When talking about rockets, shuttles, satellites, space telescopes, etc. one would undoubtly stumble upon NASA somewhere in that conversation, and truly, books could be (and have been) written about NASA but let us start at the beginning. They have been so prominent in the 2nd half of the 20th century, that it would be hard to imagine a world without them. The organisation’s Twitter account describes is beautifully:
“NASA’s mission is the pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.”
This year, 2013, NASA will be celebrating their 55th anniversary which is pretty incredible. NASA actually started out as the National Advisory Committee for Astronautics, NACA (founded in 1916 to be the civilian government organization performing research into aviation) before turning into the National Aeronautics and Space Agency or NASA we know today. Who can remember a PC from back in those days? No one – that’s right, cause PCs weren’t for the mass market yet for over another decade! The pioneers of those days truly were on the cutting edge of what was technologically possible at the time, and it’s hard to imagine that your smartphone now will have multiple times more processing power than the entire Apollo 11 program put together.
Founded under President Eisenhower, it was President Kennedy who made the speech that would go into history as the “moon speech” – you can watch the highlights here. But let us not forget that one of the main reasons for NASA‘s existence was the arms race between the United States and Russia. For it was during Russia’s Sputnik I and II missions – which caught the world’s attention and the American public off-guard – in November 1957, that Eisenhower appointed the president of MIT as his special advisor on science and technology. It was feared that the successful launch of these satellites meant that intercontinental ballistic missiles would not be too far off. Less than a year later, NASA was born, and so the space race between the US and the U.S.S.R. started.
For more on NASA, stay tuned!