National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an agency of the United
States Government, responsible for that nation's public space program.
Established on July 29, 1958 by the National Aeronautics and Space Act.
NASA's mission is to
pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics
NASA conducts its work in four
principal organizations, called mission directorates:
Aeronautics: pioneers and proves new flight technologies that improve our
ability to explore and which have practical applications on Earth.
Exploration Systems: creates
capabilities for sustainable human and robotic exploration.
Science: explores the Earth,
solar system and universe beyond; charts the best route of discovery; and reaps
the benefits of Earth and space exploration for society.
Space Operations: provides
critical enabling technologies for much of the rest of NASA through the space
shuttle, the International Space Station and flight support.
In the early 21st century, NASA's
reach spans the universe. Spirit and Opportunity, the Mars Exploration Rovers,
are still studying Mars after arriving in 2004. Cassini is in orbit around
Saturn. The restored Hubble Space Telescope continues to explore the deepest
reaches of the cosmos.
Closer to home, the latest crew
of the International Space Station is extending the permanent human presence in
space. Earth Science satellites are sending back unprecedented data on Earth's
oceans, climate and other features. NASA's aeronautics team is working with
other government organizations, universities, and industry to fundamentally
improve the air transportation experience and retain our nation's leadership in
NASA is making significant and
sustained investments in:
development and demonstrations to pursue new approaches to space exploration,
including heavy-lift technologies;
Robotic precursor missions to multiple destinations in the solar system;
U.S. commercial spaceflight capabilities;
Extensions and increased utilization of the International Space Station;
Cross-cutting technology development in a new Space Technology Program;
Climate change research and observations;
NextGen and green aviation; and
Education, including focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
Brief History of NASA
October 1, 1958, the official
start of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), was the
beginning of a rich history of unique scientific and technological achievements
in human space flight, aeronautics, space science, and space applications.
Formed as a result of the Sputnik crisis of confidence, NASA inherited the
earlier National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), and other government
organizations, and almost immediately began working on options for human space
flight. NASA's first high profile program was Project Mercury, an effort to
learn if humans could survive in space, followed by Project Gemini, which built
upon Mercury's successes and used spacecraft built for two astronauts. NASA's
human space flight efforts then extended to the Moon with Project Apollo,
culminating in 1969 when the Apollo 11 mission first put humans on the lunar
surface. After the Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz Test Projects of the early and
mid-1970s, NASA's human space flight efforts again resumed in 1981, with the
Space Shuttle program that continues today to help build the International Space
Building on its NACA roots, NASA
has continued to conduct many types of cutting-edge aeronautics research on
aerodynamics, wind shear, and other important topics using wind tunnels, flight
testing, and computer simulations. NASA's highly successful X-15 program
involved a rocket-powered airplane that flew above the atmosphere and then
glided back to Earth unpowered, providing Shuttle designers with much useful
data. The watershed F-8 digital-fly-by-wire program laid the groundwork for such
electronic flight in many other aircraft including the Shuttle and high
performance airplanes that would have been uncontrollable otherwise. NASA has
also done important research on such topics as "lifting bodies"
(wingless airplanes) and "supercritical wings" to dampen the effect of
shock waves on transsonic aircraft.
Additionally, NASA has launched a
number of significant scientific probes such as the Pioneer and Voyager
spacecraft that have explored the Moon, the planets, and other areas of our
solar system. NASA has sent several spacecraft to investigate Mars including the
Viking and Mars Pathfinder spacecraft. The Hubble Space Telescope and other
space science spacecraft have enabled scientists to make a number of significant
astronomical discoveries about our universe.
NASA also has done pioneering
work in space applications satellites. NASA has helped bring about new
generations of communications satellites such as the Echo, Telstar, and Syncom
satellites. NASA's Earth science efforts have also literally changed the way we
view our home planet; the Landsat and Earth Observing System spacecraft have
contributed many important scientific findings. NASA technology has also
resulted in numerous "spin-offs" in wide-ranging scientific,
technical, and commercial fields. Overall, while the tremendous technical and
scientific accomplishments of NASA demonstrate vividly that humans can achieve
previously inconceivable feats, we also are humbled by the realization that
Earth is just a tiny "blue marble" in the cosmos.
SELECTION AND TRAINING
Spacemen of fiction - Jules
Verne's travelers to the Moon, or the comic strip heroes Flash Gordon and Buck
Rogers - were familiar characters midway through the 20th Century, but nobody
could describe accurately a real astronaut. There were none.
