicine and astrobiology. Various branches of the science study space. Those that focus primarily on space include astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology. In addition, many other countries became involved in space activities through the participation of their scientists in specific missions.
In particular, the presence in space of human beings as experimenters and, in some cases, as experimental subjects facilitated studies in biomedicine and materials science. Early space science research showed, for example, that luminous atmospheric exhibits known as auroras are the result of this interaction, and scientists came to understand that the magnetosphere is an extremely complex phenomenon. Variations in space weather can cause geomagnetic storms that interfere with the operation of satellites and even terrestrial systems, such as power grids. In the 1980s, NASA, ESA and the Japan Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences embarked on a cooperative venture to develop a complete series of space missions, called the International Solar-Terrestrial Physics Program, whose objective would be to thoroughly investigate the connection between the Sun and the Earth.
In addition to the United States and the Soviet Union, several other countries managed to develop and operate scientific spacecraft and thus carry out their own space science missions. To carry out the research needed to address these scientific questions, the United States, Europe, the Soviet Union, and Japan developed a variety of space missions, often in a coordinated manner. After Gagarin's flight in 1961, space missions involving human crews carried out a series of important investigations, from geological research in situ on the Moon to a wide variety of observations and experiments aboard orbiting spacecraft. However, most space science was, and still is, carried out by robotic spaceships in Earth orbit, in other places from which they observe the universe, or on missions to various bodies in the solar system.
These include Japan, China, Canada, India and several European countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Germany, which act alone and through cooperative organizations, in particular the European Space Agency. Bilateral or multilateral cooperation between several countries to carry out space science missions has become the standard way of proceeding. In the United States, the first studies of the Sun were carried out by a series of orbiting Solar Observatory satellites (launched between 1962 and 1967) and the astronaut crews of the Skylab space station in 1973-74, using the Apollo telescope mount of that facility. The scientists sought to better understand the internal dynamics and general behavior of the Sun, the underlying causes of variations in solar activity and how those variations spread through space and, ultimately, affect the Earth's magnetosphere and upper atmosphere.
The concept of space weather was proposed to describe the changing conditions in the Sun-Earth region of the solar system. The first scientific discovery made with instruments that orbit in space was the existence of the Van Allen radiation belts, discovered by Explorer 1 in 1958.In the decades after the first Sputnik and Explorer satellites, the possibility of placing their instruments in outer space gave scientists the opportunity to acquire new information about the natural universe, information that in many cases would have been impossible to obtain in any other way. .