On Saturday Canada marked the 50th anniversary of the becoming a space-faring nation.
Canada launched the Alouette-1 satellite on Sept. 29, 1962, in partnership with NASA, from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Alouette-1 operated 1,000 kilometres above Earth for 10 years, gathering and transmitting over a million images of the ionosphere. Although the satellite was shut off in 1972, it still orbits today - making it the second-oldest human-made object still in space.
Alouette-1 was the eighth artificial satellite in orbit, and set new standards in satellite design. Alouette-1's 10-year operational life was 33 per cent longer than any previous satellite.
The roll-up antennas and batteries used on the satellite inspired many future designs.
At the time of it's launch, Canada was the fourth country to have a satellite in orbit and third to have designed a successful satellite.
A photo of the Alouette-1 from 1961 shows three earnest young men -Dr. Colin Franklin, Keith Brown and Dr. John Barry - working on the satellite. The black-and-white image shows them wearing suites, ties and thick-rimmed glasses - both contact lenses and colour film were still rare and expensive technologies at the time.
Fifty years ago when Franklin, Brown and Barry were working on Alouette-1, they could not have known how important, and how pervasive, satellite technology would become.
You probably have some satellite technology in your pants pocket or purse. These days even semi-smart cell phones have GPS technology.
GPS, Global Positioning System, receivers use signals from a network of satellites in orbit to calculate your position anywhere on Earth.
That's why your smart phone always knows where it is, even if you don't.
If you click the weather app on your smart phone, you'll get up-to-date weather forecasts for your location. Those weather forecasts have been vastly improved by the use of satellite weather imaging.
If you dial a phone number and call someone in Timbuktu or Tuktoyaktuk, a communications satellite helps connect your call.
Advances in computers, battery development, astronomy, robotics, geography, telemetry, meteorology, solar power, miniaturization and other areas of science and technology can be credited - directly and indirectly - to the pursuit of space travel.
Human knowledge of the solar system, the universe and Earth's place in it has advanced more the past 50 years than it did in the previous 500 years.
Just last week NASA announced that the Mars Curiosity rover stumbled on what appears to be an ancient, dried-up stream bed on the red planet. It's the most compelling evidence to date to support the idea that Mars once had liquid water on its surface.
If Mars had water on its surface millions of years ago, then Earth - with it's life-sustaining water -may not be as unique as previously thought.
It's the kind of discovery that you can only make by going there.
However, critics would argue that Curiosity's $2.5 billion price tag is a lot to pay for some pictures of rounded pebbles on Mars. When countries throughout the developed world are struggling to reign in out-of-control public spending, space exploration may seem like a costly luxury.
There is no doubt that $2.5 billion would have paved a lot of potholes or put a dent in the U.S.'s national deficit.
But, just like the development team for Alouette-1 50 years ago, we can not know how the discoveries and advancements made today will impact life in the future.
That's why, despite the risks and cost, there is still a case for space.
-- Associate news editor Arthur Williams