Then in 1959 the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration asked the United States military services
to list their members who met specific qualifications. The search was underway
for pilots for the exciting new manned space flight program.
In seeking its first space
pilots, NASA emphasized jet aircraft flight experience and engineering training,
and it tailored physical stature requirements to the small cabin space available
in the Mercury capsule then being designed. Basically, those 1959 requirements
were: Less than 40 years of age; less than 5ft. 11 inches tall; excellent
physical condition; bachelor's degree or equivalent in engineering; qualified
jet pilot; graduate of test pilot school, and at least 1500 hours of flying
More than 500 hundred men
qualified. Military and medical records were examined; psychological and
technical tests were given; personal interviews were conducted by psychological
and medical specialists. At the end of the first screening, many candidates were
eliminated and others decided they did not want to be considered further.
'Mercury Seven' were Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper Jr., John Glenn Jr., Virgil
'Gus' Grissom, Walter M. Schirra Jr., Alan B. Shepard Jr., and Donald K. 'Deke'
Even more stringent physical and
psychological examinations followed, and in April 1959 NASA announced its
selection of seven men as the first American astronauts. They were Navy
Lieutenant M. Scott Carpenter; Air Force Captains L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., Virgil
I. "Gus" Grissom, and Donald K. "Deke" Slayton; Marine
Lieutenant Colonel John H. Glenn, Jr., and Navy Lieutenant Commanders Walter M.
Schirra, Jr., and Alan B. Shepard, Jr.
Each flew in Project Mercury
except Slayton, who was grounded with a previously undiscovered heart condition.
After doctors certified that the condition had cleared up, Slayton realized his
ambition to fly in space 16 years after his selection. He was a member of the
American crew of the Apollo Soyuz Test Project in July 1975, the world's first
international manned space flight.
Three years after that first
selection, NASA issued another call for Gemini and Apollo astronaut trainees.
Experience in flying high-performance aircraft still was stressed, as was
education. The limit on age was lowered to 35 years, the maximum height raised
to 6 feet, and the program was opened to qualified civilians. This second
recruitment brought in more than 200 applications. The list was screened to 32,
then finally pared to nine in September 1962. Fourteen more astronaut trainees
were chosen from nearly 300 applicants in October 1963. By then, prime emphasis
had shifted away from flight experience toward superior academic qualifications.
In October 1964 applications were invited on the basis of educational background
alone. These were the scientist-astronauts, so called because the 400-plus
applicants who met minimum requirements had a doctorate or equivalent experience
in natural sciences, medicine, or engineering.
These applications were turned
over to the National Academy of Sciences in Washington for evaluation. Sixteen
were recommended to NASA, and six were selected in June 1965. Although the call
for volunteers did not specify flight experience, two of the applicants were
qualified jet pilots and did not need the year of basic flight training given
Another 19 pilot astronauts were
brought into the program in April 1966, and 11 scientist-astronauts were added
in mid-1967. When the Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory program was cancelled
in mid 1969, seven astronaut trainees transferred to NASA.
Initiated in 1958, completed in
1963, Project Mercury was the United States' first man-in-space program.
The second U.S. manned space
program was announced in January 1962. Gemini involved 12 flights, including two
unmanned flight tests of the equipment.
The Apollo program included a
large number of uncrewed test missions and 11 crewed missions. The 11 crewed
missions include two Earth orbiting missions, two lunar orbiting missions, a
lunar swingby and six Moon landing missions.
The mission started with the
Russian Soyuz launch on July 15, 1975, followed by the U.S. Apollo launch on the
same day. Docking in space of the two craft occurred on July 17, and joint
operations were conducted for two full days. Both spacecraft landed safely and
The Space Shuttle is a viable
part of American History. Standing as one of NASA's foremost projects, the
shuttle has accomplished many tasks that have enhanced the quality of life on
Earth. View archives of every shuttle mission here.
Designed for long duration missions,
Skylab program objectives were twofold: To prove that humans could live and work
in space for extended periods, and to expand our knowledge of solar astronomy
well beyond Earth-based observations.
Phase 1 was a NASA program encompassing 11
space shuttle flights over a four-year period. It used existing assets -
primarily U.S. shuttle orbiters and the Russian Space Station Mir - to build
joint space experience and start joint scientific research.
The most complex engineering and
construction project in the world is taking place in space. 16 countries and
over 100,000 people are contributing to this monumental achievement.
compiled from The British Antarctic Study, NASA, Environment Canada,
UNEP, EPA and other sources as stated and credited Researched by Charles
Welch-Updated daily This Website is a project of the The Ozone Hole Inc.
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