History of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Before NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) - NASA Incentive

History of NASA - USSR's Sputnik 1 Helped Spur the US to create NASA.
USSR's Sputnik 1 Helped Spur the US to create NASA. NASA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), had beginnings based in both scientific pursuit and the military. Let's start from the first days and see how the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) started.

After the Second World War, the Defense Department launched serious research push into the fields of rocketry and upper atmosphere sciences to ensure American leadership in technology. As part of this push, President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved a plan to orbit a scientific satellite as part of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) for the period from July 1 1957 to December 31 1958, a cooperative effort to collect scientific data about the Earth. Quickly, the Soviet Union jumped in, announcing plans to orbit its own satellites.

The Naval Research Laboratory's Vanguard project was selected on September 9 1955 to support the IGY effort, but while it enjoyed exceptional publicity throughout the second half of 1955, and all of 1956, the technological requirements in the program were too big and funding levels too small to ensure success.

The launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957 pushed the U.S. satellite program in crisis mode. Playing technological catch-up, the United States launched its first Earth satellite on January 31, 1958, when Explorer 1 documented the existence of radiation zones encircling the Earth.

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"One law for the investigation of the problems of flight within and outside the Earth's atmosphere, and for other purposes." With this simple preamble, Congress and the President of the United States created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on October 1, 1958, a direct result of the Sputnik crisis. The fledgling National Aeronautics and Space Administration body absorbed the former National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics intact: its 8000 employees, an annual budget of $ 100 million, three major research labs - Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, and Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory - and two small test facilities. Soon after, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) joined other organizations, including the space science group from the Naval Research Laboratory in Maryland, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed by the California Institute of Technology for the Army, and Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Alabama, the laboratory where Wernher von Braun's team of engineers were engaged in the development of large rockets. As it grew, the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), established in other centers, and today has ten located around the country.

Early in its history, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was already seeking to put a human in space. Once again, the Soviet Union the U.S. beat to the punch when Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space on April 12, 1961. However, the gap was closing as on May 5, 1961, Alan B. Shepard Jr. became the first American to fly into space, when he rode his Mercury capsule on a 15-minute suborbital mission. Project Mercury was the first high-profile program of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), which had as its goal placing humans in space. The following year, on February 20, John H. Glenn Jr. became the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth.

Following in the footsteps of Project Mercury, Gemini continued NASA's human spaceflight program to and expanded its capabilities with spacecraft built for two astronauts. Gemini's 10 flights also provided NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) scientists and engineers with more data on weightlessness,perfected reentry and splashdown procedures, and demonstrated rendezvous and docking in space. One of the highlights of the program took place during the Gemini 4 on June 3, 1965, when Edward H. White, Jr. became the first U.S. astronaut to perform a spacewalk.

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The crowning achievement of NASA's early years was Project Apollo. When President John F. Kennedy announced "I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth," NASA was committed to putting a man on the moon.

The Apollo moon project was a massive effort that required significant expenditures, costing $25.4 billion, 11 years, and 3 lives to accomplish.

On July 20, 1969, Neil A. Armstrong made his now famous remarks, "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind" as he stepped onto the lunar surface during the Apollo 11 mission. After taking soil samples, photographs, and doing other tasks on the moon, Armstrong and Aldrin rendezvoused with their colleague Michael Collins in lunar orbit for a safe journey back to Earth. There were five more successful lunar landing of Apollo missions, but only a failed one rivaled the first for excitement. All totaled, 12 astronauts walked on the Moon during the Apollo years.