National Aeronautics and Space Administration Established
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was created as an agency of the U.S. government by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on July 29, 1958. Its stated purpose was to lead “the expansion of human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere and space,” as well as to explore commercial uses of space, such as the placement of communication satellites. NASA is the successor to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which was formed in 1915 when aviation was still in its infancy. The U.S. Congress created NACA to “supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight, with a view to their practical solutions.”
Today, NASA is involved with researching and developing numerous programs involving space exploration and research such as manned and unmanned missions to space. It also is involved in aeronautics (work involving rockets and airplanes), communications (data-tracking technologies), and basic sciences both in space and on Earth. NASA’s two most publicized programs are the Space Shuttle program (officially called the Space Transportation System) and the International Space Station, which is a joint effort among many countries around the world. When the shuttle fleet retires in 2010, NASA will replace it with Project Constellation and the Orion spacecraft, which is scheduled to become operational in 2014. Currently restricted to low-Earth orbit with the space shuttles, the next-generation Orion spacecraft will also be used for journeys to the Moon, asteroids, the planet Mars, and other possible journeys away from Earth.
Both air flight and space flight have made tremendous gains under the guidance of NACA and NASA. “The journey begun in 1915 has taken American aviators, astronauts and robotic spacecraft from the dunes of Kitty Hawk to the edge of the atmosphere and to the surface of the moon,” reads a NASA fact sheet. “American spacecraft have explored more than sixty worlds in our solar system, while methodically peering back in space and time to reveal many of the secrets of the Universe.”
“National Aeronautics and Space Administration.” Astronomy & Space: From the Big Bang to the Big Crunch. Gale, 2007. Science in Context. Web.