It was only a short time ago, less than a hundred fifty years, that science minded people were still debating just what existed between the planets and stars.  The prevailing view was that the solid bodies, i.e. planets, moons, stars, comets, asteroids, etc, were embedded in a mysterious fluid they called ether. This unknown substance was inferred by the way distant objects appeared to be influenced by it. It was used to explain gravity, inertia, expansion and contraction of objects, and more. It answered all those questions nicely. It also answered the question of how light waves could propagate through space.

Waves were known as a natural phenomenon. There were sound waves that propagated through the air and solid objects, there were water waves driven by wind or other forces in bodies of water. Light was believed to be a wave also and so for light to get from the sun to earth, it was reasoned that there must be a substance of some sort in space for it to go through.  By this reasoning space could not be empty, though there were a few scientists who resisted the idea of ether. It was, after all, an invention of the human mind in order to explain observed natural processes. But there was no proof. Somehow a way had to be found to actually go into space and take a sample and return it to Earth. Even a hundred years ago, that notion was an impossible dream.

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