When the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, was founded on July 29, 1958, it was tasked with conducting all of the U.S.’s non-military space activity. At that time, no one (except perhaps a few science fiction writers) dreamed that we would have spacecraft travel past the heliopause and on into the Kuiper Belt. No one dreamed that we would land men on the Moon, or that the science behind a Chinese fireworks would evolve into something as large as the Saturn V rocket.
NASA brought all of those things from the realm of fantasy to the realm of reality, the realm of achievement. While there were setbacks, usually small, occasionally disastrous, the agency forged ahead, one step at time, to achieve its goals. The successes of the Mercury program led to the successes of the Gemini program, and then to the Apollo program, and the fulfillment of President John F. Kennedy’s pledge to land men on the Moon, and bring them safely back home.
NASA saw the need for a reusable spacecraft, a Space Shuttle. That program sent 306 men and 49 women, from a total of 16 countries, into Space. Over a thousand experiments were performed to see how natural processes, specialized materials, plants, and even humans would fare in the microgravity environment of low Earth orbit.
NASA also had another side; the robotic or unmanned missions. Explorer, Pioneer, Echo, Ranger, Mariner, Surveyor, Helios, Viking, and Voyager are just some of the many important programs operated by NASA.
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